Color and decorative pieces can improve the look of a home outside as well as in. Add trim boards, columns or porch accessories and you can dress up the facade of a house, improving its value and curb appeal.
Just be sure to consider the home’s style, age and location.
“The style of the house drives the type of materials you might add,” said Carolyn Dias of Lampert Dias Architects in San Clemente, California. “A cottage can’t be transformed to a Spanish Colonial.”
Homeowners associations or local building departments also might impose restrictions on what can be done to a home’s exterior and what paint colors can be used.
In any case, pay attention to how neighboring homes look when changing yours. You want your house to look like it belongs, said Shari Hiller of PBS’ Around the House with Matt and Shari.
She recommends scouting nearby streets for inspiration.
See what paint colors the neighbors have chosen, what features they are highlighting and how many colors they have used.
Hiller typically recommends just two to four colors for a house’s exterior. Often, homeowners choose one color for the bulk of the house; similar or complementary colors for windows, gutters and other trim pieces; and a pop of contrasting color on the door or shutters.
Highlighting the door or shutters with color is an easy way to make a big impact, said Hiller. And drawing attention to the front door is always a good idea. “You want people to notice where guests generally enter your home,” she explained. “It’s nice to make a statement there.”
Consider the roof color as well, she added. Roofs tend to be in either cool or warm colors, and your paint choice should be in the same family.
Where you live could drive your choices. Florida houses tend to be painted in a different palette — often shades of peach, beige and gold — than homes in New England or the Midwest, for example, said Hiller, who lives in Sarasota. Some colors, such as maroon and other earthy shades, make more sense on Colonial homes than coastal cottages, which are often painted in ocean-inspired blues and greens, she said.
Paint stores can provide ideas about what colors are right for different building styles.
Veneers — layers of material added after construction that do not offer structural support — are another way to change the outside of a home. Adding a wood, brick or stone veneer creates color and texture, Dias said. Veneers cost about $10 to $20 a square foot.
“There are many kinds of veneers and they are fairly easy to apply,” Dias said.
Exterior wainscoting panels can also add interest to a facade. The panels, usually embellished with a raised or recessed design, can draw attention to a window, porch or other architectural detail.
If you have a front porch, you can create a new look by adding or embellishing its columns, said Dave Morris of Nashville, Tennessee, who operates the website www.front-porch-ideas-and-more.com .
Changes can be simple, like hanging decorative brackets where the columns meet the roof, or complex, like installing columns or adding stone or brickwork to them. Morris, too, emphasizes staying true to the architectural style of your home. For example, don’t add Victorian-style gingerbread trim to a modern house.
Brackets and balusters come in a variety of materials and styles. “Think about what effect you want to have — something subtle or something that really stands out,” Morris said.
When Lynn and Dennis Zawie decided to add rails and balusters to the porch that runs around two sides of their 1925 Dutch Colonial house, they wanted the trim pieces to look as original as possible. The Stony Brook, New York, residents visited lumber yards and big-box stores, and looked at dozens of photos of houses online.
“I really wanted it to look like it had been here forever,” said Lynn Zawie. “I was very concerned about changing the look and the feel of the house.”
The couple finally decided to go with wood balusters, even though they would require more upkeep. The addition of 300 white balusters and a stained-wood top railing dramatically improved the look of the home, they say.
“It just adds to it,” she said. “It makes it stand out more.”