Front porch

Time to Evaluate

What constitutes true "curb appeal"? While the term embraces everything between your front door and the street, it doesn't take much to make dramatic style improvements, whether by adding flower boxes, sprucing up the mailbox, or constructing an elegant driveway.

With a little faith in your vision, and a few tips from the pros, you can transform a dowdy exterior to an inviting, welcoming entranceway.

Flowering containers

Choosing and Using Containers

When your garden needs some punch, containers can be the answer. Place them in strategic locations to draw attention to a specific area, such as the front entrance.

At the home shown at left, we set a large concrete pot in the middle of the flower border. When you stand directly in front of the house, the pot is centered on the door. Containers placed on both sides of the landing frame the steps.

In spring, red geraniums look great with yellow pansies and daffodils. Variegated ivy is trained to grow up a metal obelisk set on axis with the front door. As the summer's landscape changes, so does the look of the containers. The ivy has filled out, and ferns surround the base.

Mailbox makeover

Mailbox Makeover

Oddly enough, it is the humble mailbox that often creates that first impression of a suburban home. It can extend guests a welcoming visual invitation or give them the cold shoulder. Even the mail carrier was tempted to drive by the nondescript mailbox at left without stopping. It was time for a makeover.

To spruce up a plain mailbox, begin by clearing out any surrounding weeds. Ornamental grass makes a nice backdrop, and we like the maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus') in particular.

Some type of small evergreen, stepping down in height, stands out in front of the grasses and gives the planting an accent during the winter. For added punch, place evergreens in terra-cotta pots.

Next, consider adding a copper post cap, brass house numbers, copper tubing, and decorative elements like this copper vase and firefly. Copper tubing is sold in prepackaged coils, so we merely had to unwrap it, stretch it out, and wind it around the post.

House numbers

Highlight Your Address

Blending utility with personality, house numbers don't just tell guests where you are; they can also tell them who you are. Their potential ends only with your imagination. Use scavenged materials for an eclectic look, or match your home's decor more closely for a refined look. Placement isn't limited to your front door -- consider planting numbers in a garden bed or affixing them to a retaining wall near your driveway.

Front driveway

Warm and Welcoming

Originally the driveway at left was a typical, straight-shot, down-the-side dead end. The homeowners considered adding a 90-degree pull-off parking spot, but regretted the lack of grace. They asked their interior designer to plan a circular driveway that would allow guests to stop at the front door, then continue around to the street without having to back up.

Brick paver strips cross the driveway approximately every 15 feet, serving as expansion joints that visually interrupt the long expanse of concrete. A dark stain, mixed into the concrete before it was poured, reduces the bright finish that material usually has and helps it to blend in with the brick. The result is a driveway that flows well, welcomes guests, and actually complements the home.

Ranch style home

Details Make the Difference

While the owner of the home at left loved his neighborhood, he was never satisfied with the appearance of his 1970s house. Because a garage dominated the facade, the front door was lost in the shadows.

Seeking a change in design, he asked an architect to at the garage entrance. This design element, along with a new cedar-door street entrance flanked by fixed shutters, hides the garage door and lends the appearance of a porch.

Then, to define the structure, he added a brick water table topped with a drip course banding. As a low-maintenance alternative to conventional siding, he installed fiber-cement siding, and he gave the roof a steeper, more appealing slope by replacing the rafters over the garage with new members. These strategic changes lent contemporary charm to a once-generic profile.

Front door

Freshen Your Front Door

New finishes on the door and the floor give this entrance a welcoming new look without costly renovation.

A front door says a lot about a home. And it is true that old ones add character. Can the beauty of an antique door be combined with the durability of a new one? It's not as hard as you might think. This mahogany door was gorgeous but a little too new for the homeowners' taste. Instead of waiting a century for it to age, they sought some help from a faux finish artist.

The homeowners also wanted a quick fix to mask their unattractive concrete stoop. Removing it would be too expensive for their budget, so the artist gave it a fresh look with paint.

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