Adding Curb Appeal without Breaking the Bank


People frequently ask us how they can improve their home’s exterior character without having to spend a fortune. In fact, this was one of the blog topics our Instagram followers were most interested in seeing. To add warmth and charm to a home, we often suggest identifying and replacing basic builder-grade products with higher quality materials. To ensure financial feasibility, these upgrades can be tackled over time (some without contracting help) and lead to major aesthetic transformations without breaking the bank.

Outdoor Lighting

Large or small, we believe that creating character is all about the details—and outside lighting is among the most important items to address. When designed correctly, exterior lighting not only highlights and complements a home’s architecture, it helps homeowners and guests safely navigate their way from the driveway to the front door. To add unmistakable character, we suggest replacing basic outdoor lighting with appropriately scaled, freestanding coach lights on the walkway as well as side lanterns at the entryway, garage, and deck areas (sometimes a pendant light also works well at the front door). One of our favorite sources for authentic, artisan-crafted lighting is Lamplighter Corner on Martha’s Vineyard – they offer an excellent selection of historic wall and post-mounted models in copper and solid brass. Another outstanding lighting resource is Patti Bros., Inc. in Sudbury, Massachusetts.

A freestanding coach light adds instant character to the home’s exterior.

Tip: The height and size of the door help define the scale of entry lighting, which should feel proportional from up close and be visible from a distance (from 50 feet away, a fixture will appear half its actual size). A good rule of thumb is to select a fixture that measures roughly ¼ the height of the door and position it just above eye level so that the center of the light source is about 5 ½ to 6 feet from the ground. And, if the door is very tall, choose a larger light rather than positioning it higher.

Authentic Shutters

Shutters are another exterior feature that introduce immediate warmth and character to a home. As a time-honored accent, shutters with proper pins and holdbacks (typically forged iron) effectively add another layer of information to the home’s façade. For historical accuracy, we suggest using operable shutters in place of builder-grade and sizing them to match the window frame’s vertical dimensions. Companies like Timberlane and Atlantic Premium Shutters offer beautiful customized shutters that are historically accurate and expertly crafted.

Shutters are an important architectural detail that add instant curb appeal and lasting character. For authentic forged iron pins and holdbacks, we suggest Acorn Manufacturing Company based here in Massachusetts.

Window Boxes

With spring on the horizon, many of us are anticipating outdoor plantings and fresh bursts of seasonal colors. Introducing (or replacing) window boxes to your home’s exterior is a wonderful way to celebrate the season while also softening the building’s architectural lines. Without major work or expense, window boxes deliver immediate charm to a building’s exterior and, when scaled properly, effectively complement the architecture and finish the look of the home.

Tip: For visual appeal, the box should extend the full length of the window from the outer edge of the casing.

Adding window boxes to the second story greatly improved the curb appeal and softened the façade.

Storm Doors & House Numbers

In New England, storm doors are a necessity, and we believe they can be both functional and attractive. We recommend upgrading builder-grade storm doors to a combination wooden storm and screen door (from Brosco for example) with oil rubbed bronze hardware for a classic look that will add instant charm to the entryway. Interchangeable screen and storm door panels make seasonal changeovers easy and the customized wooden design complements the tone and character of the home’s architecture. Additionally, adding a unique door knocker and replacing flimsy, hard to read house numbers with classic bronze hardware will ensure a handsome finishing touch.

The wood storm door and bronze house numbers add handsome touches to this home’s façade.

Carriage House Garage Doors

Another impactful exterior upgrade is replacing basic grade garage doors with carriage-style doors. The two-door design of carriage-style doors (sometimes called “barn doors”) pays homage to the original use of the carriage house—the building that once housed horse-drawn wagons and equestrian gear on wealthy estates. The traditional architectural details of these doors, including upper glass mullion panels and traditional strapping hardware, add customized and timeless character to a home’s exterior.

These carriage house garage doors open out and feature beadboard panels and distinctive hardware centered on each door.

According to the National Association of Realtors, exterior home improvements “lead the pack” in terms of the biggest bang for your buck. Character is in the details, and we hope that over time the ideas we’ve suggested help you successfully transform your home’s exterior without breaking the bank.