Curb appeal: it increases your home’s value, impresses the neighbors, and perhaps most importantly, it welcomes you home with beauty to a space you can truly enjoy.
There are many things you can do to improve curb appeal, from the simple – like replacing an old, battered mailbox with a new one – to the more in-depth, like revamping a banal lawn to include naturalistic flower beds and hardscapes.
But while you’re busy putting effort into improving your curb appeal, did you ever wonder if your efforts could backfire? Did you ever have a sneaking suspicion that you’re missing something? Or worse, that your best intentions are actually sabotaging your goals?
Here are some landscaping mistakes that – good intentions or not – can detract from curb appeal, and in some cases, make it even worse.
1. Eyesores, Blemishes & Other Atrocities
Everyone has that *one thing* that drives them crazy, whether it’s a dilapidated fence, an obtrusive utility box or an ugly down spout. Those are the things you may go to lengths to fix, replace or hide. But as you attend to that obvious eyesore, are you overlooking others – perhaps even ones *you’ve created*?
The birdbath that used to be so charming, is it now a poop-covered disaster? The adorable garden décor you brought back from some vacation past, is it now dinged, chipped and listing to one side? It’s easy to forget little details like that, especially if they *used to be* a great addition to your space.
Familiarity breeds blindness sometimes, so if there’s something in your yard that you’re so familiar with that you hardly see it at all anymore, it’s time to look around with a scrutinizing pair of fresh eyes.
Other eyesores are born of necessity – think bulky, unattractive garbage and recycling bins. You need them, and you need access to them, maybe even daily. You certainly don’t want to fight with an enclosure or some clever coverup every time it’s recycling night. So for convenience, and often lack of design planning, you shove them in a corner near your house where they continue to look… well, ugly.
But you neither have to resign yourself to looking at the uglies, nor to suffering any well-intended inconveniences. There IS a way to deal with even the most challenging eyesores. It just takes some forethought, [planning and good design. Don’t make the mistake of overlooking or ignoring the things that detract from your worthy efforts to improve your curb appeal!
2. “Good Little Soldier” Lighting
You may have heard that landscape lighting is one of the single most important things you can add to improve curb appeal, enhance enjoyment of your space and increase your home’s value. But not all landscape lighting is created equal. Some lighting mistakes may be worse that no lighting at all, and that includes the “good little solider” effect.
With your good intentions in hand, you may have taken a trip to a local home improvement store and picked up some preconfigured pathway or driveway lighting, then carefully measured out equal distances to place the bulbs.
Now you can stand back and admire… your very own runway.
It’s a little less charming than you had hoped, no? Symmetry is good sometimes, but not when it comes to landscape lighting. Evenly spaced, perfectly aligned bulbs along your front walkway, lining your stairway, and especially along the edges or your driveway, all create a disconcertingly rigid look, and that’s probably not the way you envisioned a warmly glowing landscape.
Without some basic lighting design, you may just be better off skipping the lighting for now. Save up for a better set, a better design, and some real curb appeal.
3. Color In All The Wrong Ways
Color can seem like the easiest way to add curb appeal. After all, we all have our favorites, and you don’t need a design degree to tell you that color adds an undeniable pop of warmth, energy and beauty to your space. Don’t you feel a little bit like a kid in a candy shop every spring when you walk into a garden center and see all the new blooms just waiting to be added to your flower beds?
The problem is that there are more ways to get color wrong than right. For instance, using too many colors at once. Yes, they’re all quite lovely – the yellows and pinks and reds and purples. Not to mention the myriad hues of greenery! And like a kid with a box of crayons…. You use them all.
But too many colors without consideration for harmony among them is not going to do your curb appeal any favors. Not every color looks good with every other color. You can go for harmonious combination, you can go for contrast, you can go muted or you can go bright. But all of that happens with an eye for design – not simply grabbing the prettiest colors on the lot and bringing them home to your garden.
Color can also create different effects – like making a small space seem larger, or conversely bringing a large space closer in. The last thing you want to do is employ size-shrinking color techniques in a tiny yard!
Another color mistake is using too much of the same color. While a monochromatic look can be appealing, strategic color contrasts can be a vital component in breaking up the monotony. Getting the right “pop” of color can be just as challenging. That bright red bloom that you used to offset the whiteness of your yard’s color scheme may simply stand there awkwardly screaming, “RED!” Instead of providing a welcome contrast.
And do we need to mention those endlessly dull expanses of perfectly manicured green lawn? Green green green… boring, boring, boring!
Once upon a time, the unchangingly green lawn was a thing of pride among suburban homeowners. Thankfully those times have passed! Now when you look at those lawns, your first thought probably goes to the agonizing maintenance – the hours behind a mower, the endless fertilizing. Then you may imagine the water bills, the summer droughts, the dreaded straw-like results of hot sun and water restrictions.
Save yourself all that aggravation and improve your curb appeal by skipping the green and investing in a design that incorporates hardy, weather-resistant native plants. Then you can incorporate color that truly does your space justice.
4. Losing Sight Of The Big Picture
You just *love* that rustic gazebo, and so you plunk it in your yard for the world to admire. The only problem is that it’s about half the size of your house, but it’s gorgeous, unique, perfect. And somehow, it just looks wrong.
You’ve just had your first battle with scale – the size of landscape elements in proportion to their surroundings. Dropping a house-sized gazebo in front of your gazebo-sized house is going to create a look that is completely out of proportion. The same will be true if you dot your sprawling landscape with a couple of dwarf shrubs.
Large elements will overwhelm a small space just as small ones will get swallowed up by a large space. The most lovely, perfect landscape elements in the world will do you no aesthetic good if they are not to scale.
That means whatever you plant should be in proportion to the size of your house, and to each other. A “tall” tree may be defined completely differently if it’s beside a ranch-style home or a three story, turreted Victorian. A “wide” driveway is likewise relative to the home it serves. Scale spans dimensions – height, width and depth – so keep it in mind as you choose plants, trees, shrubs and other décor.
Scale should also be future-facing. Small trees may not stay small forever! Plant a maple tree too close to your house and you may enjoy it for a few years but eventually that tree may come to block light, tap against windows, threaten power lines, even damage driveways and foundations with its roots.
If you plant gardens tightly with flowers, ornamental grasses and shrubs, you’ll probably come to regret that as they begin to grow, take shape and fill in. Instead of a harmonious garden with one element flowing into the next, you’ll have a tangled mass of *stuff*, all out of proportion.
Landscape elements that are out of scale may very well draw the onlookers eye – for all the wrong reasons.
Curb appeal can be a tricky little beast! You may have a great idea that doesn’t pan out, miss something that’s so ordinary it never makes it onto your radar, or simply be busy living your life instead of studying landscape design principles and color theory!
But hopefully now you have a few ideas to tuck under your hat as you think about redoing or sprucing up your yard. If you want to improve your curb appeal, and want to do it based on effective design, get in touch with us for a consultation. We’ll plan a landscape that you can enjoy now and long into the future.