Another season has started, real estate season! In Massachusetts, this year’s season seemed to start February 1st with the dripping of melting icicles. Many parts of the country may not get going until May, however out in Boston and the surrounding metro area, people are thirsty for new property as they move up, downsize, or try to shorten their commute by 20 minutes. Open houses out here are busy and the buyers compete. Just like a job interview, first impression is key and for property that’s curb appeal. Even if you’re not preparing to plant that powerful “For Sale” sign in your front yard, creating curb appeal for your home is important for maintaining property value, neighborhood feel and fundamental homeowner pride.
The most expensive purchase you’ll ever make should be made to shine. As an interior designer, my focus is inside a building, however I also have a background in city planning and urban design where I focus on enhancing the aesthetics of buildings and streetscapes. So let’s go outside for a minute and take a look at what’s going on out there.
1. Style Basics & Color Schemes
Studying the style and architecture of your home is the first step in analyzing the color scheme. All styles come with a feel and look that makes them work or makes them clash. Searching online for the style of your home, you can quickly gather color ideas of tried and true combinations. Another factor to consider is your weather and climate. If you’ve traveled anywhere to a different climate you may have noticed the buildings are painted very differently. Mainly to do with weather conditions, cultural influences, but also to do with the sun, particularly the quality of sunlight. Northern climates tend to favor gray and beige schemes as the sun intensity is greatly reduced during winter months. A brightly painted house would almost glow in the dark come January. Move slowly south, the “Painted Lady” Victorian house starts popping up with bits of colorful trim. Finally, go to tropical locales and you have fuchsia, turquoise, and canary yellow being acceptable and common place. Historical and iconic locations such as Rome and Santorini even have building covenants in place limiting the color schemes to maintain the look of the area that visitors and residents expect and love. Note: if you live in a condo community, check with your HOA for an official list of approved colors prior to painting, many communities have rules regarding color schemes. Once you have developed a color scheme, use that inspiration throughout your project for continuity. Painting a house or choosing siding is expensive and not done very often in the lifespan of a home. This is not a time to reinvent the proverbial wheel in color schemes or combinations.
2. Windows & Doors
Once your color scheme is established, its time to pay attention to the main features of your house, the windows and doors. Accent colors tend to be used on front doors and shutters (if installed). Front doors should also indicate what’s to come on the inside. Classic black indicates traditional style, bright colors usually indicate a more modern style, and complimentary or neutrals usually indicate a more transitional or casual interior. Styles of front doors should also be considered when enhancing the architecture of your home. Cohesion is key to creating strong curb appeal. Mullion and muntin lines in window profiles lend to the architecture style of the house, choosing the correct one is imperative. Windows can cost up to 20% of the cost of your home, getting the style wrong is expensive and not a mistake that can be undone.
3. Wood Trim & Gingerbread
Victorian homes shine when it comes to wood trim or “gingerbread” when the correct colors are applied. The term “painted ladies” describes the post card row houses of San Francisco, what many people envision with the term Victorian home. Craftsman homes are another style where color palettes can greatly improve the wood trim appearance. Using more neutral and earthy tones in addition to stone accents can really enhance these homes. Like idea #1 above, this is not a time to reinvent the proverbial wheel in color schemes or combinations.
4. Details & Hardware
A quick way to enhance to the appearance of your home is with door hardware. Its an up close detail that can add a lot of charm and character for relatively little cost. Many home owners think of new door knobs and locks as the only option, however this category also includes items such as door knockers, hinges, brackets, kick plates, and house numbers. Again, stick to the common architecture style of your house and stay in the same “line” when choosing items at the store. Decisions to consider are the metal finish, profile, intricacy, and style. For house numbers, the font choice will also need to be considered. Just like letters, the font of the letter depicts a feel and style that needs to correlate to the overall style of your house. If placing it on your house, by your front door or by the garage are typical places, make sure its legible from the curb. It may be necessary to place another set on your mailbox or on your landscaping nearby as it needs to be functional as well as aesthetic.
5. Landscaping & Hardscaping
Flowers and landscaping is usually what most people think of when they think spring house projects outdoors. Many people enjoy adding the bright colors to pots and along their walkways and driveways. Don’t think you have a “green thumb”? You don’t have to be an avid gardener to plant a pot of flowers. Start simple with one bright color in one pot on your front step. When starting out, look for two things on the flower’s label: 1) amount of sun needed and 2) duration of flowers. You don’t want to buy a flower that requires all day sun that stops blooming in June when you have a semi shady spot and want color all summer long. If you’ve planted flowers before start analyzing your arrangement style. Do you want more height or like trailing flowers that seem to overflow? Hanging baskets and window boxes allow for the trailing feel on porches, while planting spike plants in the center of pots creates a sculptural feeling and provide height. Consider colors that coordinate like your clothes but also add drama from the curb. Consider your house color as a backdrop for the flowers and choose contrasting colors to add drama or similar colors for a more serene, calmer feel.
When it comes to hardscape, price quickly adds up. Paved patios of rock and brick can become pricey. Many revered English gardens use basic gravel for walkways, trailing into simple stone steps then disappear into the lawn. Trimming the edge of a perennial garden with bricks or stones end to end can create a crisp border line and ease lawn mowing. Build your garden slowly, maybe the first season you plant a couple of trees and outline the flower bed with some bushes, then add some perennials and a couple of potted annuals by the front door, finally adding the trim, decor and details.
6. Fencing & Mailboxes
Whether for safety or privacy, the aesthetic of the fence you choose is important. Cost directly correlates to the material chosen. Are you dealing with an existing fence or a mixture of fence styles? Consider adding tall shrubbery to the side you don’t like or want to block and open style pickets or rails to the side you want the view. Specific rules need to be considered when installing a fence in consideration to the neighbors and location on property line. Generally, the “finished” side faces the neighbors and the “back” side faces you. Fence companies in your area should be familiar with these courtesy rules as well as your local building department regarding fence permits and allowable styles.
Finally, your mailbox should be considered. This is the first thing someone notices when pulling into your driveway, don’t just stick a box on a post in a bucket of Quikrete and call it good. If your mailbox is leaning and peeling, or the numbers are faded or missing its time for a face lift. Also consider posts with planters included. Flowers at the mailbox add obvious curb appeal because its…at the curb!
Using all or any of these six areas can get the creative curb appeal juices flowing. Plant a flower, add some new numbers and paint your front door. Maybe you spray paint your old patio furniture, replace your mailbox, and throw down some fresh mulch. The point is to refresh and revitalize your home. The exterior of your home takes a beating from the weather and needs care. Landscaping needs grooming and the painted finishes need refreshing. The curb appeal of a house is like a person’s face, make sure its smiling.
Next month, I’ll move back inside as I focus on what to look for when you’re shopping for a new house.
Sarah Daricilar, NCIDQ
Studio Owner & Interior Designer
Daricilar Design Studio – Medway, MA
Check out my previous blog regarding preparing the inside of your home for a showing here.