Curb Appeal...I'm In Over My Head.....HELP!!

MissMollieMarch 16, 2014

Hello! At the end of last summer, my husband and I purchased an older home in a small town in Kentucky. The House sits at the end of a long driveway that is still visible from a fairly busy residential road. I am at a loss for what style or type this house is, as well as how to give it curb appeal by using landscaping and architectural detailing. To get to the point, I am looking for any pointers, advice, etc. on shutter paint colors, front door style and color, architectural enhancements (capitals, window headers, pediments....) and landscaping. We lived in a cookie cutter house in a cookie cutter neighborhood prior to this house, so I have no clue what I am doing now. Any help would be so greatly appreciated.

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cyn427 (zone 7)

Congratulations! Very pretty house!

For landscaping, it is easiest if you give us a long shot that shows the whole front yard. The first thing I would do is add some flowering trees in the front and if you don't have any trees in the front at all, I would plant several large trees (ones that will grow large, not large when you plant them). I love oaks. It looks as if your yard could support several large trees and several understory flowering ones. I would also wait to see what may come up this spring. Then, you can decide whether to keep those shrubs in front. I am not wild about those, but take your time. Go to a local nursery see what catches your eye. Peruse the gardening forums here on GW, too. Not sure of your budget, but a brick walk from the front door through the lawn either to a sidewalk if there is one or to a point partway down the driveway. That would give you the opportunity to add a garden on either side of it if you enjoy gardening. If not, leave it as lawn bordering the walk. Both are lovely looks.

As far as colors, what do you like? Do you want to stick with a traditional, classic look? Black shutters and a door color you like would work for that. I like the sizes of your window shutters. I would probably remove the shutters by the door, though, as well as the lintel above it if that is merely decorative(replace with something more substantial).

Again, congrats on the new place. You will have so much fun with this

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 6:22PM
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Is there still a garage somewhere, or is it just converted to living space judging by the windows at the end of the driveway?

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 7:14PM
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I think that style is Colonial. I would not change anything about the house, it's awesome. I am not a fan of pruned round shrubs so I would pull those out and put some native perennial flowers in the front. And a tree or two.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 7:50PM
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Congratulations on your lovely, substantial dwelling!

First, I would take the shutters off the front door. They are inappropriate there. The lintels on the bottom floor windows and door are all add ons, and you can see how these poorly chosen "enhancements" work against the house.

You can replace the shutters with wooden ones of the proper size, held back by iron shutter dogs. I think black or charcoal gray would be a good color for both the brick and the roof. Because your house already has a conservative, defined style, I would not try to embellish it with cornices and different capitals on the columns, etc. You might want to have the walkway to the front door replaced with flagstone or brick pavers if it is poured concrete right now, and put in some great landscaping with the help of a good nursery that has an experienced planner on staff.

If you desire more light in your entry you could put in a nice leaded glass or French door. I'd also put in one of the less formal doors with a solid bottom and divided lights in the top half at what looks like your secondary entrance to the right.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 7:55PM
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Sophie Wheeler

A more textural roof material (like ribbed metal) and a classic color on the door like navy blue would work grat for the house. For the landscape, start with ripping out the meatball shrubs and think about how much maintenance you want to have for the replacements.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 7:56PM
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I like the house and there are several of that "plantation style" in the city where I live, too.

I'm with the others who suggested that the shrub out front aren't doing you any favors. I like the look of Annabelle hydrangeas and they are very popular where I live.

Since they do tend to droop when it rains, due to the heavy flowers, and because they are bare in winter, they look lovely fronted by a box hedge as shown in this photo.

I think the relaxed style of the hydrangeas would soften the front of the porch, while the formal lines of the box hedge would go well with the grand styling of those two story pillars.

I would also opt for doors painted a color, or black, rather than white.

Great house, very Kentucky!

