I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but as a decorating enthusiast, it’s particularly hard for me to not judge a home by its exterior. That’s where you create your first impression and let people know what they can expect inside.

Is your home’s exterior creating the impression you’d like? If not, the good news is, you usually don’t have to do a lot of work or spend a pile of cash to make your home shine. Often, it’s the little details that make the difference.

A Doozie of a Door

When I visit new cities, I like to drive around and look at houses, checking out what different owners do to make their homes’ exteriors beautiful and inviting. I’ve noticed that one single feature draws me like a magnet: a fabulous front door treatment.

Show me a drop-dead gorgeous door, and I’m covered in goose bumps. I have to restrain myself from ringing the bell and begging for a tour.

Before you tackle your door treatment, first stand back and do an honest evaluation of your home’s front elevation. Are you dazzled by the exterior lighting? If not, perhaps it’s time for new light fixtures. The ho-hum lamps that originally lit my front door lacked the large scale and detailing my tall entry demanded, so I swapped them out for two black wall sconces that better suit my home. It was a small change, but it made a big difference.

Does the hardware on your door look like it has had a hard-knock life? Does it lack character and charm? If so, consider installing a new doorknocker, handle or kick plate.

How about the color of your door? If your paint is faded or just plain blah, pop open a can of paint and treat your door to a new hue. I’m crazy about black doors because they are filled with drama, but I also adore bright red or black-green.

Once your home’s entrance looks its best, bring on the door décor! This summer, consider dressing up your door with something out of the ordinary, like a hanging mirror, a lantern, a basket filled with flowers or a clock. Or, look for a beautiful wreath, the gold standard.

Splurge on a Showplace Piece

Every spring my friend Gloria, who is a master gardener, invests in one beautiful ornament for her garden, a new piece that will give her outdoor space style or a bit of whimsy. One year it was an oversized lantern. She placed the lantern atop an iron garden urn on her front porch then filled it with a small garden statue and faux spring greens. The affect was simply stunning. The trio of oversized iron candlesticks pictured above has become a mainstay of my seasonal garden décor. Here, I’ve topped them with pumpkins. In the winter, it may be green gazing balls that look like tree ornaments.

How about getting a fountain or birdbath? Have you always wanted an arbor at your garden’s entrance, covered with climbing roses? Maybe a unique or stately trellis for your clematis or morning glories to climb upon?

Create Living Space with Comfy Furniture

I use regular “indoor” furnishings on my covered screened porch and love how it makes this open air room seem like an extension of my home’s interior. But on the exposed patios at the front of my house, where tall trees drop leaves and birds drop other things … I have opted for more weather and wear resistant furniture. My favorite is outdoor wicker pieces, including a sofa, side chairs and an ottoman. Today’s synthetic wicker has come a long way in terms of style. It looks lovely and wears well. At Nell Hill’s Briarcliff, we have a host of beautiful indoor-outdoor fabrics you can chose from to cover your cushions in durable style.

Make Magic with Paint

If your outdoor furnishings look a bit worn or lackluster, brighten them up with new paint. I took a boring wooden hutch and with a coat of black paint, transformed it into an attractive display case and bar that serves as the focal point of my porch.

You can’t miss when you paint outdoor furnishings classic colors like black, white or cream. But if you’re feeling adventurous, crack open a can of today’s hot colors and have fun. Paint your wooden garden bench apple green, then toss on some navy and white pillows. Or jazz up your wrought iron dining set with a coat of periwinkle blue, purple or tangerine paint.

If you like how your furnishings look dressed in these spunky colors, keep going. Paint your arbor a vibrant color that accents the plants that will be growing there soon. Or, pull a color from your outdoor linens and use it to paint your pergola.

Ramp up Your Porch Linens

Sun and rain can wreak havoc on your outdoor linens, leaving them stained and bleached out. If your cushions and pillows are looking shabby, treat yourself to some new ones this year.

Get out your sunglasses because one of today’s hot looks in outdoor fabrics is bold and bright. You’ll see lots of electric hues like apple green, orange and sunny lemon, and a wealth of peppy patterns that feature huge flowers and funky geometric shapes.

A friend of mine created a sensational look on her outdoor patio using black, cream and apple green. For her seat cushions and pillows, she mixed three black and cream fabrics – an old-fashioned ticking, a fat stripe and a wonderful abstract floral. Then she added a jolt with apple green, brought in through pillows and accents. The chair pictured above is another take on this exciting color combination.

Beef up Your Backyard

If you love to hang out in your outdoor room, consider investing in some infrastructure improvements. A few years back, Dan and I walled in our tiny backyard, transforming it into a private courtyard like those we admired in Charleston. If you love to barbecue, add an outdoor kitchen with a built-in gas grill, fridge and serving bar. If you entertain a lot, think about adding a brick or flagstone patio surrounded by flowerbeds. If your outdoor space is a quiet retreat, how about a soothing water feature?

Next Week … Monograms are more popular than ever these days. I’ll have some fun ideas for using your initials to add a singular sense of style to your home.

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14 Responses to “Amp up Your Home’s Curb Appeal”

  1. patti g Says:

    As usual, you are right on target. Crossing my fingers, the closest thing I have ever had to having a car accident was usually from looking at someone’s home entry area! I love colored front doors, brass kick plates, welcoming lanterns, and healthy plants potted, as Southern Living states with a “thriller, spiller, and filler”. Much love to you.

