Posted by: Small House Under a Big Sky Homestead | June 26, 2013

Curb Appeal at The Small House

It’s true that you never get a second chance to make a first impression.


This is the front garden as you walk up to the Small House.


Another view of the lush landscaping in our front yard.

People form their first opinions before they step inside a home. Forty-nine percent of buying decisions are made from the street, according to the National Association of Realtors®. But curb appeal matters whether or not your house is for sale. An attractive, well-maintained house and yard welcome friends and family and gives me a little lift every time I come home.

I have always had a thing about curb appeal. It doesn’t mean a house that says, “Money,” but instead a home that says charm and the personality of its owners.

For me, a brightly painted door, a window box and shutters, impeccable flower beds, colorful flowers in bright pots, well swept sidewalks and an inviting trellis covered in greenery and blooms provides timeless charm and draws me inside that home when I visit.


The brick planning box a few years ago before the trellis or sidewalk were created. Ranch style home have a lot of long straight lines.

This Small House had a lot of exterior challenges when we moved here 12 years ago and very little, if any, real curb appeal. The front door was plastic, unpainted and faded and there was no screen door at all. There was no landscaping (honestly just grass and trees) and the existing driveway was crummy old gravel with more grass and weeds than stones.

There were three brick planting beds chock full of weeds and one of them was sitting right up next to the house which was very much out of sync with the clean ranch home lines (read ugly!) I didn’t have a digital camera then so have no actual photographs of the “ugly” but trust me, it was pretty bad.

But as a DYI’er I knew all of that was just a lack of cosmetics and could be changed. Afterall, we bought this property more for the land than the house. And, I was willing to do the work because I had the vision, the price was right (and in fact I offered them $20,000 less than the asking price and they accepted it.) And, I was young then, full of energy and wanted to add my own stamp on a home that says “me.”

One of the first things I did was paint the exterior doors. I choose a pretty salmon tone that picked up the pretty faded salmon color in my homes Indiana limestone exterior.


A freshly painted front door, flowering vines, layers of colorful plants and mums and new mats and screen door. Does this not say “Welcome to our home?

Then I slowly began to add perennials, planting the brick planting box along both sides of the driveway and stared to save to have the driveway repaved. We tore out the planter up close to the house which improved the look quite a bit. Instead, I added three large cream-colored pots and filled them with colorful annuals and ornamental grasses for height.


This years pot designs includes ornamental grasses, annuals and a few perennials.

I also discovered that plants do soften things a lot. When I first moved here I absolutely hated those ugly brick planters but now when they are filled with lush perennials and all a bloom with color the height of the planter actually adds layers of interest and the green and colorful blooms adds a bit of pizzazz.


Small beds under-planted under our large White Oak trees soften the landscape plus make mowing chores easier.


Our native Lupines help to soften the brick planter as well as the hard concrete edge of the asphalt driveway.

I created a plan to landscape around the house and began to work my plan. Because our budget was non-existent I had to work with that I could find locally and for free. I transplanted shrubs from neighbors and friends homes and gathered and hauled field stones home from roadside and farmer’s fields. We purchased pee gravel as mulch, but hauled it ourselves and could get a huge truckload from a vendor just down the road from us for only $15.00 a load.

Because I was physically doing this work myself, our homes landscaping took me five-years of hard labor but it cost us very little. I hauled gravel using 5-gallon plastic buckets and spread a lot pea gravel around newly planted shrubs. I now have a nice landscaped beds around my home filled with dry land shrubs like August blooming St. Johns Worst and fall color of Burning Bush. The shrubs and perennials sit in a mulch of tan/gray pee gravel and the beds are lined with mostly tan fieldstones. I added perennials for color as I could.

A few years later we were able to add three sidewalks (we have three doorways) and continued my gardening next to these sidewalk to soften down the straight cement edges.


This is the sidewalk that moves our visitors from the parking area into our three-season porch. I planned this round sidewalk feature to soften the harsh edges of the boxy Ranch as well as to feature our crabapple tree that sits midway along the sidewalk.

Because a Ranch-style home is built using straight lines and a boxy home style, I constantly work to add curving lines in our landscaping. I built curving flower beds curved the sidewalks and added structure to build height. I think that all that contrast and curves has helped to make this house less linear and stark.

Lastly I added two cedar trellises to add interest and to also help to give structure to an all flat, all linear landscape.


The driveway turn-around bed, newly planted and the trellis just installed.


That same bed today. This is the way most of our friends and family enter our home.

Our curb appeal and landscaping still not perfect but it is much improved and it brings me much pleasure. And I love to watch the heads of drivers turn when they are driving down the road. I think they gawk because they like to check out my latest gardening project!

Small House / Big Sky Donna



  1. Reblogged this on charmcitycreativedesigns.

  2. So beautiful! Well done!

  3. Love the curved details.

  4. Thank you.

    Our home sits very straight and long on the land here. I have been working hard to combat the harsh, long lines of the ranch home style and our traditional rectangular driveway boardered by the brick planters. I even had to fight the local contractor to construct our deck with a rounded front edge. He felt I was “wasteing” wood!

    The plants do help some too but in Michigan the plants are only out and in bloom some 6 months of the year.

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