Best of Summer: Expert Tips for Improving Your Home’s Curb Appeal
Whether you're sprucing up your house in anticipation of selling or just wanting to increase its exterior charm, gardening expert Martha Swiss shares her tips for improving your front entry.
First impressions matter.
In today’s hot real-estate market, where houses often go under contract within days, prospective buyers may decide whether or not to investigate the inside of your home based on what it looks like on the outside. Even if you’re not selling right now, it’s important that your home looks inviting to you.
There are a few basic tenets of good curb appeal and many that are quick and inexpensive. So the next time you approach your house, keep these tips in mind as you take a cold, hard look at the message the front of your house sends.
Show them the door.
People shouldn’t feel as though they need a machete to reach your front door. It’s basic human nature to want to see where we’re going, so show them the door — or at least the walkway that leads to the door.
While vegetation is great for softening the hard edges of a house and providing shade, gardens at the front of a house should be maintained.
One easy-to-care-for shrub to consider adding to your home is boxwood. A quick springtime shearing in whatever shape you like provides a well-coiffed image for the rest of the year.
Any trees or shrubs that have a compact growth habit also tend to work well at the front and corners of a house. Examples of some naturally tidy shrubs include slender deutzia, Sixteen Candles summersweet, Yakushima rhododendron, Duke Garden Japanese plum yew and Tiny Wine ninebark.
Small trees that add texture to your landscape without obscuring the front of your house include Japanese maples, native dogwood, some flowering crabapples (Malus; there are many varieties, check the tag for mature size), serviceberry and redbud.
You also want to make sure to clean up old plant debris and cut back or remove overgrown shrubs. For any trees that need to be trimmed or removed, hire an arborist.
Whether you place them on your mailbox or directly on the house, prominent house numbers look attractive and also help people know they have the right address. If there is more than one front entry to your home (which is surprisingly common), provide visual cues as to which door to use. This can be as simple as adding a decorative pot containing seasonal plantings, a door mat, a mailbox or a wreath on the door you want people to enter.
A crooked mailbox, peeling paint or a cracked or broken walkway all signify neglect. If that’s the message the outside of your house sends, prospective buyers might not give it a second look. Sometimes, a simple power wash is all that’s needed to spruce up dirty siding or shutters.
A fresh coat of paint on the front door in an appealing color also is an easy way to brighten up your home. Blue is a trending color right now for front doors in a wide range of hues, from deep slate blue to turquoise to aqua. Don’t be afraid to go for something bold, like chartreuse, black or red. You can easily repaint if you don’t like it.
Aside from aesthetics, walkways and steps shouldn’t be tripping hazards; if yours have seen better days, consider repairing or replacing them. A secure handrail also is important to have on steps.
Go outside and see how your house appears at night. Is the lighting adequate for a safe journey from sidewalk or driveway to the front door? If not, there are tons of lighting options available at home improvement stores, including front door sidelights, pole-and-ground fixtures and accent lights. Many are solar powered or have a dusk-to-dawn feature.
A covering over the front door also provides a place where visitors can get out of the weather, as well as a spot where deliveries may be safely left. Beyond a front porch, a door overhang, portico or awning can be an attractive option to add to your front entrance.
Trash and recycling containers aren’t attractive, so store them around the side of the house or install fencing to hide them. Make sure to put away snow shovels and bags of deicer at the end of winter; remove clutter such as piles of bricks and stones, building supplies, unused sports equipment and children’s toys from the front of your house.
Defunct cars and motor homes can also signal neglect, so if you have one in your driveway, consider selling or donating it. There are many charities that accept old vehicles.
Think about investing in a few things to make your house look inviting. These could include a few large planters, an arbor over the front walkway, or a wreath on the front door. Changing planters and door decor seasonally also keeps curb appeal fresh.
Regarding containers, there are a wide range of planting options at the garden center. New varieties of million bells are flowering power houses all season, and most varieties of scaevola stay tidy and flower from spring through late summer. Euphorbia, or “Diamond Frost” and “Diamond Snow,” can also bring a frothy texture to containers.
Don’t forget about foliage — you can’t go wrong with bold coleus, and they come in an eye-popping range of colors. Perennial coral bells also have leaves of many hues and help anchor a container planting.
With large containers, consider using compact varieties of woody shrubs such as boxwood, cotoneaster, hydrangeas or roses. Smaller Japanese maples also make stunning specimens in containers.
Just keep in mind that most shrubs and trees will eventually get too large for the pot, but that gives you a reason to change things up — and the plants can be relocated into your landscape.
Adding furniture to a front porch is another way to make it look inviting. Spruce up your tired furniture by cleaning it and giving it a fresh coat of paint, then add new cushions and pillows that complement your home’s color scheme.
A few well-placed items such as statues and flags may also add personality, although you might want to remove these things if you are selling your home because they can distract from — rather than enhance — a first impression.
You can always find ideas for improving your home’s curb appeal by taking a walk or drive through various neighborhoods, watching home improvement shows, going on garden and home tours, perusing magazines, and scrolling through online sources such as Pinterest. Take photos and note the ideas that would work for your home.
In the meantime, roll up your sleeves and get rid of what doesn’t make your house look welcoming, then clean and repair the rest.