For the vast majority of people, a home is the single biggest financial investment they will make.  Your house is the setting for countless family memories, the place you extend hospitality, and the place your children will remember as home.  Making your home as warm and inviting as possible is a natural desire!  These days, with the popularity of HGTV and other DIY home dynasties, ‘curb appeal’ is a common phrase.  That first glance of your house from the street is a first impression that can’t be replaced… but how do you know if you are making the most of YOUR home’s curb appeal?  

With this handy guide, we will take you through the steps of inventorying your home’s curb appeal, some easy steps for how to improve it quickly and without much cost, and help you build a long-term plan to work towards.  Ready?  Let’s jump in!

STEP ONE- Look at Your Home with Fresh Eyes

Person holding up a camera ready to take a photo

Do you remember the first time you saw your home?  What was your initial reaction?  Was it love at first site, or...not?  When we have lived in our houses for months, or even years, it is easy to become immune to that first impression of your house.  We become blind to the obvious features or eyesores we look at every day.  

Here is a strategy for ‘seeing’ your home anew… TAKE A PHOTO!  Snap a photo of your home from the curb, and then adjust the filter settings so your picture is displayed in greyscale.  Experiment from taking the photo of your home from several different vantage points, the entrance to your driveway, the moment you can first spot it along your street, and from either side of your house. 

Once you are armed with your ‘data’, use these photos to analyze your home for curb appeal following the guide below… 

STEP TWO- What Draws the Eye

Image of a large house with trees in front.

As you look at the photos of your house, ask yourself what features of your home or lawn draw your eye.  Are there any large or visually dominant elements?  This could be a large tree or hedge in your yard, an ivy-covered chimney, a forward facing garage, or other features.  Consider those features and ask yourself if you want to accentuate them, or minimize them.  

A bright color of paint on the garage, creating a garden bed around a tree, or allowing your home’s unique architectural features are ways to make these features shine.  If you want to diminish the visual impact, you could paint eyesores to blend in with your home’s façade, trim tree limbs or cut branches to open up the view, or plant greenery to conceal utility boxes. In some cases, the best bet is to cut the tree down or have the hedge removed and start over! 

STEP THREE- Sight Lines 

Head on image of an arts and craft style house with stairs leading up to it.

Ideally, the elements of your home and garden will serve to guide your eye to your front door, the heart of hospitality.  If your sidewalk or driveway impedes this sight line, you can do so more subtly by designing your hedges and greenery to lead the eye to the door, or by creating eye-catching features such as colorful planters or a front door that pops! {link to fresh, fun front door colors} 

If you have a tree whose branches impede the view of the door, consider trimming the lower branches to open up the view.  You can draw attention away from a garage or other area of your home by choosing to paint it neutral colors.  Shutters that are neutral, or painted contrasting colors also serve to highlight and draw attention to your door.  

STEP FOUR- Welcome

White porch swing with accent pillows.

Why do you want your home to have curb appeal?  Probably because it is a sign of a welcoming home and the heart of hospitality found inside!  If you want a visitor’s first impression to be that of welcome, make sure that there are visual indicators of places of relationship to be seen!  

This element can be fairly easy.  A comfortable porch swing with bright, happy pillows, a pair of Adirondack chairs in the front lawn, a glimpse of a firepit in the back yard… these all communicate the message that friends are welcome here!  

When analyzing your welcome factor, don’t forget wayfinding!  Is your address number prominently displayed so that guests and postmen can easily find your house?  Is your mailbox in good repair, and does it match the aesthetic of your home?  Is there a place for your delivery person to place packages?  All of these small gestures build to a greater sense of hospitality!  

STEP FIVE- How Does Your Garden Grow? 

Up close image of front yard flower bed.

Garden design can often seem to be daunting to the inexperienced gardener.  However, by employing a few simple guidelines, you can create an attractive garden that increases your home’s visual appeal.  Just remember these three rules of thumb:  Begin with the End (feeling) In Mind, Plant Big to Small, and Follow the Invisible Lines.

Begin with the End (feeling) In Mind

Before you dive into planning out or modifying your garden space, ask yourself what emotions you want your green spaces to evoke- bright happy feelings, peaceful calm feelings, a playful whimsy, or even security.  Visualizing what elements appeal to you and seem to fit your home can help guide your decision making process as you think through your garden layout. 

