How To Add Cottage Curb Appeal

How To Add Cottage Curb Appeal

As you’ve no doubt gathered, I like a bit of cottage around here. To me a cottage isn’t necessarily a certain style, but more a mixture of a lot of styles – a place where everything you love lives together beautifully. It usually includes at least some classic, vintage, and time-honored decor and architecture. And the outside of a cottage should be welcoming, cheerful, and, yes, even a bit imperfect (which is perfect for me!).

But what if you don’t have a cute, old house? What if it’s a 70’s or 80’s ranch? A plain white builder’s special? There are a few key things you can do yourself to add cottage curb appeal to your home – regardless of when it was built – and increase the value while you’re at it!

I’ve always been drawn to bungalows, farmhouses, and other small, older houses but when we bought our house eight years ago, the exterior looked like your typical ranch house built in the early 80’s. The main impression it made was a large garage with a house attached somewhere. Which was not very welcoming, to say the least.

Why did we buy it? Um, well that was all we could afford during the housing boom a few years ago. However, since what I really wanted was a cottage – remember, not just a certain house style, but a mentality that welcomed people from the outside in – I saw the potential in our home’s good bones and large windows.

Through our subsequent diy remodeling, we’ve discovered that it takes relatively simple changes to help a plain-Jane house become the cottage you’ve always wanted.

5 Ways To Add Cottage Curb Appeal

Welcoming Entry Before-After

1. Make The Entry Welcoming

When we moved into our house, friends and family couldn’t find the door. Literally. Once they figured out it was behind the tree (yes, it really is there), they’d often wade through the ground cover and duck under the tree in order to get to the door from the circular drive.

Since wanting people to feel welcomed was a top priority for us, this was one of the first outside projects we accomplished. We cut down the tree, built a wood porch right over the cement stoop, added a step leading to the door and a path from the circular drive made out of broken concrete from an unused dog run on our property.

Other than making sure people can find your front door, other simple ways to create a welcoming entry include:

  • Painting the door a contrasting color
  • Including a pot of seasonal flowers or greenery
  • Making room for a bench or chair (we use ours for leaving items out for people, setting down bags to unlock the door, and taking off muddy shoes)
  • Updating the light fixture
  • Sweeping out the cobwebs regularly

Front Garden Before-After

2. Plant a Welcoming Flower Garden

Don’t underestimate the power of plants and flowers to make a house feel like a home. And to welcome – or not – people to that home.

Notice in the before picture above how the original plantings hide not only the door but the windows, too. We’re not even talking about how dark and dreary the inside would be – only how it seems to visitors. Keeping plants low to allow the windows and doors to be visible creates a “please stop by for a chat” message rather than a “shades drawn, don’t bother me” one.

The garden doesn’t have to be big or complicated. Here are some ideas to keep it simple and easy-care:

  • Use evergreen plants like boxwood, arborvite, or bird’s-nest spruce.
  • In the shade garden above, you’ll find spirea, hostas, hydrangeas and Jack Frost brunnera – all needing only a once-yearly shearing and adequate water. For sunny gardens, consider yarrow, daylilies, sun-loving spireas, Autumn Joy sedum, and low growing roses (the Knockout variety are some of the easiest care roses).
  • Fill in with a few inexpensive annuals for spots of color that last all season.
  • Make upkeep easy by watering with soaker hoses and using newspaper and mulch to keep the weeds down and hold in moisture.


3. Beef Up Window Molding

Replacing narrow window moldings with larger ones goes a long way to helping your windows become more prominent and open, not to mention make your house look older and better made.

In the picture on the left, it’s easy to tell our house was built in 1982, isn’t it? Less than $50.00 later, the main window could be on a craftsman-style house, or farmhouse from years ago. We increased the width on the two front bedroom windows, as well (seen in the previous pictures of the garden).

Eliminating the small, plastic shutters and making the molding wider was one of my favorite simple, inexpensive updates.