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 8:22PM
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Lovely, classic house. I suppose it is a colonial or federal style (not an expert on design styles!). I don't think that it needs much, especially not much change in architectural details. Here are my suggestions:

Paint the front door and side door a color: blue, green, red, purple, black, your choice, but not a pastel color and make sure that it doesn't clash with the brick. (I don't really like those doors with the small windows, but even just painting them would make them look a lot better)

The white on the shutters in fine, but you could also change them to a color. Dark shutters (black or super dark green or blue) are classic but other colors work too. They can match the front door or not.
I think that they look just a tad undersized though, changing them might be something to plan for.

f you were to remove the shutters by the door, I think that you would have to put some substantial molding around it instead. It needs some kind of a decorative frame.

The lights beside the door are also undersized, larger ones would look better. Don't get something really modern but you don't have to stick with the typical coach lamp design either.

White columns, again classic, but they don't have to be white. Painting these would be low on my list however. The trim across the top front should match the columns I think, as it does now.

Landscaping: pull out those bushes. Think about putting a railing or low wall around that lovely big porch -- wait, it looks maybe kind of shallow? Is it deep enough to put some chairs and a table? If not, maybe plan to deepen it in the future. But add the railing or wall -- think of giving it an "outdoor room" feel.

Add a brick or paver or stone walkway as cyn427 suggested. Even if it comes out to just in front of the current shrubs, it will look so much more inviting. Put a light at the junction of walkway and driveway (even a pretty solar light will do)

Then you will want to make a deeper bed that curves its way up to the new sidewalk. The current one is too narrow and straight (and boring). This is where you can put a small tree (or group of small trees) like Japanese maple or weeping cherry or birch plus some evergreen shrubs, flowering shrubs, some bulbs and perennial flowers. A larger bed, if kept well mulched, will not be hard to take care of either. You can look at flower catalogs and HGTV's or Better Homes and Gardens' websites, to name a couple, for ideas of what and where to plant.

Hope that I haven't overwhelmed with suggestions! Of course, you can be like me and take 12 years to get to the final vision!

Here is a link that might be useful: more planting than I would do but just for inspiration

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 8:46PM
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Call the master gardeners in your area about planting. You cannot and should not plant several large oak trees in a small yard unless it is plantation size. Just one oak tree can, in several years, grow humongous.

The shrubs in front of the house can, after fear of frost is past, be cut back by one-third. You still need to keep shrubbery near the house to wick water but you may want new, fresh shrubbery.

Call master gardeners as they know what works in your area, how to work it at your planting line around the house and can show you samples. Ask if there is a charge up front.

Many are in the business and some still work on a volunteer basis. If you do not know how to contact them, ask your county agent. These are services we pay taxes to receive.

Do not take planting advice from anyone who does not live in your area and remember about winter hardiness of plants and plants that need shade and plants that do not and what direction your house faces.

You will save yourself much money and heartbreak by contacting experts in your area.

This post was edited by patricia43 on Sun, Mar 16, 14 at 20:56

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 8:53PM
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I agree on the meatball shrubs. They all need to go, especially the ones that block the windows.

Could you get a picture of your house from further back? It looks like the driveway goes right up to the house on the right - did that used to be a garage there? I'd definitely change the driveway there so it doesn't go right up to the house. Maybe to a nice wide curve further to the right. What's over there? We can't see . . . .

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 9:33PM
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Painting the door a darker, more eye catching color will be an easy fix. I would switch out the porch light and replace it with something more substantial. If you have some wiring in the porch roof, a large lantern hung over the front door will be nice touch.

Right now, your house "floats" on the lot and isn't connected to the rest of the yard. A walkway, like others suggested, will connect your house to the yard. Be careful not to make too narrow or skimpy.

With a few changes, your house will look great.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 9:43PM
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I agree with others that it is a lovely, classic house. I agree with Patricia that you should contact experts in your area about what to plant. I also agree with her that I would not plant multiple oaks in that yard. One oak tree might look lovely, off to the side, but I personally wouldn't plant that large a tree in that yard. If I chose a large tree, I'd plant it off to the side.

