Q: My fiance and I just bought our first house. We are excited, but it's in the middle of a big, brand-new townhouse development, and all the houses look the same. How can we personalize it when we don't have much money or time?

- Courtney
A: Congratulations on your engagement, and your first house. This is an exciting time to be creating a home together. And there are so many ways to add some special touches that will take your townhouse beyond boring - and that won't take much time. Concentrate on just one project at a time - don't start another until the first project is completely finished and the tools put away.

First, before you do anything outside, check with your homeowners' association, if you have one. It may have rules about modifications on the outside or in your garden. It's not worth bending those rules.

Hopefully, it will let you do my first suggestion, which is painting your front door. Go as bold as you can. Red, dark green, bright yellow, or a deep blue all look great with typical colors and natural woods. This is a great way to set your townhouse apart from all the others - as well as make it easier to find. Add some great plant containers to further personalize your front porch.

Inside, you might have more freedom for expression. In the kitchen, replace or add charming drawer and cabinet pulls and redo the backsplash over the counter. Replace the dining room light fixture, and add some large wall decals for instant character without painting the room.

Hang large framed mirrors in tight, dark spaces like the entry, hallways, and stair landings. Tile or paint the fireplace mantel, and add area rugs even if you have carpet.

In the bathrooms, add a colorful shower curtain and bath accessories. Durable art such as an interesting old shutter or garden gate add personality, and change out the towel racks and hooks.

Have fun, and send in photos.

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