There are a few houses I always enjoy driving by for this very simple reason: The entrances are so attractive. It might be a beautiful wreath hanging on the front door. A pretty gate. Or an inviting porch with furniture and color-coordinated cushions and pillows. I admire how neat and tidy these people keep their welcoming spaces – whether the area is a small stoop or a sweeping veranda.
In recent years I have paid more attention to setting up our front porch, a springtime chore that doesn’t feel like a chore at all. I enjoy it. One year I dug out some cushions that had been in storage for some time, cleaned them up and put them back on the wrought-iron furniture. Another year I bought a raised planter, dropped in an already-potted-up window box and placed it at one end of the porch. It bloomed like crazy all summer long. Last year, I added outdoor pillows and more pots of flowers. This year, I may buy something new to hang on the door, something that enhances the feel of our house.
In the meantime, I still enjoy seeing what other people are doing. This week, I also asked some pros for ideas.
“I like to see something flanking the door. At the shop, we’re putting out two purple Duranta topiaries in black cast-iron urns on either side of the green door. The flowers look like cascading sweet peas. We had them last year, and everyone asked about them,” said Cathy McGovern, owner of the Trillium’s Courtyard Florist in Snyder.
But the items do not have to be identical.
“I drive by a house that has a country-style porch. There’s a topiary on one side of the door and a large wreath on the other, hanging on the house. The wreath really makes a statement,” she said.
Other ideas? “Use pots of flowering plants – a collection of them – and they don’t have to match,” McGovern said.
Nor do all the pots have to be placed at the front door.
“Put them going up the stairway or along the walkway. Or choose a pretty garden adornment – a sculpture, birdbath or something else that catches your eye as you are coming up to the door,” McGovern said.
Just be sure you choose the right plants for the right setting, be it shady or sunny or something in between. Consider conditions such as wind. Observe the space and read plant labels.
She also likes the sound of wind chimes as she approaches a house, which adds another sensory element to a space that is already visually appealing and fragrant.
In another phone conversation, local interior designer Mark Taylor told me that lighting is a key tool.
“Lighting is really important. New outdoor fixtures can change the whole look of your place. And when it’s lit up at night, it’s more attractive,” he said.
While you often want to choose fixtures that reflect the style of your home, you can experiment a bit. Modern-looking fixtures on an old, very plain house can really dress it up, said Taylor, adding that landscape lighting that illuminates trees, chimneys and other items also comes into play here.
Another upgrade: Paint your door a different color to perk things up, Taylor said.
Some of our other favorite tips:
• Door wreaths can be beautiful, but they aren’t your only option. Sprays, swags, twig baskets and flat-back planters are others. If you go with a wreath, here’s a rule of thumb: If you have a 32-inch door, choose a wreath that is 24 inches in diameter. If your door is 36 inches, consider going up to a 26- or 28-inch wreath. Remember, too, that materials such as twigs visually extend a wreath.
• Whatever you choose for the door, don’t hang it too high. Keep it closer to eye level.
• On a dark door, go with a lighter wreath. On a light door, go darker.
• Has your door mat, screen door or mailbox seen better days? Take a close look at the things you already own but usually ignore. Decide what needs cleaning, polishing, repainting or, possibly, replacing.
• Same with house numbers. They can be in good shape and complement the style of the house but, for safety reasons, be sure they are easily read and prominently displayed.
• Polish door hardware. Wash windows. Clean light fixtures, putting safety first (power off, sturdy step ladder, etc.). Follow manufacturers’ guidelines; read safety tips online.
• Finally, vow to change planters and other entrance decor seasonally. It keeps things interesting.