Stuck in a rut? Feeling like your outdoors needs some help but just don’t know what to do? Do I sound like an infomercial yet?
Well….dudes and dudettes, I am no outdoor expert. That’s obvious. But I have been reading a lot of old landscaping and curb appeal information and it struck me…this info doesn’t change! It’s not a fad! It’s not trendy! The things that looked good fifty years ago, they still apply today. Conceptually they stay the same. And improving curb appeal can not only improve the way your house LOOKS but it can improve the way you feel about your home, your relationships with your neighbors and increase the value your home has when it comes time to sell. You can also lose weight doing it, earn mad bragging rights and score major cool points with your parents or kids. Basically there is no good reason NOT to improve your homes exterior.
Over the past eight years we worked hard on our first home’s exterior….we had little money, lots of energy and no idea what we were doing….but it ended up turning out great. (you can see the before & afters in our first house tour)
For our second home, we had a huge to-do list but we made the exterior a priority. We had even less money, no energy and very little experience….but it also looks so good. (you can see the before & afters in our second house tour)
And just recently we tackled a friends house. In this case, we had a SUPER tight budget of $400, more energy but less time and more experience. Here is how it turned out….this is the before:
and here is the tailored after:
I don’t pat myself on the back often…okyesido…but this was something we were really REALLY proud of. It looks great and the homeowners were very happy with the results which of course felt like the best validation in the world. And I wanted to share with you some things we learned along the way…through the journey of three homes…our top ten when it comes to increasing curb appeal and basically making your life better in every single way.
My number one tip is to rank your priorities. List out things you like about other people’s exteriors and landscaping and see what items stand out to you. These can be as specific as “RED FRONT DOOR” or as general as “WELCOMING FRONT PORCH”. Then list things you can do to get those things you like in your space. If you don’t think your front door would look good with a fiery hue, consider adding pops of red elsewhere….or repaint your front door to a shade that pops like red but still is cohesive. For everything you like, there will be an action you can take. Prioritize time, money and effort toward the items that best suit your preferences.
So many folks asked why we cut down the tree in the front yard. First of all….we get it….you guys like trees. We like trees too. But in in this case, ONE of the reasons we cut it down was that it was poorly placed. The front door of your home should be the focal point. In this case it isn’t. You can see that landscaping can help bring the eye to the focal point….take a picture of your home and draw lines from the trees toward the ground….where they meet is the focal point. In the before, the focal points were a random plant and the driveway clutter. Not exactly something we wanted to draw attention to.
Cutting down a tree isn’t always the answer….sometimes you can just limb it up and allow the eye to travel THROUGH the space. In our case, limbing this poorly pruned guy wasn’t the answer so we pulled out our overalls and hired an blue ox named Babe to help us out. Not really but we did chop it down 🙂
Now the front door is the focal point and it makes your eye go straight to the welcoming pop of blue.
This may be a DUH moment but seriously CLEAN UP THE CLUTTER. I have it. You probably have it. We all have it. It’s just that we got so used to seeing it that we DON’T SEE IT ANYMORE. Well…clutter-no-more….it’s time to just get rid of it. It’s not only making us look sloppy but it takes energy for other people to ignore it. For this house, they had stuff that was real clutter….like the glass stand on the porch and the snowflake lanterns in the garden….
and then they had landscaping clutter like stones and overgrown bushes.
And I don’t want to shame my friends online because seriously – they are organized and tidy and responsible. I have seen Chris’ planner one day and I about fell over with her organization skills. But CLUTTER BREEDS CLUTTER. Because they didn’t know what to do with the landscaping, the outside became a “who-cares-zone” where more stuff would accumulate and be neglected. We have all been there. Can I get an Amen?! Get rid of the clutter and chaos and it won’t easily fall into that trap again.
We are all on a budget. If you aren’t….let’s talk 🙂
The point is that nobody wants to spend boo-coos of money on the yard when shoes are way more fun. So get the best bang for your buck by spending smarter. Spend your money on paint and things you touch like hardware. Buy end of the season plants that come back year after year. Learn how to split plants to get more plants for NOTHING.
