The sun is shining brightly, and you can’t wait to get outside. Before you settle down with a good book in the shade of an old oak tree, take a moment to look around. It’s hard to enjoy that coveted outdoor time when you see a peeling deck, an overgrown lawn, and sad, empty planters.
With winter behind us, it’s time to rejuvenate your home’s exterior landscaping and design. Just like the interior of your house, the exterior elicits emotions. What does your house make you feel? If it’s anxiety, irritation or even despair, we can help you take steps to turn things around.
A thoughtfully designed exterior won’t just uplift your mood–it can increase your property value and indicate to potential buyers that your whole home is well cared for. Even if your budget doesn’t allow for big changes, spending some quality time to ensure your home’s exterior is clean and tidy can make a significant difference.
We turned to Laura Lynn Fowler, stylist and design expert from HGTV’s Leave It to Bryan, for exterior design tips that will help you improve and enjoy your home’s exterior and outdoor spaces this season and beyond.
1. Embrace Your Front Yard
People are creating spaces to sit and enjoy their front yards more often today, inviting a “social vibe.” “Maybe it’s a post-pandemic reaction, wanting to sit out front and encourage interaction with our neighbours instead of sequestering in our private backyards,” Laura says.
Even if you don’t have a front porch or walkway, take advantage of this trend by placing a pretty bistro set or bench right on the grass. Adorn a small table with a potted flower and a glass of iced tea, and voila, you have a perfect spot to unwind. Enjoy!
Laura has also noticed an emerging trend towards front garden expansion, and she’s on board with it: “People are turning entire front lawns into garden scapes, replete with birdbaths and other special features we once reserved for our private backyard spaces.”
If you live in a condo or apartment, don’t dispair. Even a small balcony can be a great place to create a container garden and a cozy nook from which to view the neighbourhood.
2. Solve Storage and Functional Challenges
As much as we want our homes to look good, practical challenges may intervene. We all have to deal with garbage, after all.
“It will be difficult to focus on your beautiful new front door if there is a pile of garbage and recycling bins floating out front,” says Laura. “This might mean building a small wood enclosure that is an extension or complement to your house style.”
Surround the enclosure with stones, bushes and your favourite perennial flowers for a softer, natural touch that doesn’t scream, “here’s where the garbage is hiding.”
3. Coordinate Exterior Elements
Consider your door hardware, exterior lighting, mailbox, and house numbers as a stylish, coordinated ensemble.
“These seemingly small details can have maximum impact on defining your style and giving your exterior an architectural edge,” Laura explains. Together these low-key elements can add up to great curb appeal.
4. Max Out Your Flowers
Laura loves an abundance of planters, in groups and clusters. “It feels very lush and homey and really gives you the opportunity to max out your flowers even if you might not have room for a garden,” she advises. “You could do a grouping on either side of your front or garage door or line them up your walkway and steps.”
5. Enhance Curb Appeal Without Breaking the Bank
Refreshing your home’s exterior doesn’t have to cost a fortune. For a quick weekend project that makes a world of difference, grab a can of paint in a fresh, new colour, along with a few of your favourite annuals.
“Two things I find so charming and welcoming and will never tire of are flower boxes under the windows and colourful front doors,” Laura says. “Simple, stylish ways to uniquely express yourself and greet the world.”
Laura’s top tip to update curb appeal easily is to replace the builder-basic lighting on the face of your home. “The scale is almost always too small and the style is at best underwhelming,” she points out. Rest assured, stylish outdoor lighting options exists for every budget and aesthetic.
Beware too much of a good thing. Laura cautions against delving into the trend to over-use exterior lighting, particularly by lining the soffits of a house.
“Unless you are trying to land an airplane in your driveway, I am struggling to see the point of this,” she says. “I can make a tiny exception for LED house numbers but only if DoorDash drivers are struggling to find you!”
6. Creatively Enhance a Patio
“Backyards serve so many functions, they often look a bit chaotic,” Laura observes. “Delineating each space will make it both feel and function cohesively.” Instantly ground your seating and lounging areas with outdoor area rugs and umbrellas.
