So what does it take to make your place look great? Not big bucks or a lot of time. ShopSmart, from the publisher of Consumer Reports, shares 10 projects that can be done in a weekend for $150 or less:
Punch up the numbers
Cost $1 to $40
House numbers are practical–and they can also enhance the style of your home. Play with scale by going with oversize numbers, and choose a style that complements your home’s architecture– whether it’s a curvy mission style for bungalows or prairie-style homes, or sleek and modern for a contemporary house, script for a formal colonial, or casual, colorful ceramics for a French country or Mediterranean look.
Put out a welcome mat
Cost About $30
The quickest and easiest front porch update is a new welcome mat. It’s an accessory that you can change with the seasons or use to showcase your individuality: Go colorful and kid-friendly with bright strips, classic and sophisticated with a custom monogram, or way out and wacky with a funny quote.
Clean up the landscaping
Cost About $150
A few landscaping tweaks don’t have to cost a lot. You can bring a patchy yard back to life by seeding bald spots and pruning overgrown foundation plantings. If you decide to add shrubs around the house, choose varieties that won’t grow bigger than 3 or 4 feet, and plant taller bushes and trees at the edge of the house to frame it.
Paint the front door
Cost About $30
Painting your whole house is expensive, but it takes less than a gallon of paint to cover your front door and give it a quick lift. Try going with a really bold color, like high-gloss red, forest green, or black to call attention to the entry or to complement a color on the trim or in the masonry. And don’t forget that many stains come in colors too.
Hang a door knocker
Cost About $75
A brand-new door knocker is a great way to jazz up your newly painted front door and put your personal stamp on the entry. For a traditional look, stick with the classic, shield-shape design. For a bolder statement, opt for a big round ring. Or you can choose something more whimsical and unique in the shape of, say, a dragonfly or cat.
Put up window boxes
Cost About $50
Nothing adds instant charm to a home’s façade like window boxes. Brackets screwed into the house support the boxes. Wood boxes can be customized with paint or stain, and synthetic boxes require no maintenance and look great too.
Add some potted plants
Cost About $50 to $100
For a great look that will save you the time and labor of digging flower beds, place large ceramic pots or other outdoor containers filled with easy-care geraniums or other plants in prominent places. Near the front door and along walkways are good spots. To avoid a cluttered look, place pots to the side of the door, out of the circulation area. To stretch your budget, buy young, small flowering plants to fill your pots or trade clippings with friends.
Replace the doorknob
Cost About $100
Replacing the knob hardware instantly perks up a door. And if you stick to the same size as the existing handle, it’s an easy do-it-yourself job. Houses in warm tones–wood, reds, brown–call for warm metals like brass and copper. Cool metals look great against white and pale shades. Carry the new finish through to the other door accessories–the hinges, kick plate, and doorbell should all match.
Upgrade the lighting
Cost $25 to $150
Exterior lighting is a must for safety and finding your keys, but it also makes a house look warm and welcoming at night. By day, a hanging or wall-mounted fixture near the door is a nice piece of house jewelry. To increase your home’s wow factor, use lighting in the yard. But use energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs.
Get a new mailbox
Cost $50 to $100
Mailboxes can do wonders for curb appeal. If your current one has a few rust spots, touch it up with paint; if it’s too far gone, spring for a new one.
Tips courtesy of July 2009 issue of ShopSmart