Your neighbors never have to see your backyard. But your front porch? Chances are they judge you by it every day.
Unfortunately, especially if you access your house through the garage, it’s often neglected. But with the help of a few plants, a splash of paint on the front door and some furniture and fun, inciting porch envy is actually pretty easy. It’s also a good investment.
“When you elevate your front porch, you elevate your home value,” says Yawar Charlie, a realtor who stars in the new show “Listing Impossible.”
And ultimately, if you do it right and inspire your neighbors to up their front porch game too, you also add value to your neighborhood.
Here are a few tips from the experts for getting started:
Pay attention to the path
The path to your porch is technically the first tangible first impression people have of your home. For that reason, it shouldn’t be ignored.
“Consider pressure-washing it at least once a month,” says Gena Lorainne, a London-based landscaper for Fantastic Service. “It prevents wear and tear and quickly removes dirt to give your pathway a neat and clean look.”
If you have the space and time, you can also line it with welcoming flowers or small shrubs.
Focus on the front door
As the focal point of your front porch, the door deserves special attention. In fact, if you have a black or dark grey door, it could mean selling your house for an extra $6,000 according to a 2018 Zillow study.
Of course, if it’s a conversation-starting door you’re after, you should go with a bright color that contrasts with the exterior of your home. (Ideally, it matches the flowers you’ve planted out front).
If you have double doors, consider swapping them out for one large statement door with sidelights. “It allows for a lot of light to filter in and has a beautiful balanced presence,” says Lauren O’Donnell, a Build.com interior designer.
Upgrade your hardware
After 13 years of professional home staging for Kris Lindahl Real Estate, Jena Tack can’t emphasize enough how critical it is to have shiny hardware.
“If you have an old, tarnished door handle, replace it,” says Tack. Otherwise, even if you give your door a new coat of paint, it can make your door look old and tired.”
Match your mailbox and house number
Amy Owens says it’s not uncommon, or attractive, for an older house to have the original mailbox but a more modern house number.
“If the style of your porch accessories all match, it will do wonders to the aesthetic,” says the Realtor with Keller Williams NJ Metro Group.
Pretty much every designer agrees, saying the devil is in the details like these.
Cultivate Plant Envy
Add life, literally, to your front porch through the use of lush plants.
Kate Karam, landscape architect and editorial director for Monrovia Nursery, suggests hanging baskets if you want to create a living privacy screen. “It creates the sense of separation without shouting ‘keep out,’” says Karam.
For a 12-foot space, she recommends using five hanging baskets and staggering them at different heights. She’s also a fan of investing in plant hooks that swivel, so it’s easy to rotate the plants and give them exposure to sunlight.
Set up self-watering
If you’re going to have plants on a covered porch, it’s important to remember they don’t get natural water.
“If you’re not conscientious with your watering, those planter boxes can look really horrible in a short amount of time,” explains Eric Clark, a patio designer who shares his insight at OutsideModern.
If you’re handy and feel confident in working with your water lines and configuring the drippers and self-timer yourself, you can go the DIY route. But if setting up an automated watering system sounds intimidating, Clark recommends buying a complete kit with instructions, like this $36 model from Raindrip.
Look into quality lighting
Ask any photographer for the easiest way to take a great photograph, and the answer will most likely be related to lighting. Similarly, your front porch can benefit immensely from the right kind of illumination.
Patrick Harders, a lighting designer who serves on the Board of Directors for the International Landscape Lighting Institute, recommends investing in energy-efficient LEDs and solid, cast brass fixtures like coach lanterns or scone lights for your porch.
Of course, illuminating the path and steps up to your porch can go a long way too. So long, in fact, you may soon notice your neighbors doing the same — Harders says he often gets consultation inquiries from the neighbors of clients immediately after installing their lighting.
Add furniture and fun
While you don’t need to go Cracker Barrel-crazy and have a dozen rocking chairs out front, a piece or two of furniture can really add depth and liveability to your front porch. Phillip Thomas, a designer in the Hamptons, is a big believer in incorporating some fun too.
“Swings can really invigorate an otherwise boring and somewhat utilitarian area,” notes Thomas, who also makes a point of adding something personal that reflects the character of the person who lives in the home. (For example, if his clients collect shells, he might look for outdoor furniture with upholstery in a shell or scalloped pattern.)
Keep it clean
“Sweep, break out the hose and go crazy,” stresses Cindy Bennett, broker associate at Maison Real Estate Boutique. She says in her 16 years of experience working in real estate, she’s never encountered someone who was envious of old grass clippings or spider webs. If your next-door neighbors aren’t far away, or you live in a townhome, assume your neighbors will notice any dirt or debris you can see.
Of course, it doesn’t take an expert to know that simply using your front porch is one of the best ways to leave your neighbors wishing they could keep up with the Jones (you), even if it’s just in the relaxation department. Think of it as an extension of your living space and precious square footage you’ve paid for.
Plus, hanging out on your front porch is a great way to finally meet those neighbors you’re trying so hard to impress.
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