Whether you own an unembellished Georgian Colonial or plain split-level ranch with a wide facade, you’re acutely aware of your home’s “flat front” and how it detracts from your property’s overall curb appeal. You’re tired of letting the cute dwellings with wraparound porches and dressed-up windows over the garage steal all the curb appeal points on your block.
How can you compete using the architecture you have?
“When you have a flat-front house, you lack dimension in architecture, so it’s important to create dimension with color, other textures, and even accessories,” says Amanda Mosness, a South Carolina home staging expert certified by the Real Estate Staging Association and co-owner of Designing Impressions, a staging firm founded in 2004.
Here are our expert tips for turning your flat-front home’s blank slate into a showstopper, without doing a complete exterior renovation.
1. Paint the front door a bold color
In Georgian Colonial and most split-entry, raised ranch, and split-level designs, the garage and front doors face the street. But without anything to draw the eye to the front door, the garage door tends to dominate, leaving the front door to look like an afterthought, say Minneapolis, Minnesota, architects Robert Gerloff and Jeremiah Battles.
“A front door or storm door is very important,” adds Bob Sophiea, a top-selling real estate agent in the Lexington, Kentucky, area specializing in single family homes. “People’s first impression goes from there.”
Consider setting off your front door by painting it a bold statement color, such as:
- Benjamin Moore Moroccan Red
- Sherwin Williams Loch Blue
- Sherwin Williams Lemon Twist
- Valspar Sassy Green
2. Add symmetry with lighting and planters
If a bold color isn’t your style, you still can turn your entryway into a welcoming sight.
Symmetrical compositions are naturally pleasing to the eye, so flank the door with a pair of planters, such as this H Stone Scroll Band Urn in Aged Ivory Finish, and a pair of sconces, such as the Kichler Barrington Distressed Black and Wood Tone Outdoor Wall Light, or the Bay Crest 1-Light Outdoor Sconce.
3. Break up the monotony
Many exteriors of these flat-front homes include all brick, horizontal siding, or an “incongruous” combination of either siding and brick or siding and stucco. Here are a few ways to add more texture:
Use narrow or vertical siding panels
Replace the windows
If yours is an older home with all-wood windows, single-glazed windows, or double-hung aluminum combination windows, you may want to replace them with ones that are more energy-efficient. Windows with a muntin pattern, or the look of multiple, individual panes of glass, add another layer of detail.
If replacing the windows isn’t an option, consider framing them with additional trim or shutters to add texture and get rid of that blank “gutter” space. (Use this measuring guide to ensure that your decorative shutters are the right width for your windows.)
Mix it up with stone veneer panels
You also can replace the lower siding or brick with manufactured stone veneer panels, such as one New York homeowner who installed these panels along the bottom of her raised ranch, as well as on the front steps and around the front door.
Replacing about 300 square feet of a continuous band of existing vinyl siding from the bottom third of a front-facing facade costs about $9,400 but has a whopping return on investment of about 96%, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2020 Cost vs. Value Report.
4. Invest in a new garage door
If your home still has the basic steel garage door from when it was built, this is another opportunity to add texture and curb appeal. A garage door is relatively easy to replace, and it also has a high return on investment at resale.
Replacing one 16×7-foot garage door and tracks with a new four-section garage door with 1/2-inch insulated glass in the top panels cost about $3,700 but recoups about 95%. Try the Carriage House Door Co. model 305i in insulated steel with x-shaped braces and composite overlay trim for about $2,000, or the Cambridge sectional insulated steel door with composite overlay trim for about $1,400.
5. Create color contrast
“Often you’ll see brick, siding, and trim that are complementary and similar in depth. By going with a light-color trim and a dark color-siding, or vice versa, you can instantly create depth and dimension that pops from the curb,” Mosness says. “It’s similar to why women highlight their hair. When the lighter color contrasts with the darker color, their hair instantly looks more voluminous.”
To create contrast, you can:
- Update any dated red brick by painting it a lighter color, such as the fixer-uppers at the blog Young House Love who thought their craggy brick facade with uneven beige mortar blended too well with their landscaping. They used Romabio’s Masonry Flat Paint color-matched to Moderne White by Sherwin-Williams, which makes the house stand out against the greenery.
