First impressions are everything.
But when it comes to your house, other people’s impressions aren’t the only ones that matter. Yours does, too.
Your home’s outward appearance can affect how you feel about being there. It’s what greets you when you come home and makes you feel either embraced or held at arm’s length.
That’s why John Gidding thinks enhancing your home’s curb appeal is so important.
Gidding has plenty of experience bolstering homes’ exteriors as an architect and host of HGTV’s former series Curb Appeal and Curb Appeal: The Block. He’ll discuss projects from the shows and offer advice during appearances at the HBA Akron Home & Flower Show, which starts Friday at the John S. Knight Center in downtown Akron.
Gidding believes a well-maintained, attractive exterior not only makes you feel better about where you live, but it makes you a better neighbor, too. No one wants an eyesore house on the block, he said in a phone interview from his home in San Francisco. In fact, Gidding said most of the nominations for home makeovers on Curb Appeal: The Block came not from homeowners, but from their neighbors.
Maybe you can’t afford to remodel your house or relandscape your yard, but you can still improve your home’s looks. Here’s what Gidding suggests:
• Be true to your home’s architecture.
Gidding said one of the most common mistakes he sees is homeowners finding an exterior look they like in a magazine and then trying to apply it to their own homes. Too often, the result is a muddle.
Instead, embrace your home’s architecture and enhance it, he said.
Unsure about your home’s style? The National Association of Realtors’ magazine, RealtorMag, has a good guide to residential styles at http://realtormag.realtor.org. Find the “Home & Design” tab near the top of the page, and then choose “Architecture Guide” from the drop-down menu.
• Gather ideas.
Once you know your home’s style, Gidding said, you can search for pictures of color schemes and features other people have used successfully on similar homes.
Online sites such as Houzz and Pinterest offer a wealth of possibilities. “There’s nothing wrong with copying,” he said.
If your exterior upgrade includes landscaping, your garden center might offer free design assistance with a big purchase, he said. While the landscape designer will focus on the plants, he or she might make other suggestions to improve your home’s curb appeal, too.
• Don’t ignore the mailbox.
A mailbox may be a utilitarian object, but Gidding said it’s one of the first things people see when they approach your house, especially if they’re looking for your address. A mailbox that’s crooked, rusted or identified with stick-on house numbers doesn’t make a welcoming impression.
At least make sure the mailbox post is erect, and either replace a worn mailbox or paint it glossy black. A mailbox support that incorporates elements of your house, such as siding or brick, is a nice way to tie the mailbox to your home, Gidding said. Add beautiful house numbers for added appeal.
• Look for maintenance lapses.
Examples of poor maintenance are red flags to other people, Gidding said. “If one of your balusters is rotting out, people will assume the rest of the house is rotting out,” he said.
But seeing your house every day makes it easy to stop noticing issues like peeling paint and weedy flower beds. That’s why Gidding said it might be helpful to ask a friend to tell you what he or she sees. Ideally it should be someone who doesn’t live nearby, he said, because your neighbors have grown accustomed to your home’s shortcomings, too.
• Let there be light.
A well-lighted property enhances curb appeal by making a house feel welcoming, Gidding said. It also has the practical effect of enhancing your home’s safety, which is good for both you and your neighbors.
• Match your metals.
Your exterior probably has a lot of metal elements — the light fixtures, the doorknobs, even the doorbell. Gidding recommended using the same metal finish on all those elements to create a sense of unity in your home’s exterior.
• Add a place to sit.
Gidding said he almost always included a bench in the front-yard designs he created for his shows. Often the homeowners questioned that choice, saying they didn’t use their front yards.
But a bench implies you like spending time there, he said. It changes the impression that the front yard is “just a platter for the house to sit on.”
He said even a small porch can have a seat, perhaps one that incorporates a box where a delivery person can leave packages.
• Make a path.
A path leading to the front door is “such a big part of welcoming someone to the house,” Gidding said. Yet many homes are designed to put more emphasis on cars than people, so walkways are often skimpy or poorly positioned.
Lots of pathway materials are available, he said, and some can be installed by a do-it-yourselfer.
• Choose colors wisely.
Gidding said exterior color choices often fall into one of two extremes, too blah or too garish.
Forget color trends, he said. Rather, let your color choices be guided by your home’s architectural style and the fabric of your neighborhood.
Luckily, paint manufacturers make it easy to choose exterior colors. Most offer brochures showing palettes of specific base and trim colors that work well together, so you just have to pick one that fits your home and your neighborhood.
If you want to innovate with color, Gidding said there’s one good place to do it: the front door. Painting the door an eye-catching color, such as a bright jewel tone, gives it personality.
Best of all, it’s an easy, inexpensive update. “It’s really a weekend project that anyone can do very well themselves,” he said.
Mary Beth Breckenridge can be reached at 330-996-3756 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also become a fan on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/mbbreck, follow her on Twitter @MBBreckABJ and read her blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/mary-beth.