Also – make sure you get mulch when it is 4 bags for $10 at Home Depot. Buy it and save it for when you need it. The other thing about mulch is that it helps you save money on water, weeding time and replacing plants since it helps keep soil moist. Consider other things that pull double duty – like plants that give beautiful clippings so that you don’t go nuts in Trader Joes when their hydrangeas hit the shelves. Been there. Done that.
Consider all the things you already own as advantages to your curb appeal. If you have stones, pots or bricks….this is all curb appeal GOLD. Sometimes all they need is a good scrubbing or a coat of paint or stain to make them feel new again. For the Comfort project, we had these stepping stones to the lawn….
Heck yeah we will reuse those!
And we also had landscaping stones for days and a couple seen-better-days planters.
Heck yes we will incorporate those in a very fun and casual way. Using what you have means saving money in the long run.
If you want a curb appeal mantra it should be COLOR, CONTRAST, CLEAN LINES. That is what is really important for any outdoor makeover. You might not even realize that these three elements are really what you like about a certain look….
Now let’s break it down and see where we added color…
and clean lines….
I have learned this lesson the hard way folks. You should try your hardest to use native plants to your area. If they sell it at your local nursery or home improvement store….it doesn’t mean it’s native. Do some research to see what will do well in your yard with your conditions and with yourself in mind (if you aren’t a sprinkler type….don’t get something that requires a lot of water!)
We added some hollys and some azaleas to the Comfort yard and both are well equipped to take on our hardiness zone. They are also great for year long greenery and thrive in the lighting conditions where we planted them.
One of the things that we will always remember about this makeover is the HORNETS. They had a nest under a giant rock. One of the teenage boys didn’t know it was under there and flipped the rock and the whole hornet population went crazy! It was a miracle but NOT ONE LITTLE KID GOT STUNG. I mean, we were all running around screaming and the only people that got stung were the teenagers and me. We were the ones rescuing the babies though so maybe they decided to hunt on the meatier prey 🙂 The point here is – nobody will enjoy your yard if they are running for their life.
Make sure you remove all hazards….trees that could cause damage to your house or fall and hurt someone….secure rocks or stepping stones that could be tripping hazards….and any pests that could cause you, your kids, your pets or your visitors harm. We used this one and it worked like a charm on those hornets. And usually I feel bad killing anything….but not this time. Those suckers picked the wrong mom to mess with.
This is another one of those UM-KATIE-WE-KNOW-THIS-ALREADY things but some people might not so it’s worth saying. Time to equip yourself you Millenials. Time to get tools that you can handle you Nana’s. Time to arm yourselves with tools and information and techniques that work just as hard as you do. My mom one time went out and bought this stupid little corded trimmer that was super light (she just had rotator cuff surgery so couldn’t lift anything heavy) and it took her like thirty minutes to trim one bush but she proves my point. She was proactive about getting something she could handle and her bushes never looked unruly. Now that she is back in her groove, she can use the regular trimmer again and it takes less time. The same goes for most tools….find the ones that save you time, easy to handle (these 40V battery operated ones are light weight) and ones that are strong enough to get your job done. If you have a five acre lot – don’t get a push mower….invest in a riding mower….and sunscreen. And if you have a matchbox sized yard, try tools that pull double duty….like a trimmer/edger combo.
Also don’t be afraid to keep learning. I have a neighbor (Hi Sharleen!) that is literally a garden whisperer. Her yard is straight out of a magazine. And I ask her questions any time I need help out of a stumping situation. I noticed that she and her husband do an amazing job of tiling up the soil before planting anything new….so this time we added that to our ‘prep technique’. It makes a huge difference for plant growth and that’s exactly what we want….those investments to GROW.
I think sometimes adding the right hardware or signs or structures can improve your curb appeal by as much as 10%. That’s a big jump when you consider they are relatively small items. Sometimes your house needs a porch to look complete – but if you can’t afford that huge investment….build a smaller structure (pergola or deck) to give the space more presence. A sign on the door, a number near the front of the house and even a welcoming front mat are all ways to share your message with the world. And hardware is a must.
We switched out the front door hardware to this classic polished nickel version so that the door looked more finished. Doesn’t that make such a huge difference?
Overall, there are probably ten more ways to add to your own curb appeal and I would love to hear your best and brightest ideas. Put them right there in the comments and don’t forget to tag me on Instagram if you post a pic of your own curb appeal exterior. I’d love to see those homes!