10 Secrets of Curb Appeal
It doesn't take a major overhaul to perk up your home’s exterior. So why wait until something is broken, chipped, and rotten or until there’s a “For Sale” sign in your yard? Think of these smart projects as fresh accents for your home. Like buying new throw pillows (or even a fun pair of sunglasses), these updates offer significant bang for your buck—and you’ll get a little thrill every time you pull into the driveway. Let the spring sprucing start...now!
1. Maintain Colorful Pots
Consider planters accessories that change with the seasons. If you have steps leading to the front door, add a pair of topiaries or groupings of pots. You can plant topiary boxwoods or other evergreens as year-round fillers and then add blooming annuals. “Keep it simple with contrasting shades. If you have a redbrick house, you don’t necessarily want pink blooms right next to it. Purple and blue stand out against a white clapboard house, but then again, so does green!” says Anne Daigh, founder and principal of Daigh Rick Landscape Architects in Nashville. Bottom line: Don’t go overboard; pick plants in one or two hues (like white and green) that contrast with the exterior of your home.
2. Build a Great Fence
Even if you don’t technically have a classic cottage, you can create the same warm, friendly vibe. “I love a picket fence,” says Daigh. “I know it seems cliché, but it makes a place so inviting, like arms extending around the house to welcome you.” A wooden fence with simple diagonal cuts is ideal for a bungalow or Craftsman-style home. Or invest in a wrought iron fence for more stately architecture, like Georgian. “Keep it low—no taller than 32 inches. You don’t want your home to seem like a prison,” she says.
3. Spray Away Grime
Pressure washing is quick, inexpensive, and satisfying. Much like getting your shoes shined, it’s a simple task with a huge payoff. “And it’s considerably less expensive than a full-on paint job,” says Chauncey Clark, a Realtor and the vice president of The Peninsula Co. in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Tip: You can rent a pressure washer from your local home-improvement store.
4. Show Off Your Actual Home
Daigh says one of the biggest mistakes that steal the beauty away from the house is having too many plants. Her advice? “Let the architecture shine. Allow the foundation to show; it will give the home presence. Layers of overgrown landscaping can muddy up the look,” she says. When in doubt, just stick with boxwoods. “They are my favorite anchor plants—make groupings at the corners to provide structure, but don’t block the foundation,” Daigh adds. Then fill in with grass or a low ground cover (no more than 6 inches tall) that runs right up to the foundation.
5. Wow with Window Boxes
They’re a lot like puppies—high maintenance but really cute. Daigh says window boxes require frequent, sometimes daily, watering, so ensure that you can easily reach them. They should be at least 12 inches deep (to give plants enough room to root and grow) and have adequate drainage. Daigh likes to use dwarf boxwoods and ivy, adding pansies in the winter and another annual in the summer.
6. Design a Pretty Pathway
Like a picket fence, a slightly curved walkway adds just enough quirkiness to make a home feel unique. If rerouting the path isn’t possible, choose materials with some age, such as reclaimed brick pavers or well-worn stone. “It’s like you’re adding a bit of mystery to make people want to come to the front door,” says Daigh. “Even simple concrete can be mixed with materials like limestone chips and a bit of pea gravel to make the pathway look old.”
7. Grow the Good Vines
Not all climbing vines are created equal. At their best, they give any house that storybook feel. At worst—shriveled and brown or overgrown—they make it look more like a haunted mansion. So choose wisely. Climbing roses are a lot of work to train, says Daigh, who suggests the climbing hydrangea as an alternative. “It’s an amazing vine that clings on its own with woolly stems that are pretty even when they lose their leaves,” she adds. Another option is Jackson vine, which is evergreen and thrives in Alabama and Georgia. Daigh also recommends Confederate jasmine. “It has a delightful scent and nice blooms but will grow only in the Deep South,” she notes.
8. Splurge on a Big Swing
The bed swing is the new porch swing. This style isn’t as ubiquitous or as easy to find, but what says “neighborly and fun people live here” more than a wide, comfortable, pillow-topped lounger hanging on the front porch? Old wrought iron gliders and wooden rockers will do the trick too.
9. Accessorize the Right Way
Do make sure you have an attractive mailbox. Clark says it should generally match the style of your neighbors’ ones for a more unified look. Skip the college flag in favor of a not-too-huge American or state flag if your home is on the market, advises Clark. “Potential buyers could be from a rival alma mater, and that’s no joke in the South!” he says.
10. Paint a Bold Front Door
It’s not a huge financial investment, and it’s also fairly easy to repaint. If you want to take a more conservative approach, choose a historic color typical for the area or neighborhood such as an almost-black Charleston green or a soft coastal blue. Going bold is fun too. Daigh says her go-to pick right now is yellow “with a gold or mustard tone to it, almost like an ocher. It can work on a brick or white house. It really pulls everything together.” What’s her second-favorite color? “A raspberry shade on a white house,” she says.