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Curb Appeal Counts
Make your home a neighborhood showplace with smart suggestions from local experts.


March 2019

Photo courtesy of David J. Frank Landscape Contracting Inc.

Whether you’re planning to sell your home or not, you should know that “curb appeal” is more than just Realtor-speak.

It’s how you feel about your home when you pull into the drive. How your blockmates feel about your investment in the neighborhood. And, yes, how potential homebuyers feel about making your place their own.

Simply put, first impressions and lasting impressions matter equally.

“Whether you are selling now or at a later date, a fresh look always helps the resale value, not to mention the overall appeal of a neighborhood,” says Evan Kasper, ASLA, a landscape designer at Cedarburg’s La Rosa Landscape Company Inc. “The exterior landscaping of a home is always the first impression one gets when coming to your home. Why not make it a good one?” And no matter if your budget is limited (but your imagination isn’t) or you’re ready to invest, Kasper adds, tapping an expert’s help is always smart spending.

Small stash of cash? Work with what you have, says Kasper.

“A fresh makeover of your front yard’s landscaping will go a long way,” he says. “Removing old, tired plantings and installing new ones will completely change the appearance of a home. Another cost-effective option is to redefine bed edges and install a fresh layer of mulch.”

Giving your existing front door a fresh coat of color and modern hardware, or if the funds are there, investing in a brand-new entry can work wonders too. Darker door colors are trending for 2019, with blacks, rich blues and teals, and warm reds coming to the forefront. Big doors are big news too, with 10- and 12-foot heights in increased demand. Ultra-clean lines and pivot hinges add updated interest.

And don’t overlook your windows. Give sills and frames a fresh coat of paint — or do your home a favor inside and out and invest in new windows altogether. “One of the first things that gets noticed when looking at a home is the windows,” says Scott Cline, owner of Germantown’s J&B Construction Co. Inc. “With the different shapes and styles of windows, homeowners can give their home added personality and positively impact the look of their home, matching the home’s architecture to present a unified appearance.

“Beyond their outdated appearance, old, inefficient windows can raise your energy bill, hinder window operation and cause condensation to form between the panes of glass,” Cline adds. “Not only do they look unsightly, but rotting wood can also interfere with the window’s functionality, which raises energy bill costs and, if left untreated, causes serious structural damage.”

If you’re thinking a serious makeover, Kasper says low-voltage lighting adds high-impact appeal — plus an additional added safety feature —  and replacing an uneven, plain-Jane concrete sidewalk with a natural stone or concrete paver walkway fosters great guest impressions and sets visitors, quite literally, off on the right foot.

“Indirect lighting and café lighting are very popular,” says Jeff Hershberger, senior landscape architect with David J. Frank Landscape Contracting Inc. “Additionally, you now have the ability to dim, change color, program, and control each individual fixture from your smart phone.”

Photo courtesy of La Rosa Landscape Company Inc.

According to Jessica Wilson of David J. Frank, more people are seeking expanded outdoor living areas in the front of their home, as well, so they can watch for kids getting on and off the school bus and more easily and spontaneously interact with their neighbors. Kasper agrees. “Outdoor living spaces are a big trend — creating that extension from the inside to the outdoors,” he says. “Fire features, such as fire pits and fireplaces, are becoming more common and help extend our cool springs and falls when climate is unpredictable. In warmer months, structures such as pergolas help define a space and lend shade to a sunny patio space.”

No matter what size the project, Kasper and Hershberger note, unless you have serious natural talent, choosing do-it-yourself design over hiring a professional can actually cost you cash, especially for hardscape and lighting projects where DIY errors can be dangerous, in addition to costly. Let the pros create your dream yard and then pitch in on the labor for a budget-friendly option.

“We offer design services where clients can work together with a landscape designer/architect to create a plan that they can use to implement themselves,” Kasper says. “Yes, there is a fee associated with that design, but you can always tell the homes that are designed by professionals and amateurs. Having a plan will ensure there is cohesiveness to their landscape.”

“Professional landscape design is the best and most important money spent on your landscape,” Hershberger offers. “I’ve seen countless examples of wrong material selection, both in hardscape and plant material, and things like stone or brick that don’t go with the home’s architecture or color palette. Choosing the wrong plant for the existing water conditions, light conditions or that will overgrow the space they were planted in is [another] very common and costly mistake.”

Smart Strategies for Every Budget

Jeff Hershberger, senior landscape architect at David J. Frank Landscape Contracting Inc., offers these tips for planning your project.

Limited Budget

• Clean or power wash dirty paving and masonry.

• Edge your drive, walks and planting bed lines. Bed edges should be clean and crisp.

• Properly prune, trim and shape overgrown plants.

• Choose non-colored hardwood bark mulch. Because mulch is not your main focal point, avoid colored mulch.

• Add pots of annual flowers for blasts of color that can easily be changed out.

High Impact

• Renovate your entrance. This can include the front walk, landing and stoop. Brick or natural stone add tremendous warmth and eliminates an “urban or industrial look.”

• Remove dead and overgrown trees and shrubs and replace with suitable, properly designed plant material that will grow into a beautiful landscape in the years to come.

• Use lighting to show off your home’s features and warmth at night.

This story ran in the March 2019 issue of: