The exterior of your home or business is a visitors first impression, so curb appeal is important. For a business, it is part of your brand, for your home it is the way to say “welcome!” Whether you are selling or settling in, curb appeal is vital.
There are many components to curb appeal, but we will focus on the 3 that make the biggest difference: Color, Landscaping, and Proportion. I’ll use a recent makeover project to illustrate.
Here is a BEFORE photo from the project:
First, let’s assess what is good! This little house offers one floor living for empty nesters who are downsizing. It has a garage already (huge plus! here in New England!), it is in a stellar location with easy access to the city yet in a quiet family neighborhood. It is solidly built and on a level lot. The roof and siding are both a reasonable neutral color and in good shape. What is less appealing? The garage is detached, the laundry and second bathroom are in the basement. The landscaping is lackluster, and the details of the facade are pretty generic with a picture window commanding most of the attention.
When choosing colors to create curb appeal, pay attention to the fixed elements. In the above house, the roof was in good shape and wouldn’t be changing any time soon and is is, blessedly, gray and not that brownish/reddish color that is so challenging! This house is also vinyl sided, which the homeowners are happy to retain for ease of maintenance, and that too, is, thankfully, a neutral. So the only place to add/change color in this case is the door and shutters, and possibly the brick chimney. Since there is no other brick in the landscaping, we could paint the brick if we wanted. I suggested black as an accent color, the homeowner wanted to explore the possibility of blue as she had found a pretty light blue. But the blue was too close in value to the siding color and would have given it a Barbie’s Dollhouse vibe, which wasn’t exactly the look we were aiming for! Charming cottage, yes, dollhouse, no!
NOTE: While colors tend to look darker than the paint chip on walls inside the house, outside is a whole different game because sunlight tends to wash out colors on the exterior. A color that looks perfectly lovely on the chip may turn into a simpering pastel when used on the exterior.
I offered a blue version with a deep bright blue on the doors and black shutters and accents, as well as one with black on the doors.
Landscape, both plantings and hardscape (paths/retaining walls/patios, etc.), make a huge difference. The first order of business for this petite house, was taming the overgrown shrubs. Some were removed and others cut back so they don’t obscure the windows and dwarf the house. A new stone (OR stone patterned concrete) path connects the new back door to the front door and the driveway, while a sweeping perennial garden borders the path. Planters and a window box were added for seasonal displays of color. The window box also effectively elongates the horizontal picture window, giving it a bit more height. New wooden front steps added over the existing concrete stoop match the new steps to the mudroom. Extending the top step to the left and back creates a nice ledge for a seasonal planter that doesn’t interfere with the entrance.
One of the things the homeowners planned to do right away, was add a mudroom to connect the house to the garage. Getting from the house to the garage without going outside is a very desirable perk in the winter here! The mudroom would also create a second entrance. On the wish list was an additional powder room, and moving the laundry space out of the basement to make one level living easy. We were able to design all of that into the new 7’ wide mudroom. Another immediate change was to replace the builder grade front door with its half round window and warped trim. The homeowner selected a beautiful classic 6 light door with shaker panels and used it for both entrances. New paneled shutters to echo the door panels could be a couple of inches taller to help visually lengthen the windows.
The mudroom addition made the center portion of the house containing the front door and picture window the most prominent part of the house. We created an additional option with a covered porch for the front door, further highlighting the main entrance, giving shelter for guests and a place for a hanging entrance light. The new porch roof follows the angles of the existing roof pitch, and decorative corbel brackets are used as supports. The whole effect lends a storybook cottage flair to the house.