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Secrets to Great Curb Appeal

An eye-catching exterior is the sum of many parts. Here are six makeovers that show how combining small upgrades can create a handsome facade on any budget

Secrets to Great Curb Appeal

Photo by Andrea Rugg

What makes one house a head turner and another just okay takes a bit of study. Spend enough time looking, though, and you'll see that all the best examples have things in common, like a fine front door, a pleasing color scheme, and landscaping that softens the hard edges. Then there's the subtler stuff: the right roof, windows that work with the house's style, the way the walkway welcomes you. Together these features can make your home stand out on the street, giving you a sense of pride when you come home each day.

Budget-conscious enhancements have the added benefit of ratcheting up your property value. In fact, of the top 10 remodeling projects expected to recoup the most money at resale this year, eight are facade fix-ups costing less than $15,000, according to a report by the National Association of Realtors. Topping the list are improvements that reduce energy use or maintenance—an Energy Star picture window to replace a pair of drafty double-hungs, for instance, or a steel front door with a vibrant factory finish that will never need repainting.

For help freshening up your home's exterior with an eye toward your personal enjoyment and your bottom line, check out the following six curbside style boosts, then see how they're put to work on six different houses.

1. Standout Windows

Photo by Andrea Rugg

These architectural focal points can make a big impact. Highlight them with paint, shutters, or flower boxes.

2. Inviting Landscape

Photo by Andrea Rugg

Well-tended and in proportion to the house, plantings provide shape and color to accentuate the architecture.

3. Welcoming Entry

Photo by Andrea Rugg

Porches and porticos frame the front door, extending an invitation to guests.

4. Unifying Paint

Photo by Andrea Rugg

A successful scheme enhances architectural detail and works with the landscape.

5. Shipshape Siding

Photo by Andrea Rugg

The backdrop for all other exterior details, shingles, clapboards, and masonry should be in top condition.

6. Handsome Roof

Photo by Andrea Rugg

A very visible umbrella sheltering all other built details. Its shingles should be in good shape.

Case Study 1: Before

The drafty original windows that were on this small Craftsman cottage had lost their appeal.

Case Study 1: Make Windows Stand Out

Photo by Andrea Rugg

Treated right, even standard windows can become distinctive features punctuating your home's exterior. For less than $2,000, the homeowners made over the whole exterior, finally giving the six large window openings, which cover half the house's front, their due.

Case Study 1: Standout Windows

Windows:

New simulated-divided-light, vinyl-clad wood windows are cased with flat trim, which can be found for a wallet-friendly $3 per foot.

Landscaping:

Flower-filled window boxes on the second floor add pops of color and depth to the facade, while trellises on either side of the porch serve as privacy screens. Both offer valuable space for plants to thrive in small, urban plots like this one. Rustic brick pavers replace the gray concrete path, extending a warm welcome.

Case Study 1: Standout Windows

Paint:

Inspired by other Craftsman homes, the homeowners chose a soft sage green to cover the patchwork of aluminum, vinyl, and wood-shingle siding. They added dimension by painting the window and door frames dark hunter green, then surrounding them with crisp white trim.

Porch:

To warm up the existing cold concrete slab, the homeowners laid red-stained mahogany decking on top and tacked simple white fascia boards to the front and sides, giving the space the look of a new wood deck. Stockier wood posts replaced rusted-out thin metal poles, visually anchoring the front of the home and adding period-appropriate detail. An Arts and Crafts-style overhead light took the place of two small sconces that previously flanked the door.

Case Study 2: Before

A stark front yard left this Greek Revival's facade looking flat and forbidding.

Case Study 2: Enhance With Landscaping

Photo by Andrea Rugg

Thanks to some savvy and cost-conscious planting and hardscaping choices, the house and the small lot it sits on look larger and more hospitable.

Case Study 2: Inviting Landscape

Landscaping:

By colonizing the strip between the sidewalk and the street—allowed in many towns—the path to the front door seems longer and the property more sizable. The homeowner saves on upkeep costs by using native plants, which require less water and fertilizer.

A whitewashed fence with an upper row of thin, wide-spaced spindles opens up the view into the yard. Below it, a new stacked-stone retaining wall echoes the look of the home's sturdy foundation and gives the property more presence. For even more unity, the same stones create a border between the planting strip and the street.

Case Study 2: Inviting Landscape

Entry:

A new six-panel wood door and wood-framed screen door take the place of the old worn ones, while weather-resistant ipe replaces the rotted cedar decking on the stoop and steps.

Paint:

A creamy white palette provides a warm backdrop for colorful plantings. Painting the door a deep blue leads the eye to the entry.

Case Study 3: Before

This Colonial Revival had a cold, flat facade.

Case Study 3: Add a Porch for a Welcoming Entry

Photo by Sylvia Martin

Be it a compact portico or sweeping veranda, a sheltered entry adds balance and interest to the front of any exterior. And compared with the cost of an insulated addition, it extends living and lounging space for a lot less money. Putting on a wraparound porch gave this Colonial Revival facade new dimension.

