Curb Appeal Tips for Southern-Style Homes
There's a fine line in the South between charming and downright tacky. Take our experts advice on keeping up your Southern home's curb appeal.
When you hear the term Southern architecture, a lot of visual elements probably pop into your head, like towering Greek columns; antebellum-inspired wraparound porches with lazy swings and rocking chairs; Victorian embellishments like eclectic gingerbread and grand balustrades; whimsical wrought iron gates and one-of-a-kind stained and leaded glass windows. Southern gardens and landscapes elicit myriad images of carefully manicured boxwoods, scissor-trimmed lawns, vivid azaleas, blooming cherry blossoms and dogwoods and even overgrown Gothic gardens bursting with passion vines, wisteria and naturally, kudzu – aka “the vine that ate the South.”
In other words, anything goes. If you’re looking to sell the property, however, some perspective buyers might not be charmed by your collection of whirligigs masking chipped paint or the broken teacup collection in the garden. And if you’re just looking for simple ways to keep up with the Butlers and the Pittypatts, we solicited a few experts to help keep them from talking behind your back, bless your heart.
Clean Up Your Act: Remember that the outside of your home is the first impression. It should be neat, clean and clear of all debris.
“Curb appeal is usually the easiest and most cost-effective way to ready a home for viewings by perspective buyers. It is also often the most easily adjusted yet overlooked feature when people are readying a home for sale,” said Jed Peters, of DEN Property Group in Austin, Texas. “Getting a prospective homebuyer to look past the inherent kitchen remodel that will come with the purchase of your home is a much easier job if they haven't already started calculating the cost of getting the front up to snuff.”
Another tip that requires minimal expense and a few hours work is renting a pressure washer. They rent for about $65 a day from places like Home Depot and Ace Hardware.
“You will be surprised at how dirty your walkway and porch along with the home's facade have become until the filth is washed away,” said Peters.
Or pick one up one of your own for about $300 at Lowe’s and suddenly become the most popular person on your block.
Tart Up Your Paint: Your home purchase is more than likely the most expensive investment in your lifetime. Protect it by painting. A good paint job can last for many years, while a bad one can just be a waste of time and money.
“If your paint is already chipping, pressure washing it could just take off everything,” said historic home expert Paul Butchart. “Make sure you’re committed to a full-on paint job before you start blasting it with high-powered water.”
Make sure to test a small part of the house first. Southern homes are constantly exposed to erratic weather patterns like extreme humidity and heat, high winds, torrential rain and even hurricanes and tornadoes. This wreaks havoc on your exterior. Scrape and sand; don’t just slather over chipping paint. It’s a quick and cheap fix that you’ll pay for later.
“When I'm looking at homes for inspiration or photographing them, the first thing I notice is exterior paint,” said professional photographer Vivian Johnson. “Flaking paint can make a house look shabby. My family owned a construction and painting company, and as a child I used to hear my mother comment about the paint jobs on houses as we drove by.”
Don’t Be Afraid to be Bold: Let’s face facts: The South is known for being both conservative yet colorful at the same time. There’s no harm in a splash of color.
“When a homeowner chooses a variety of colors for the body, trim, accents and front door, it can really make a house stand out,” said Johnson. “Choosing a bold color for the front door really catches my eye.”
Peters seconded that notion.
“When I think of Southern homes, I think of classic architecture and warm color tones. Sometimes an addition of color, like painting the front door red, can really bring a house to life,” he said.
Color doesn’t have to come in the form of paint. Artisan Beverly Babb of Athens, Ga., makes eclectic and jaw-dropping wrought iron gates, lawn ornaments and custom fences for folks all over the Southeast. She’s done everything from dragons and gargoyles to sunflowers and sweet bluebirds. The key here is to know your audience.
“I'm also a huge fan of copper gas lanterns,” said Peters. “They lend an air of Old World charm and craftsmanship but still feel current.”
Just make sure to tie the aesthetic together.
“If you are swapping the mailbox for a more modern look, then don't forget that the street numbers and porch light should all give the same vibe,” he said.
Gardening at Night: In regards to landscaping, our experts agree that less is more.
“Clean lines on your hedges and pruned trees give the home a put-together feel,” said Peters. “Cleaning up the landscaping by removing excess foliage and adding pieces of color if it suits the aesthetic is a good step.”
Invest in good yard tools like a hedge trimmer and sharp pruning shears. Spending just a few dollars extra can mean fewer blisters and headaches.
“I also notice foliage around the house,” said Johnson. “Overgrown shrubbery that covers parts of the house should be trimmed back to help accent the house.”
When in doubt, hire a pro. Even Anitra Mecadon of DIY Network's Mega Dens asks for help when it comes to the home exterior.
"I could never do it all by myself," Mecadon said. "And I'm not afraid to admit that I often say, 'Just call a guy,' as in someone who can do it better."
Down South, there’s a fine line between Gothic charm and being known as the Herman Munsters on the block.