Do you ever get the urge to give your house a little more style, but don’t know where to start? While a good decorator or architect can lead the way to imaginative, eye-catching design, there are a lot of things you can do on your own, without paying the fancy-pants decorator price. Here are some tips to get you started.
Emulate techniques designers use…start out first by critically assessing the appeal of your home’s exterior. Go outside and take a picture. Print it on a full page if you can get it that large. If not, take a copy to a copy center and have a few full-color, full-page size copies made. Studying a picture gives you a little more emotional distance; it allows you to be a little more objective in your assessment. Try to look at the picture as you would look at pictures of homes in a magazine or real estate brochure. Note what you like about it, and be specific about what you don’t like.
Look first for things that look overgrown and untended. Overgrown bushes and trees, unweeded gardens, and drooping rain gutters and shutters are the fastest and most obvious places to start. Then look for ways to add some low-cost architectural interest. Take a ruler and pencil to your picture. Would your home be enhanced by a fence, a deck, or an arbor? Arbors, fences, sidewalks, and plantings can all be used to define your home and its entry.
Especially in a neighborhood of nearly identical homes, you can make yours welcoming by giving it a little added dimension. Awnings, window boxes, and shutters can be another low-cost way to do just that. Shutters can be purchased new or used (Check out on-line sources such as freecycle and Craig’s List or watch for garage sales or large-scale home remodeling projects where someone may be replacing their perfectly good shutters.) If you are handy, you can make your own with plywood and trim. As for awnings, depending on your budget, you may only want to put an awning over the front or side door, but it can be a real starting point. Awnings allow you to add another color to your color scheme without painting one thing. If you add an awning with stripes that match your existing color scheme but include one color more, you can easily use the new color as your accent. The new window boxes or garden accents can pick up that color.
Speaking of color, examine at your plantings. Do they have any color other than green? Add a few potted plants. While any blooming plant will brighten the look, picking plants that enhance your color scheme is part of how you can get the landscaped-decorator look. While there are many different ways to get a pleasing effect, unifying pots and accessories through color usually works well. The eye likes variety, the spirit likes tranquility. To please both, use a variety of pot and planter styles, but keep them all the same color. The easiest way is to use either all terracotta pots or all white concrete pots.
The last quick visual pick-me-up is through your fixed accessories. Consider replacing your mail box, your porch light and/or your house numbers. If your budget allows, add some coordinating low-voltage lighting by the walkways or in the gardens. Make all of these accessories work together. Mailbox covers and house flags are additional items which can be coordinated with your exterior to help create the look you want.
Pictures are invaluable in the process. Use the picture you took of your own house; draw on the possible changes and evaluate the result. Look at pictures of other houses…examine what you like about their look to see if there are ideas that could be applied to your own. A good decorator will have you put your effort and money into the things that show the most, so take the same approach. Use your resources carefully to take your house from drab to fab!