I also wouldn't put a porch railing on your porch. I think porch railings are lovely, but your porch roof is so very high that I think a railing would look out of proportion and small on your style of porch. But perhaps someone would photoshop one in so you can see what it looks like.

I think the hydrangeas and boxwoods leafy02 suggested are just beautiful, but I would plant something lower there and keep a more open look to the porch. I'd definitely rip out the existing shrubs.

I'd put a nice sidewalk in that leads in a curve from the driveway to the porch. I'd put the curved sidewalk out a lot further from the porch, as I think someone else suggested, so there is a much bigger curved bed between the sidewalk and the porch. I'd put a curved bed on either side of the sidewalk and plant things that are low - dwarf shrubs and evergreen groundcovers. I don't think I'd plant a lot of perennial flowers there. I love perennial flowers, but, lazy gardener that I am, I wouldn't want the maintenance right there in my front yard next to my porch. So maybe I'd plant a few, but not a lot.

I'd plant a tree or some trees off to the side, but I'd make sure I kept the tree or trees to scale. Maybe a dogwood or Japanese maple. There are a lot of beautiful trees you could plant.

I also think I'd put some big flower pots on the driveway up near the house.

I agree completely with taking the shutters off the door and the lintels off the bottom floor shutters and door. That's the first thing I would do.

I think someone else already suggested much larger porch lights on either side of the door, and I agree with that. Also, I'd place a couple or more of big potted plants on the porch and possibly some nicely painted rocking chairs, if you like that look.

I can't tell what the large shrubs are in front of the porch. Gardenia? I had a large gardenia shrub the size of the large shrubs you have. It was pretty old, but my husband dug/ripped it up and planted it somewhere else, and it did great transplanted. I thought for sure it would have died, but it's still going strong now for about 12 years in that location. So if those are mature gardenia bushes you don't want to lose, you might be able to salvage them.

You have a lovely home with a lot of potential.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 11:06PM
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Black shutters and maybe a new more ornate door inclusive if a half moon transom and side lights if you can. Like the ribbed roof suggestion especially if you pretty up the soffit.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 11:14PM
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Excellent advice -- and a GREAT inspiration photo above!

Yes -- paint out the shutters to a darkest black-green (sometimes referred to as a Charleston Green)

Pull out the "meatball" ((LOL! -- great term!) bushes -- and add wide brick steps (see inspiration photo) -- most importantly -- a curving sidewalk around to the middle edge of the driveway. This new walkway would provide a MUCH more friendly way for visitors to reach the front door. You could add gracious new gardens on each side of the new walkway -- with small boulders throughout the plantings and lighting.

Yes -- add MUCH larger lanterns on each side of the front door and -- in the future -- consider adding long windows to each side of the door -- much more gracious than the shutters. I do like the front door in white -- for now.

Add a large half-moon mat in front of the door -- and a long white bench in front of each of the lower windows.

Add a larger substantial urn or planter (I like the square ones) with a tall thin bush in each one. Place these on each side of the front door.

Pretty colonial!! :)

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 10:52AM
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When it comes to your plantings, I'd tour some local gardens. If you are near a major city, a botanical garden, or if nothing else available that fits within your time constraints, you'll often find better nurseries have display gardens.

If there is a landscape architect in your area, you might even find paying for an hour or two of his/her time for a few suggestions if not an actual plan is worth your investment. You can do the work yourself after getting sound, studied ideas.

A tree, especially something as potentially large and long lived as an oak in the front is a lifetime commitment, your life and likely a few of the next generations. You want to be sure you will appreciate its shade, leaf litter, roots in the lawn.

I'm not wild about the idea of much besides simple evergreens close to the house, at some point that house will need maintenance and you don't want plantings in the way and to stress over. The biggest mistake I made with the gardens in my first home was perennial beds bordering the house - there is no way a contractor doing assigned work can adequately protect them. As for hydrangeas, I love them but not immediately at the front door for their bare deciduous stems to be front and center all winter, only full and lush in Spring and Summer. Homework, research for your specific climate, it will pay off in the long term...