4. Add a Porch

Okay, a porch is maybe not the simplest or least expensive way to add cottage character to your home, but it really provides a lot of bang for your buck. And in the case of our original ‘porch’ the less-than-four-foot-wide walkway to the door was actually a hinderance to getting things, as well as people, in and out the front door. Since the porch roof was a bit more than 6 feet (the overhang seen in the before photo), we just moved the posts and beams out 2 feet and gained a functioning porch.

For our garage addition’s porch, we lowered the expense by constructing a simple pergola structure that connects to the original porch, since adding a roof is one of the most costly parts of a new porch. We chose to cover ours with a clear roofing because we live in a wet climate, but it would also look lovely left open or used to grow grapes or a flowering vine.

whole house before painthouse after paint

5. Freshen With Paint

Lastly, a time-honored way to update a house is with paint. As you can see in the above photos, our house went from gray to butter yellow. What I like most about the brighter, cheery color is how the plants and flowers stand out against the yellow background.

Choose a classic color you love that will complement all the other steps you’ve taken to give your house cottage character- a place where your friends and family will feel welcomed – and you will, too.

What ways do you like to add ‘old house’ curb appeal – or any kind of curb appeal – to your homes?


This is linked to Funky Junk Interiors


  1. Colleen Wood says

    this was very encouraging for me as I am moving into a split level and desperately wish it was a cottage (why were split levels ever made?)

    • says

      Your simple changes turned out awesome, Angi – exactly what I was talking about! You changed a ‘nobody’s home’ into a ‘come on in’ and it’s a lot more welcoming – love it. :)

  2. Christine says

    I, too, am revamping a 1974 ranch. I had the luck (?) of having a fire, which enabled me to put a new roof on the place, extending my front porch, too. We got rid of the rails, though, and did add a portico to break up the horizontal lines. Then divorce happened, so several years later, I’m still working on the place, inside and out, myself. I plan the same pergola-type addition that you have done! Can you talk about the plastic you used on the top? and how you plan to keep it from becoming dirty or etched?

    Porch/Painting: You forgot to mention getting rid of the God-awful fake 1/2 brick … STUFF … on the front of the house. Talk about dating a home. The nicest thing I did was have that chipped off.

    Gardens… I have raised beds and a huge Japanese Maple, hosta, crape myrtle & coral bells collection. Ok, OCD. Anyway, I plan to create a courtyard effect in the front yard to further “cottage-ize” my home.

    I love your changes. I’ll be keeping an eye on your blog! Very encouraging. :)

    • says

      That sounds great, Christine! Those old ranches CAN be made to look homey! (sorry about the divorce though -ouch).

      As far as the plastic, we added it after a few years because the moisture was too hard on the porch floor and we found we used this way to walk to the front door alot. We went with a clear, expensive **cough** ridged plastic because that’s what we could find. It’s the only clear option at our home store. It actually doesn’t get too dirty – we rinse it whenever we clean the gutters and that’s about it. But it doesn’t bother us – it might someone else. If it’s etched, I couldn’t tell you! It’s ridged, so there aren’t a lot of open spaces to notice etching I guess.

      We actually left the brick – it’s regular brick and most of it was covered when we built the porch over the cement walkway because we built it at the door level. Wasn’t worth thinking about for us – too many other things to do. :)

      A courtyard sounds wonderful! I love those European-type fronts with gravel courtyards. :)

  3. Jess says

    Jami- well done! After living in our 1985 house for twelve years, I was finally able to get my husband to tackle the ugly cracked cement stoop in front of the porch. We used gray pavers to create a design that is so much nicer. All the neighbors appreciate when you do something nice to your house also. They have to look at our houses

  4. says

    Beautiful transformation! And I love the yellow. I painted our first house yellow with blue shutters – I even painted over some stained wood that was darkening the entry way. We also painted the shed yellow and blue to match.

    Our current ranch house has tan siding with white trim. It needs a punch of color somewhere – maybe shutters? The house came with a white picket fence and I added a garden of hostas in front of the fence.

  5. Marlies says

    Beautiful work done on your home. We started off with a mobile home that we are slowly adding on to including a front porch that currently has no roof; any suggestions on how to make it look cottage-style that will work once the roof is added? Thanks for your suggestions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>