Case Study 3: Welcoming Entry

Photo by Sylvia Martin

Entry:

By punctuating the porch with a dormerlike pediment above the front door, the homeowners clearly and gracefully marked their entry. A single four-panel door topped with a boxy entablature is more historically accurate and visually harmonious than the arched double doors that were there before. And new sidelights make a stylistic connection with the existing divided-light windows.

Paint:

Dusky blue shades on the siding and shutters echo the multitonal blue-gray colors in the existing shingled roof. Crisp white paint on the porch, cornice, and door and window casings highlights the home's elegant trimwork.

Case Study 3: Welcoming Entry

Photo by Sylvia Martin

Landscaping:

Well-manicured hedges complement the home's more formal style. Lining the entry steps with potted plants that are similar in size and shape to the shrubs along the foundation extends the landscaping for as little as $50. Vibrant red bricks lead the way to the new door and tie in with the chimney.

Case Study 4: Before

The two-tone effect—red brick on the first story and white clapboards on the second—of this 1970s split-level made it look top-heavy, and distracted from its graceful double-door entry.

Case Study 4: Unify the Look With Paint

Photo by Jean Allsopp

The front of a house should read as a pleasing composition, allowing onlookers to admire its architectural elements without any jarring notes. One earthy hue now merges the two halves of the split level, creating a harmonious balance.

Case Study 4: Unifying Paint

Photo by Jean Allsopp

Paint:

Painting the siding and brick one color makes the house look statelier, an effect emphasized by the Georgianesque palette of gray, black, and white. The homeowners chose a low-sheen exterior paint, which attracts less dirt and plant debris than one with a matte finish.

Entry:

New posts placed just at the sides of the portico replace the view-obstructing originals, letting the double doors and bay window take center stage. Three inexpensive posts grouped together have the visual heft of one large column, but cost less and create a more open feel.

Case Study 4: Unifying Paint

Photo by Jean Allsopp

Windows:

To the right of the front door, two sets of tall, nonoperable shutters capped with triangular white pediments (one covers an existing undersized window) trick the eye and add symmetry to an awkward blank spot in the facade for a fraction of the cost of new windows.

Landscaping:

An azalea bush in the yard and a potted urn by the entry add color. The luxe-looking new slate path and step capstones complement the home's gray color scheme and will weather well over time. Install such pavers yourself to save as much as $10 to $25 per square foot.

Case Study 5: Before

The owner of this 1920s farmhouse wanted to trash its dingy asbestos shingles.

Case Study 5: Shape Up with Siding

Photo by Jean Allsopp

A field of spotless siding helps a home's details stand out. So the owner chose a material and style that would more closely match the look of the original siding, offer easy maintenance, and set the stage for a friendlier entryway and new roofing.

Case Study 5: Shipshape Siding

Photo by Jean Allsopp

Siding:

Sheathing the body of the house are new vinyl clapboards in a cheery yellow. Matching fish-scale shingles under the eaves of the peaked roof visually break up the facade and replicate traditional detail.

Roof:

Gray asphalt shingles replace the old and tattered green ones.

Case Study 5: Shipshape Siding

Photo by Jean Allsopp

Entry:

The porch has an airier white vinyl railing with a rich-looking mahogany cap and new posts wrapped in maintenance-free cellular PVC. A windowed vinyl door replaces the old builder-grade one, increasing the home's charm and boosting energy efficiency.

Landscaping:

Foundation plants skirt the porch, creating a link with the lush lawn that now surrounds the house. The old poured concrete walkway got an upgrade with handsome concrete pavers.

Case Study 6: Before

The faded shingles on this early-1900s American Foursquare, along with a drab color palette, suggested neglect.

Case Study 6: Put on a Handsome Roof

Photo by ©Mary McMurray.com

Like an elegant top hat, a roof can make—or break—the look of a facade, especially where a porch doubles its prominence. Now, the house has a vibrant new top and a cheery paint job to match.

Case Study 6: Handsome Roof

Photo by ©Mary McMurray.com

Roof:

Wanting to go bold, the homeowners chose a rich red for the new composite roof tiles. The bright hue draws the eye up, emphasizing some of the home's best architectural features, such as the rafter tails, dormers, and porch.

Paint:

Four color families in nine different shades appear on the exterior, but the variations are subtle to avoid making the house look like a circus tent. Golden yellow siding creates a sunny backdrop. Red window sashes and muntins tie in to the roof and give the windows depth within their crisp off-white casings. Painting the gutters to blend with the roof, trim, and siding cuts visual clutter, while a dark blue-green lattice around the foundation fades into the landscaping. Together, these budget-friendly fixes yield substantial dividends, giving the house a fresh new face and brightening the whole block.