Curb Appeal: Eight Weekend DIY Projects

By Kate Riley May 5, 2010

I get a lot of emails from readers asking for tips and advice on sprucing up their interior spaces or fixing up their thrift store finds, and I’m happy to correspond.  One reader posed this question addressing the exterior of her home, so I thought I’d answer it right here !

“Dear Ms. Kate,  We just got married and purchased our first home a few months ago.   We’re very excited about our new place, but the outside of our house is a tan box and doesn’t look much different than the rest of the cookie cutter houses in our neighborhood.  We’re looking for ways to pretty up our front porch and front yard.  Could you possibly share some ideas on how we can turn our plain Jane into something special, maybe some weekend DIY projects we could tackle ?  Thanks so much for any help.  Jenn R. ”

Congratulations to you and your husband Jenn on buying your first home – what an exciting moment !  Welcome to the world of home ownership where you’ll now spend more weekends than you imagined at the local home improvement store !!!

Since my husband and partner-in-DIY happens to be a real estate appraiser with over 20 years experience in valuing homes, I shared Jenn’s inquiry with him.  Mr. CG has inspected and appraised thousands of homes, so together we came up with these ideas for eight weekend DIY projects that will instantly add curb appeal to any home. 

1.  Paint or replace your front door. 

It’s amazing how much a pop of color on a front door or a fresh coat of semi-gloss can make your ‘plain Jane’ stand out from the crowd.  As long as there are no homeowner’s association restrictions, go right ahead add jazz up your door with a fresh coat of paint.  It’s a good idea to prime it first for durability.  Be the inspiration for all your neighbors – no doubt, they’ll be painting their front door in no time too !

 blue and red front door

black and turq front doors

yellow and teal door The Little Greene; BH&G; Blissfully Domestic; Hooked on Houses; Apartment Therapy; Yellow Front Door

2.  Create a container garden

There’s nothing like fresh greenery and flowers on a front porch to make it come to life.  Whether you choose glazed pots, classic terra cotta, hanging baskets, or dramatic urns, go with a container you love that also complements the style of your home. 

Always think color, perhaps a complement to your freshly painted door.  You’ll be humming ‘Home Sweet Home’ in no time with some outdoor perennials and annuals blooming on your walkway. 

Pay a visit to your local nursery or garden center to learn about what grows well in your zone.   There are plenty of easy care plantings available that simply require you water them a few times a week, like topiaries or small trees.   If you have a proficient green thumb, by all means, impress your neighbors with your skills! 

conventional container garden Stone Canyon Studios; Martha; My Home Ideas; Sunset; Flickr; Simply Planters


conventional containers 2 Martha x 2; Debra Prinzing; White Flower Farm; Sunset

Consider other containers beyond just urns or planters.  How about baskets, a painted chair, or an old dresser with plants spilling out of the drawers? 

Colorful bins or even buckets make marvelous containers during the growing season. 

unconventional containers; Sunset; Southern Living; Martha 


3. Add a few window boxes

Window boxes are a simple architectural addition to any home that add a ton of curb appeal.  They come all shapes, sizes, and many modern versions are self watering.   

window boxes 1

window boxes 2Flickr; Grandinroad; Country Living; Flickr; Flickr


4. Create a seating area on your porch

What’s more welcoming than a place to kick of your shoes, sit down awhile and have some lemonade on a summer day ?  Here’s another opportunity to add some color to your home, with metal or painted furniture and outdoor pillows. 

Porch swings are absolutely charming, especially when softened with some favorite fabrics. 

 porch swings  Country Living; Style at Home; House Beautiful


Adirondack and rocking chairs add a relaxing country feel.

rockers adirondacks Country Living; Martha; House Beautiful; Coastal Living


If you have the space and the budget, splurge on deep seat cushions that may just tempt you to take a nap right there on your porch.  You can opt for a neutral cushion or simple stripe, then kick it up a notch with bright citrus colored pillows or softer sea and sky colors with blues and greens.  Have fun with patterns, mix it up !

splurge seating Pottery Barn; Coastal Living; Martha


5. Add architectural accents

Painted shutters, upgraded sconces, dramatic address numbers and decorative brackets go a long way to adding value to your home.   

exterior sconces

lanterns and shutters Custom House Numbers; Pottery Barn; TraditionalProductGalleries; Lighting Catalog; Decorative Shutters


6.  Upgrade your garage doors

A larger investment for sure, but consider the dramatic difference of a beautiful new garage door.  Simply stunning !

garage doorsCountry Living; Carriage Doors 


7.  Invest in good landscaping

Dollar for dollar, an investment in a well landscaped front yard adds value and curb appeal to your home.  Your yard design need not be complicated, although if your budget permits, you can consult with a landscape architect to really up the wow factor.

Installing a sprinkler and drip system will go a long way to ensuring your yard receives adequate water.  Many regions now require drought resistant front yards, so check with your local ordinances before installing a lush (although gorgeous) front lawn.  

simple front yard landscaping Source

Landscaping a yard typically takes more than a weekend, but how about upgrading your planting beds, feeding your lawn, or planting a few new shrubs, perennials, or trees ?  

8. Light a path to your door.

If you have steps or an uneven path, lights will help prevent falls and also act as a deterrent to intruders.  Low voltage lights add ambiance, cast a welcoming glow, and enhance your landscaping in the evening hours. 

johnsearslandscaping Source

And for just a few more ideas, consider painting or refinishing your porch or stoop, painting your gutters, downspouts and trim an accent color, replacing your doorknob, knocker and/or doorbell with a modern finish, upgrading your mailbox, and adding a welcome mat and/or wreath. 

