Curb Appeal Tips for Southern-Style Homes

Known for lush landscaping and classical architecture that honors history, Southern homes have their own signature style. Take our experts' advice on keeping up your Southern home's curb appeal.

Beautiful Southern-Style Home in Beaufort, S.C.

Beautiful Southern-Style Home in Beaufort, S.C.

Frederick + Frederick also helped boost the curb appeal of this 1930s home. The palm trees and Spanish moss hanging from the Live Oaks are a mark of Southern charm.

Photo by: John McManus

John McManus

When you hear the term Southern architecture, a lot of visual elements probably pop into your head, like towering Greek columns, deep, wraparound porches with lazy swings and rocking chairs, Victorian embellishments like intricate gingerbread trim and grand balustrades, wrought iron gates and one-of-a-kind stained and leaded glass windows. Southern gardens and landscapes elicit myriad images of carefully manicured boxwoods, vivid azaleas, 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 prospective 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 your neighbors, we solicited a few experts to prevent 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 prospective 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 $50 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 $350 at Lowe’s and suddenly become the most popular person on your block.

Perk Up Your Paint: Your home is most likely the largest investment in your lifetime; protect it with paint. 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 fresh paint over chipping paint. Skipping proper prep is a shortcut 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 the addition of a bold 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 jaw-dropping wrought iron gates, lawn ornaments and custom fences for folks all over the Southeast. She’s created 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.

Green Up Your Thumb: In regards to landscaping, our experts agree that less is more.

“Clean lines in 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 Atlanta resident and HGTV host Anitra Mecadon 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."

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