- Use a darker but coordinating color for the trim. With Sherwin-Williams’s Moderne White, for example, try Illusive Green, El Caramelo, or Delft.
If you’re considering painting your door as well, talk to a professional such as a home stager or painter about different shades so that the end result doesn’t clash.
“It’s OK to have the front door a different color than the shutters, siding, and trim, but a safer bet is to stick with three colors unless you are able to consult a professional,” Mosness says.
6. Vary your landscaping
If your home has horizontal siding and also horizontal hedges, there’s no variety. A flat-front house won’t benefit from landscaping that also has a lot of flat lines.
Start by looking at your yard by height (treetop to eye line to ground level) and distance (foreground to middle to background), advises Surrounds Landscape Architecture and Construction of Sterling, Virginia, a member of the National Association of Landscape Professionals. Steer clear of traditional hedge rows, and incorporate plants and flowers in a variety of groupings and colors for dimension and contrast.
For instance, choose tall evergreens or shade trees as your background layer and borders, landscapers advise. Select tall shrubs to add privacy, and low shrubs, grasses and flowers to fill the middle ground. Sedges and groundcovers can fill in the areas under trees and near walkways and patios.
7. Build dimension
If you have the time and the budget, you can enhance the curb appeal of a flat-front house considerably through a small build, such as a front porch pergola, a design-flourish or “eyebrow” pergola, or a front porch portico.
Create outdoor seating
A front porch pergola provides shade as well as an outdoor space for seating, creating a porch effect without extending your roof. A cedar one that covers about 10 square feet costs an average of about $3,500, but kits starting at about $2,000 allow for you to build this yourself and save on labor costs.
Focus on design
A design-flourish pergola, such as this visor pergola kit from Pergola Depot, fills in empty wall space above a garage door or window. Some homeowners introduce vines to grow atop these features for added visual interest.
The architects in Split Visions extended a roof over the front entry and added a pergola to create a cozy front porch at one home. They built a glassed-in front entry on another, giving that flat-front house an architectural focus and creating a “beacon” visible from the street after dark.
Frame your door with a portico
Adding a portico – or a small roof supported by columns – to your front door, such as the Georgia blogger at Southern Hospitality, is similar to building a small porch. Costs start at about $1,900 for an 8×10-foot area, based on materials and other elements.
Don’t forget to show potential buyers how they can use the landscape, Mosness adds. “A bench or a couple of Adirondack chairs help a buyer think about reading a book or enjoying happy hour out front in their new yard.”
For a cozy seating arrangement, try:
- L.L. Bean All Weather Classic Adirondack Chairs, made of partially recycled high-density polyethylene and available in seven colors ($269 each);
- The Gardenised Black Steel Weather-Resistant Outdoor Patio Park Bench ($126);
- The Wilkins Three-Piece Bistro Set from August Grove in Copper or Sand ($209);
- The Worksop Three-Piece Bistro Set from AllModern, which is coated to protect against rust and includes seat cushions ($169);
- A side table such as the Rushmere/Wicker Rattan Side Table, available in four colors ($94);
- Cushions such as the Coopers Grass 17-inch Outdoor Accent Pillow from Havenside Home ($32 for a set of two).
9. Cast it in a new light
Your home’s flat front might have stumped you as far as lighting fixtures, but landscape lighting that casts small spotlights onto the front helps designs like the Georgian Colonial look stately.
The couple at Young House Love recommends the Zuckeo 5W LED Landscape Lights kit that includes 10 LED spotlights in warm white with spike stands and a waterproof transformer ($93). They also explain how they calculated the right size transformer to use and installed their lighting, which bathes their flat-front house in a warm glow after dark.
Ready to amp up your curb appeal?
As you can see, adding curb appeal to a flat-front house doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
“You can get curb appeal without doing structural changes,” Sophiea says. Paired with these tips, a trip to the hardware store for some paint, accessories, and plants will go a long way.
Header Image Source: (Scott Webb / Unsplash)