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
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
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.
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