  2. maureen Says:

    I thought I was the only one who loved to look a home’s exterior.Seems like I have lots of company! I, too, think if the outside looks this good I wonder what is behind that front door! I have to admit, my front exterior is pretty good. I have that green-black door with a pretty wreath, Green urns filled with pretty geraniums sitting on pint side wrought iron chairs and the best are the awnings over the triple front windows in green/white strip! I think awnings say Summer is here! Ideas all found thru magazines, blogs etc. There is so much out there to feed our creativity! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Susan Sage Says:

    Dear Mary Carol,
    You’re amazing! I get so much inspiration and courage from you for my decorating projects. Thanks so much!
    Susan Sage

  4. Lauren P Says:

    You should be a wedding coordinator/designer (as if you’re not busy enough, right?!) I am currently reading your wedding book and am in love! My mom and I are shopping at Nell Hill’s this weekend to get wedding inspiration! Can’t wait!

  5. Angela Says:

    I absolutely love your home and your door was what had me at “hello” or shall I say “welcome”! I loved the lantern/plate holder and the florals.
    I’ve been missing Nell Hills and haven’t had a chance to come to KC or KS but your blog entries make me smile! :)

  6. Elizabeth B Says:

    Allways a highlight of coming back to Kansas and KC Mo to see MC and your NHills…what beauty outdoors holds…your blog this week is so terrific…just painting door a dark color and adding wreath, etc is such an eye catcher….also, your backyard and patio are scrumptuous! Great ideas! You are sharing your creativity worldwide…Merci, Mary Carol! Keep sharing….our next generations of ladies are also in need of your expertise and wise counsel!

  7. Julie Davis Says:

    Hi Mary Carol,
    I have enjoyed your blogs. You suggested a black green for a front door. Do you have a name of this color. I need to paint my front door and like your idea


    Will I see you at Rachel’s wedding?

  8. Mimi Tafour Says:

    Hi MC, after enjoying this entry on curb appeal and reading the comments, it came to me just how much we all look forward to your advice, tips, ideas, creativity and inspiration. NELL HILLS magazine!!! I am sure someone has already suggested this avenue of entrepreneural adventure. How I and so many others would love to see this idea take off! Yes, I know this is the digital/computer/zippity-do-dah age, BUT, there is just something about curling up in a cozy chair with a great decorating magazine, slowly taking in EVERY detail of color, placement, style whether trendy or traditional from cover to cover. Just THINK ABOUT IT if you haven’t already. Sign me up as your first subscriber. Know you have a bijillion friends, but thanks for always making each of us feel like we are a very best and special friend. thanks and blessings to you!

  9. Jan Fisk Says:

    I love the laurel wreath you have on your door in the 2nd picture. It was also in your Christmas book. Will it ever be that I can purchase one similar for my door? Thank you!

  10. Kathy Says:

    Thanks so much for the lovely ideas, Mary Carol…..yes, curb appeal is IMPORTANT! I also love looking at porches, and get sad when I see the front of a home looking so uninviting. Even a very modest home can look nice – don’t even start me talking about the Christmas wreath still on the door on April 18…..I used an earlier photo of your home’s front porch for inspiration and placed a gazing ball with greens on top a realistic fiberglass urn at our door for the holidays last year. It was simple, but looked great. Thanks again!

  11. Gayle Christensen Says:

    I had the Pleasure of taking Mary’s Holiday tour of her home two years ago. Not only was the entrance stunning and so inviting but Mary herself greeted everyone at the door with a warm and genuine smile. She truly has a gift.
    I purchased a glass lantern you sold that hung on the door. I love it and decorate it for all the Seasons. I get so many compliments.
    I am proud to say I carry Mary Carol Home in my store, Hollyhocks in Grapevine Tx. I love when people ask if I have ever been to her store in KC and I can say yes, and her home!!
    Thanks for the inspiration Mary!!

  12. Ramona Myers Says:

    I, too, have a thing about doors and love a home with a intriguing door and great curb appeal. Also, I love photographs of unique doors and just had a couple of them framed and they turned out great. One was a lovely faded shade of blue on an old limestone building in Lawrence and the other one is of a dark green double door with gold crosses on them that is on an old Catholic Church in the French Quarter in New Orleans. I paired them with an existing photo I already have of a lovely door that is on a cottage in Cotswald, England. Even the gal who did the custom framing for me liked them. BTW was in your K.C. store in early June and in the Atchison store on July 1st. For the first time in all my years of visiting I could hardly believe it: myself and three other ladies the only customers at 3:30 in the afternoon on a Friday. The sales girls said it was the heat (miserable) and the flooding that was keeping people away. I was sorry to hear that but made for speedier shopping. Thanks for sharing your creativity with all your fans who love your style. I was so….glad to read that you took a vacation….hope you will make that a priority in your life. :) Blessings to you Mary Carol and all of your fine, helpful staff!!!

  13. Mary Carol Says:

    Julie—So excited about Rachel’s wedding and Yes, I will be there. Also, on your question about the green/black door—that was specially mixed. It was more black with a touch of green. See you soon!

  14. Martha Says:

    check out Fine Paints of Europe…….they have that green black color and the paint is unbelievable

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