Laura also likes the implementation of permanent structures on a patio–this could include built-in planters, bench seating or a wooden privacy screen. “It really makes the outdoor living space feel like an extension of the house,” she says.
And again, planters, planters everywhere. “I like to flank structures (entries, pools, steps) with greenery,” Laura says. “Customize your space with functional storage or custom surfaces to enhance the way you like to enjoy the outdoors.”
A long potting bench or chef’s table–piled with baskets of herbs and placed near the barbeque–is one great option.
When considering the flow between indoor and outdoor spaces, especially during the short-lived and much-loved spring/summer period, JELD-WEN French doors provide an aesthetically pleasing and highly functional patio door option.
On rainy days, keep an eye on your refreshed patio space from a perch on the couch with an expanse of DF™ Hybrid windows. These premium windows offer the conveniences of an all-vinyl frame, combined with a sleek, aluminum-clad finish.
Pair the aluminum-clad exterior with a white or Finishield™ black interior for a window that suits your design style inside and out.
7. Consider Your Home’s Style
Trends are fun to dabble in, but–before diving in–Laura advises asking yourself what your house wants to be. “Not every house is going to look good with black windows, for example, and I do not enjoy very modern exterior doors and garage doors on traditional homes,” she says.
When evaluating trends, consider whether you’ll still love them in five or ten years. “Even as a design professional, I still find it crucial to walk, drive or dive into online pictures for concrete examples of what I am considering,” Laura says. This approach is particularly true for larger investments like windows and doors.
8. Choose a Striking Exterior Door Design
Your home’s front door makes a huge impact on overall style and curb appeal. Select it wisely. “I will never tire of a ¾-lite front door in a wood finish or a beautiful colour,” says Laura. “Wide-spaced grills/mullions still feel really fresh to me.”
When considering side or mudroom entry doors, if privacy permits, Laura suggests a full-lite glass door to maximize natural light in the home. (A door lite is a pane of glass framed within the door. A full lite is a door with a surface that’s mostly glass.)
Laura notes that most newer homes have a mixed material facade, such as stone and wood or brick and siding, so be careful to ensure that your doors and windows harmonize with these surfaces and colours.
JELD-WEN steel exterior doors offer both modern and traditional designs to complement current interior and exterior home design trends. If you have a more classic style home, you might favour a traditional steel ¾-view 1-panel door. For more of a modern feel, a 4-lite modern steel door design could be the perfect fit.
9. Dabble in Colour Trends
Colour trends are constantly evolving, but–if it’s longevity you’re looking for–some choices are safer than others.
“I think we are going to march forward with white exteriors and black windows for a while longer, but I am also feeling (hoping) we might see a return to softer neutral doors and windows, both indoors and out–soft tawny beiges and grays,” says Laura.
An unabashed lover of creamy neutrals and beiges, Laura cautions, “Do not equate neutral with drab. Stay fresh! Canadian builders seem to be uncontrollably drawn to dark, murky colours and I am here to intervene.”
10. Incorporate Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Elements
Some cheaper home decor choices are like “fast fashion,” making it important for eco-conscious homeowners to choose carefully. “It is hard not to view it as future landfill,” Laura says. “Investing in sustainably made, quality pieces can be expensive, but can be so worthwhile if they last for countless seasons.”
Another eco-friendly option is to garden sustainably with native plants. “They require less water and care and contribute to the local ecosystem,” Laura points out.
The simplest way to achieve a sustainable design, according to Laura, is to work with what you already have. “Re-imagine your decor in new locations, or give your garden furniture new life with a sand and a new stain.”
If you’re going to buy, buy used! “There are shockingly good finds online and at local consignment and thrift stores,” Laura notes. “It’s exciting to find unique, reclaimed pieces and rescue them from landfill. We search Facebook Marketplace religiously on Farmhouse Facelift every single day and I drive really slow through neighbourhoods on garbage day.”
Laura Lynn Fowler | Designer, Stylist, Art Director
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