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A Guide to Smart Ways to Update Your Front Garden

front yard of modern house

Tom Merton/Getty Images

Ways to Improve the Look and Landscaping of Your Home’s Exterior

The simplest way to assess the curb appeal of your house is to walk to the curb—or to the street—and view it with the critical eyes of someone who has never looked at it before. Enlist the help of a friend whose opinion you value, sense of style you admire, and who will be honest. Take pictures of the house and front garden, along with close-ups of the door, path, landscaping and other details.

Know your home’s architectural style. Is it Midcentury Modern, Colonial, Georgian, or maybe Spanish? Get smart about your region’s climate and local environmental issues that might affect your landscaping choices, like water rationing in a drought zone or planting annuals that will have to be changed out every couple of months.

Look at it through the eyes of a first-time visitor.

    • Is it easy to find?
    • Does it say, ‘welcome’?
    • Does it stand out, like in a bad way?

House Numbers

midcentury modern house numbers

George Gutenbert/Getty Images

Pretend you’re the parent of a friend of your pre-teen daughter, dropping off your child for the first time, in the dark. You drive slowly by, searching for the address displayed on your GPS app. It says you’re at 46A Mockingbird Lane—or are you? There’s a car parked in front of the curb where the house numbers should be painted, and a shrub covering the last two numbers of the address posted on the front facade.

It’s definitely time for an update, so why not make sure the numbers are legible and easy to find, attractive, and in a font that complements your home’s architectural style?

Change the Post Box

photo of rusty mailbox in hedge

Wesley Hitt/ Photographer’s Choice RF/Getty Images

If you were the mail carrier, would you be able to find your mailbox easily? OK, if you were an identity thief cruising by, could your house be targeted as an easy mark, with the mailbox near the front of the property, hinges of the little door broken or unlocked so that bills and other important pieces of mail can be swiftly confiscated while you’re at work?

Or, from a design perspective, do you have a cast iron mailbox that would look better with a Georgian or neo-Colonial home than your Midcentury-modern?

It’s a simple and quick change that can start to make an improvement.

Rethink the Front Pathway

concrete pad walkway

McClellan Architects

Assess it from the viewpoint of a visitor—in other words, walk up the path from the curb, across the sidewalk, and past your front garden. As you do so, ask yourself (silently):

    • Is it safe? Are any brickspavers, or other materials missing or coming loose?
    • Is it welcoming? Or does it remind you of the house you’d pass by on the way home from school with the overgrown trees and ivy that you and your friends would run past because you were pretty sure a witch lived there?
    • Is there no path or entryway at all? Does visitor have to cut across the lawn?


white house with front porch

Paul Bradbury/Getty Images

Unless you happen to have a sculpture by Henry Moore in your front garden, the focal point of your property will probably be the entry and/or front door. If the door is worn, painted a ho-hum colour, or does not jive with the rest of the home’s architectural details, it won’t stand out.

If you have a front porch, make sure it’s freshly painted, repaired, clean, and nicely furnished. Don’t forget container plants, light fixtures, outdoor pillows, and doormats as extras to help spruce up the entry and welcome visitors as they approach your front door.

Also think about repainting your front door with something colourful that goes well with your home’s exterior or replace the door if it’s in poor shape or the style doesn’t match the home’s architecture.

Architectural Details and Add-Ons

wraparound front porch


Look at your home’s add-ons, like light fixtures, railings, and columns. Examine awnings, porticoes, overhangs, and the porch.

    • Do they need to be repaired or is it time to replace any of these elements?
    • How do the scale and size compare to the rest of your house?
    • Do they coordinate with your home’s architectural style?

Make a note of any changes you’d like to make and add them to the ever-increasing list.


orange and yellow house

David Papazian/Getty Images

In addition to the colour of the door, assess the colour of your home’s exterior.

    • Does it need an update? Was the house built in the 1980s and still painted in colours of the era that maybe don’t enhance it now?
    • Is the paint cracked or peeling on the trim or facade?
    • Is it boring? If you must follow guidelines imposed by a homeowners’ association (HOA), consult their colour list periodically for changes.
    • Hire a designer or contractor to assist you in choosing colours for the exterior, trim, railings and other architectural features.
  • 08 of 10

What’s Up With That Garage Door?


A new garage door can greatly improve the looks of your home.  Getty Images

How’s that garage door working for you? Is it literally on its last hinge and must be propped every time it’s opened? If so, it’s time to repair or replace the door. Replace it if the door has dents or major surface damage or wear. Also consider getting a new one if it doesn’t coordinate with the rest of the house.

Time for New Landscaping?

house with beautiful front garden

Getty Images

If you could, would you dig up your garden and start over? While it’s a dramatic move, sometimes it’s necessary. If trees are overgrown, invasive, and roots are buckling the sidewalk and encroaching on your plumbing and irrigation, they should  be removed—check with a local arborist or tree-trimming service.

The same goes for hedges, a thirsty lawn in a drought region, or high-maintenance shrubs that need weekly haircuts. Depending on your skills and time, this can be a do-it-yourself undertaking or you might want to enlist the services of a landscape designer or landscape contractor.

Cleanliness and Potential Repairs

house being painted

Getty Images

Maintenance and cleanliness are part of the big picture. Take note of whether your home appears clean, fresh, and well-kept. Also look at working elements like gutters, siding, and shutters. Are they in good shape or is it time to repair or replace them?

Time to spruce up!

By Lisa Hallett Taylor

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