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 10:52AM
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Lovely home! If it were mine, I'd put all my money into the front door--I love the door in zeitgast's post--but even just a wider wood and glass door would transform the house. I also second kswl's suggestion of changing out the side door to a 1/2 lite.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 6:52PM
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Changing a brick wall isn't that easy. We wanted to close in an indentation in a side wall and use the brick from the two sides and door surround to fill in the brick on the exterior. Matching brick was no longer made and the brick wasn't reusable -- things we found out after we'd taken the brick down and were deep into the process. We figured out a work around, but you wouldn't want to have to do that with the front entry to your home. A less expensive and safer route would be to replace the shutters with the type of treatment they were probably intended to suggest --

Give the door special treatment rather than trying to make it look like another window. Surround it, then paint the doors a contrasting color. That and replacing the ovegrown bushes across the front would be the starting point. Larger light fixtures and some planters beside the doors would be good additions that don't need to set you back a lot. Adding some trees and a walkway would be the other things I'd do \-\- in stages if necessary.

As you move along, you might consider adding a red brick edging to the walkway and drive -- don't think that possibility has been mentioned. It's a good house and doesn't need a lot

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 7:42PM
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We recently remodeled a brick home that included replacing existing windows with larger ones, as well as cutting an opening in the brick to add an additional window.I remember worrying that this was going to be a problematic, but it wasn't. Our contractor used a good mason who completed the job very quickly, and we even ended up with new brick sills that were better than the originals. I'm so glad we did this, as the new larger windows enhance not only the exterior, but the interior as well. I've kidded to my husband that if I knew what a difference the new windows and front door would make to the appeal of our home, we could have skipped all the other projects we did in the remodel!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 8:33PM
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Our brick didn't come out cleanly and couldn't be replaced to fill in. We had to put in a faux wood barn door to fill most of the space and then filled in around it with a mix of salvaged bricks and not quite matching ones. If you are simply cutting and don't have any bricks crumble on you, you might have an easier time. We had to straighten out and fill in two corners and connect them. It was stressful enough at the back of our house. I'd hate to be dealing with that at my front door. Get opinions from several people, look to see if you can get additional brick if needed (I was told we could, but didn't go look for myself) and then know you are taking a chance. Maybe less for simply opening up space and more for trying to arch a transom,

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 11:10AM
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Hey everyone! Thank you so much for all of the ideas, you have made me feel much better about tackling all of this. Please, keep them coming.

bpathome, good eye! That is a garage that has been converted into a family room. The driveway now goes around to a carport in the back

littlebug5, I have attached a pic from the listing, it gives a little better view of the driveway and how the house looks from the road.

Again, thanks so much for all the suggestions!!!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 9:38AM
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That truck parking spot puts a whole 'nother perspective on the landscape! If you are keeping and using it, then you might consider building a 4 foot or so fence that goes from the driveway, across the lot in front of the truck parking, to the edge of the house and back to the porch. Then plant some nice shrubs, small trees and perennials in front of the fence but still make a walkway and flower beds in the fenced in area.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 9:37PM
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OMG!!!! NOW we can see your house! And it's a beautiful home ruined by driveway issues, IMO.

There is no question that the first thing I would do is hire a small bulldozer and remove that parking pad where the pickup is parked as well as the driveway section leading to what used to be the garage. Your driveway should be a long sweeping curve around the right end of the house, leaving plenty of space between it and the house for some plantings.

You have a very pretty yard and beautiful trees. But that truck and its parking spot has got to go.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 11:44PM
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I forgot to add: there's a lot of people on this site who can help -

Here is a link that might be useful: Landscape Design forum

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 11:49PM
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What a pretty house!
For starters, I'd pick my favorite color to paint that door. (And, no, I sure wouldn't change the roof just so....)
I'm amazed that they would include that truck in the listing. That's funny. However, unless you have a truck just like that parked for decoration, I'd consider removing that pad :)

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 7:13PM
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