Ask yourself how you want to feel maintaining your garden- do you want it to seem effortless once it is put in place, or do you enjoy sunny afternoons puttering in the yard?  Do a variety of colors make you happy, or feel overstimulated?  These questions can help you shape what you want your end result to feel like, which can guide you to what that space may look like!  

Plant Big to Small

Look at your home’s photo and decide if there are any ‘holes’ in the space that may need to be filled.  These may include bare expanses of wall, garden beds that look flat an uninspired, or an air conditioning box or other feature you would like to hide.  Choose big elements to fill in these gaps.  This could include trees, large shrubs, a garden feature such as an arbor, or even a piece of garden art!  Think of what size and shape an object would need to be to properly fill the space.  You can even print out your home’s photo and color it in with a pencil to see what looks best.  

When designing or reimagining a garden area, it’s easiest to go big to small.  Start with the big features that draw the eye.  Consider their footprint when fully mature, and then fill in the spaces around it.  A psychological trick that can make a garden look finished is to ‘contain’ it with shrubs or other vertical features that is at least one-third the space of the horizontal space used in the garden.  Once you have your medium-sized elements planned, the leftover area can be filled in with open space, groundcover, or accent plants.  Think of each plant’s light requirements, foliage, texture, and bloom color to make sure they form a harmonious whole. 

Follow the Invisible Lines

Much light the sight lines mentioned above, your house has other invisible guiding lines that help you determine the space that needs to be filled to make your garden look finished.  Analyze your driveway, sidewalk, the edges of your house, and the visual lines created by windows and doors.  Allow these lines to form the boundaries of your garden areas, and let the shape of the garden be influenced by and mirror shapes of prominent features of your house.  

For half of the year, most guests who approach your home at dinnertime will be doing so in the dark, or at least in twilight.  Thinking through the exterior lighting of your home can improve their safety, your home’s security, and DEFINITELY it’s curb appeal!  Luckily, you don’t have to break the bank to achieve this effect.  Here are some things to consider: 

STEP SIX: Light the Way

Close up of sidewalk next to plants and solar powered light.

Your Front Door’s Lighting

Does the light fixture at the front of your home put out enough light to be easily seen from the street?  Do you turn it on ever?  Updating the light fixture on your front porch costs less than $100 and can give you a big visual bang for the buck!  You can also purchase a dawn-to-dusk light socket that automatically turns on your porch light at twilight! 

Light blub socket
Image courtesy of Amazon

Thoughtful lighting of your landscape and walkways can also provide a great amount of curb appeal.  While many people invest in professional landscape lighting installation, it’s not necessary!  Amazon has a variety of solar-powered light stakes that work well to illuminate your sidewalk, and other features of your home. 

Solar light with mandala style lighting design
Image courtesy of Amazon


Use solar spotlights to highlight areas of your garden that may be lost in the dark, but take on enchanting beauty when illuminated, like an ornamental tree.  Spotlights can also serve to softly illuminate the façade of your house, making the entire home seem to glow with welcome and warmth.  

STEP SEVEN - Final Touches

Close up of planters with flowers

Small touches and accents are often where people START when attempting to create curb appeal, but going big to small in our Step By Step Guide helps you create a more unified whole!  The FUN part is the final touches!  Whether this is a brightly colored welcome mat, some whimsical garden art or a birdbath, or using landscape pebbles to outline your garden areas, this is where your individuality can shine!  

A few simple tips can make these accessories tie together:

  • Size:  Don’t compete with the eye catching elements of your home and yard you have already set in place.  Use accessories to complement, not compete with them!
  • Color: Consider the color scheme of your home and garden, and use these accessories to emphasize this and tie them together.  Mirror the colors of your flower in the hanging baskets on your porch or the flowerpot by your door.  Take colors from your door or shutter into your yard with birdfeeders or suncatchers that tie into the color scheme.  
  • Groupings: When working with relatively small pieces of art or ephemera, utilize the “rule of three” to make the placement seem intentional and artistic, not helter skelter.
  • HAVE FUN and express yourself!  Not everyone is a fan of garden gnomes or pink flamingos, but it they make your heart dance, go for it!  It’s YOUR home, not anyone else’s!  

WHEW!  After walking through these 7 Steps to Curb Appeal, hopefully you feel more empowered to make your home and garden shine!  Remember, in a few years, you can always walk through the process again and change things up to keep your appeal fresh and fun!  

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