Does Your House Need a Makover? Enhancing Curb Appeal

Call it curb appeal or putting your best foot forward. No question you want the outside of your home to look as great as the inside.

We asked some local experts for their thoughts on how to fix up bad exterior architecture. But before you demolish anything, make sure you have a comprehensive plan that addresses all the changes you want to make and accounts for your budget and timeframe.

Problem: Overgrown or insufficient landscaping

Don’t hide your house in the bushes. Landscaping relates a home to its site, offering layers of arrival to your home, explains landscape architect Anne Flannery. Even if your budget is small, a well-designed landscape can enhance the look of your home and add measurable value in curb appeal.

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Pare back the overgrowth. Keep in mind the architecture style of your home and plant accordingly.

Problem: A Bad Front Door

Your front entrance should be an appealing focal point for the facade of your home, explains architect Charles Cook. But that doesn’t mean it has to be overly grand and ornate, just the right scale for your home.

Too often the proportions of an entry are incorrect and the scale too small for the mass of the house. To improve curb appeal, Cook recommends adding or enlarging a portico to ensure dimensions in proportion to the face of a home, and to provide ample shelter to visitors on a rainy day. For one home, he added columns to support the roof overhang, visually framing the front door.

Sometimes it’s as simple as making sure the style of your front door matches the architecture of your home. For example, explains Thomas Kearin of Orren Pickell Designers and Builders, if you’ve got a Craftsman bungalow, you can choose from many Craftsman or Arts and Crafts style doors. Modern home? Forget the ornately carved castle entry and stick with heft, simple lines and subtle textures.

Kearin also reminds homeowners to avoid poor quality doors that imitate fine craftsmanship. Beyond appearance, you use your door every day and need it to swing, close and lock properly.

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Problem: Too much going on

The last building boom saw too many homes trying to say too much. There are reasons the Colonial  and Georgian have timeless appeal.

Then there are older homes that have fallen victim to serial renovations and additions that lack cohesion and a clear architectural style. Kearin worked with one family to replace a mishmash of window styles with better proportioned casement windows all with a cohesive mullion pattern. The same family used grey stucco to cover dated brick on the first floor and replaced yellow siding with gray cedar shingles on the second.

Whatever you do, remember to be realistic and respectful of what your home can be, adds architect Richard Becker. If you own a split-level home from the 1950s, adding ornate details and traditional elements like shutters is not the answer.

Problem: Garage doors, front and center

With the suburban home came the attached garage. And somewhere along the way, it became easier to put these expansive doors facing forward. As with the front door, find the best overhead doors you can afford and match the style to your home’s architecture. Many companies, including Designer Doors, offer solid wood and composite doors in a variety of architectural styles that vastly improve curb appeal over the old aluminum overheads.

For a large double door, Cook suggests a unit designed to look like two separate doors, which creates a more appealing scale and character.

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Problem: Bad lighting

Outdoor lights should do more than keep burglars at bay. Well-designed exterior lighting can enhance the architecture of your home and landscape. Make sure the fixtures you choose complement your home’s architectural style.

Size is also important, as nothing will subtract value from your facade faster than dinky lights. If you can, bring the fixture home and mount it in place to ensure the proportion of the lighting (up close and from the street) is fitting.

Problem: Poorly “accessorized”

Think of elements like downspouts, shutters, window boxes, even millwork, as the accessories on your home. They can add value or detract from it. For example, the cheap aluminum shutters screwed into the siding of builder spec homes lessens value, says Becker.

Stick to the integrity of your architecture and choose the highest quality materials you can afford. Just as in fashion, simple and clean are always better. Downspouts should be placed as inconspicuously as possible, and if your budget doesn’t allow for copper, choose a premium aluminum in a color that blends. Modern doesn’t preclude window boxes, just keep the lines simple and the plantings clean. And unless you’ve got a classic Victorian, forget the ornate millwork and multicolor paint job.

Photos by Charles Cook.