So that’s our list of eight weekend projects that will add that extra wow factor to your front facade.  Now that the weather has improved, what are you excited to tackle on your homefront ?  Is it your yard ?  Will you be planting in the upcoming weeks?  Are you painting, or adding seasonal and colorful accents? 

Tell us how you plan to spruce up your home sweet home !




  1. Hey Kate. You are so brilliant responding to people’s design dilemmas! Confession…we haven’t even started doing anything with the outside of our place yet. It feels so daunting though I know we’ll get there – eventually. These inspiration pics are such a good pep up.

  2. Hi Kate! Although I don’t need an advice for my home (for now), I read carefully your blog post and you’re close to become my guru in home improvement! Seriously, I admire you and think you’re the best! And what a sweet thing is to answer to your readers that do need help – this is very kind of you! Always can’t wait for your posts! xo, Ludmila

  3. Fantastic tips and beautiful inspiration pics Kate! I have to admit I’m feeling a bit smug. I’ve got all the ones that apply to me covered (no garage or long walkway in city living). Although I would LOVE it if my window boxes were self watering. That would be blissful!

  4. Great timing! We just decided to paint our front door! Do you recommend semi-gloss or glossier?

    I wish we could have window boxes, but our front windows don’t open for the most part :-(

  5. Kate, that was a really nice and well thought out post. You obviously put alot of time into it. Thanks I enjoyed the read and pics!

  6. Woman, I hope this is the beginning of consultations for you! I love the work you do on your own home and think it would be great to see how you could help others, too! My only request is to make your “clients” send you the after pics so we can see those, too!!!

    XOXO, JJ

  7. We just bought our THIRD home and will be moving in at the end of next month…thankfully, it’s already beautifully landscaped, but it is one of those houses that has the garage in front – a big looming thing. Right now it is wood, and I am hoping to paint it a more neutral colour, so it doesn’t stand out as much. I would love to paint the front door (alas, you can’t really see it that well because of the big garage door)..I’ll definitely be adding a wreath and some seating on the front porch, and some container flowers. I can’t wait – short of winning a million dollars and buying a TRUE dream home, this home is my dream come true.

  8. Great ideas! We just moved into our house in the fall so this is our first spring to actually work outside. I think we’re going to start with some easy things like new sconces, mailbox, door knobs, and lights around the garden area. The planting will have to be the Hubby’s job as I have a black thumb!

  9. Can I throw one out there? Paint your trim a nice, bright white. I always notice the houses in our older neighborhood that have white trim. My faves always have a color scheme of light beige exterior walls, white trim, and black (or another deep color) shutters. Then, of course, many of your suggestions are there, too. Containers of plants, nice hardware, a pretty front door. It makes a huge difference between the houses that look tired and the houses that look loved.

  10. Wonderful ideas!

    We just replaced our garage door with a carriage house garage door. What a huge difference! And sprucing up any front or back porch with seasonal flowers is always an easy pop.

  11. Great tips, Kate!! :) I think the window boxes really do help! I’m waiting for the wave petunias to arrive so I can fill mine. :) I think keeping up with the maintenance for your siding/trim helps a lot. We were one of the first one our street (older homes) to replace the old wood siding with fresh vinyl, and many others have followed suit. :)

    LOVE those front door photos!

  12. These are great weekend projects. I’ve been wanting to paint our front door for awhile. I think I want to go with a classic red, but I haven’t taken the plunge yet. :)

  13. great tips. i am actually thinking of changing out the lights and adding more flowers to my front beds.

  14. Kate, these are wonderful tips! And I really appreciate the way you’ve included items at all price points. When we first bought this house, I wanted to spruce up our curb appeal. . . but we’d sunk all our money into the purchase of the house! Now I think the front of my house is very welcoming, and most of the process of making it so has come in layers. We were able to purchase some outdoor furniture the second spring we lived here, but it’s the other, smaller stuff that makes it special.

  15. Great post with wealth of inspirational advice. I agree, you can do this for a living, such talent you have!

  16. Great ideas, I especially like the one to paint the door. Can’t believe I didn’t think of such a simple update before now. Our house is a sea of beige and I think the dark brown door lacks any punch. I’m excited to think of the new color we can pick!

  17. Great tips, Kate. And, I’m totally patting myself on the back about the things we have already done (paint the door, containers, seating area on the porch, window boxes and landscaping). But, I’m inspired to add some fabric to the front (and I have just the thing in mind) and I’m also thinking I can probably do more with architectural interest and lighting. Thanks for this!

  18. Great inspirations, great ideas …. just found your blog today. Great blog !! have a lovely day !!

  19. Hello! I’ve just stumbled upon your blog in my quest for inspiration and I LOVE it! My boyfriend and I have also just bought our first home and at 21 and 24 most of our income is sunk into just paying the bills but you have have given me some great inspiration for ways I can improve our curb appeal on a budget. Thanks!

  20. Hi, I’m wondering if you have any ideas for inexpensive ways to redo floors. Our main floor has this awful pink rug running through it, underneath that is plywood. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks searching the internet for some ideas and have found a couple (mostly paint and another called paper bag). Have you done anything creative with your floors or do you know anyone who has? I’m hoping that I can have something rustic looking. Although I love hardwood floors I’d love something that not too many people have. I’d also like to say that after seeing you on the Nate Berkus show I check your blog often and have used some of the ideas you’ve suggested. I agree with the above comments the pictures are great inspiration and you are very creative.

  21. There’s no better way of saying home sweet home than when your own home offers not just a sight of beauty but a genuine essence of satisfaction. Hence, having a landscape that pretty much resembles the rest of the neighborhood may cause dissatisfaction for most homeowners. These do-it-yourself tips that come with elegant photos in improving the overall appearance of their homes will surely be highly appreciated.

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