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Kevin Bunnell, Renovation Design Group
BEFORE: Exterior remodels and curb appeal upgrades can enhance the house with new colors, facade and landscaping.

Real estate professionals say it time and time again: Curb appeal (or the lack thereof) can make or break a deal. They say potential buyers form their opinions about a given property within the first 15 seconds of viewing a house. Whether you are selling your house or not, curb appeal is important and can be a source of pride and satisfaction for a homeowner.

Many clients who come into our residential architectural firm are seeking help in the curb appeal department. Exterior remodels can be undertaken as stand-alone projects, but they are also often included as part of an interior remodel or addition. Interior remodeling projects can affect the exterior of a home if doors and windows are added or relocated. Obviously, additions will significantly alter the exterior appearance of a house on at least three sides, though some may be in the rear and not affect the front elevation.

Analyzing changes in your home’s exterior requires thinking/visualizing in three dimensions. A floor plan can be understood in terms of the width and depth of a space; elevations (interior or exterior) need consideration in terms of width, depth and height. It sounds rather obvious to say that it is a useful exercise to study design options on paper before they are built, but in looking at many remodeled houses, people often skip this essential step. Whether the study is made on actual or virtual paper, attention to the massing (shape) of the new exterior, along with material selection and details, is critical to a successful outcome.

One of the keys to a good remodeling project is to create a roofline that successfully blends the old and new portions together. This can be challenging, but ignoring this aspect of a remodel will result either in roofs that don’t work (don’t drain well) or additions that look like they accidentally bumped into the original house — or both.

A common remodeling mistake is to only think of a remodel from the inside. If you would like a bigger window in the living room, you must consider if the size, shape and placement is right when viewed from the outside of the house. If you don’t have curb appeal in mind when you are remodeling the interior of your home, then you could end up with a house that is seriously lacking in exterior aesthetics.

While exterior upgrades can be involved projects, updating curb appeal doesn’t always have to be a major construction project. New hardware for front doors, new house numbers and a fresh coat of paint can go a long way to freshening up your home’s appearance.

Symmetry is a design concept that is easily understood and often appreciated. Its effect can be added without a significant remodel, for example, by implementing a balanced landscape plan or by symmetrically placing potted plants along the front of the house.

A great house with a terrible yard will never have terrific curb appeal. Spending some time and money keeping up the yard, flower beds and planters is a surefire way to improve both the appearance and value of your home. Weeds and overgrown landscaping will obviously have the opposite effect.

When we talk about landscaping, hardscaping is also an important tool. Walkways, driveways, courtyards, retaining walls or other non-botanical features can add structure and interest to your front yard.

Part of curb appeal is the experience a person has approaching your house. The "journey" should be pleasant, and the porch and front door area should be a pleasing destination. The more comfortable and welcoming the features encountered as guests approach the house, the better the experience and the greater the anticipation for the welcome that awaits inside.

Take a moment to walk away from your house, turn, and then approach it with an eye to its current condition. How does it really look? What does it feel like as you move toward the front door? Do your house and/or yard need some maintenance or an actual intervention?

Improved curb appeal can be accomplished by small and large means. If you can identify a problem, but no solution, a residential architect can help you figure it out. A master plan for the exterior of your home is as essential as one for the interior and will give you an exterior upgrade to work toward.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com