It’s always tricky to prioritize decorating dollars, and I tend to funnel most of mine to interior improvements: furniture, fabric, tchotchkes. But lately I’ve been thinking that the outside of the house – and especially my front entry – deserves its share of the love. The entry may be the first impression of a home, and my entry is best described as mousy.
Fortunately, jazzing up a front entrance doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Try these eight strategies to create a showstopper entryway without blowing your budget.
1. Create a mini room. Here a bench with cheery outdoor pillows, a hanging paper lantern and a framed chalkboard combine to turn a plain entrance into a sitting space all its own – all without breaking the bank. Mix and match furniture to suit your home’s architecture and style.
2. Spell out a welcome. A stencil, a can of spray paint and presto! A plain concrete stoop turns into a hospitable howdy. If you can’t or don’t want to paint directly on the surface, try stenciling a plain cotton or sisal doormat instead.
3. Invest in showstopping hardware
. Swap out bland doorknobs and knockers for instant pizzazz on the cheap. You can search flea markets and architectural salvage stores for one-of-a-kind vintage models, but even home centers carry eye-catching styles these days. Choose a knocker that offers a glimpse into your personality and interior style, whether it’s an equestrian motif for horse lovers or a nautical theme for a house on the coast.
4. Pile up plantings
. Plants are one of the easiest and most affordable ways to give your entrance a polished look, and they can enhance any effect you’re going for. Mass tumbles of old-fashioned blooms in weathered tin or tole tubs for a cottage; stick with variegated greens and sleek containers in a modern setting. For a traditional house, create a symmetrical grouping of palms, ficus or roses in ceramic or terra-cotta planters.
5. Light the way
. Why settle for a boring outdoor light fixture when you can hang a piece of eye candy? Outdoor chandeliers are delightfully unexpected. If you want to use it for illumination, look for a model that’s designed for outdoor use, but if you just want the decorative effect, you can mount an indoor fixture without wiring it.
6. Paint the door an unexpected color
. It sounds obvious, and yet so many of us take the easy way out and go with brown, black or white. If the task of choosing a bolder hue throws you for a loop, try this trick: Snap a photo of your house, then take it to the paint store so you can see how different colors work with your exterior.
Choose a shade that contrasts strongly with the primary paint color: bright pink paired with pale gray siding, turquoise against rusty red brick, plum on khaki stucco. Lipstick red in a field of crisp white is a classic, but branch out and try other colors – perhaps kelly green or Chinese yellow.
7. Decorate the doorway surround. Set off your front door and give it greater presence by adding a decorative frame. If the architecture will accommodate such a treatment, line it with decorative tiles or a mosaic. If not, you can achieve a similar effect with paint.
8. Have fun with house numbers
. Forget hardware-store numbers on the mailbox. Make yours pop: fun colors, funky fonts, creative placement. Just be sure that you don’t sacrifice clear visibility and readability for the sake of visual interest.