Don't let your curb appeal suffer.
As the first impression of your home, it’s important for the exterior, especially the front facade, to feel refreshed and welcoming. This goes beyond colorful containers and cute doormats. “‘Out of date’ can also mean non-functioning,” says designer Lisa Henderson of Lisa Henderson Interiors. “When addressing an outdoor space, a comprehensive approach will ensure an exterior that's both pretty and practical.” From lighting and paint colors to shutters and roofing, the smallest details might be holding back your home’s potential curb appeal.
“For example, adding a modern light fixture over the front door can shift the look, along with a cheerful welcome mat and potted plants," says designer Maggie Griffin of Maggie Griffin Design. At the end of the day every home is different, and what makes it look outdated may differ, but here are a few general guidelines according to designers. “Of course there are exceptions to every rule,” adds designer Lauren Lowe of Lauren Elaine Interiors.
Trends That Won’t Stand The Test Of Time
“Keep it classic and it will look great for years to come,” says Lowe. Trends often have expiration dates. When building or updating a home, lean into timeless and traditional elements. “Anything that’s too trendy or specific to a timeframe can eventually make your home feel dated,” says designer Laura Hodges of Laura Hodges Studio.
Think about the location and style of your home as well. “Not every home is architecturally appropriate to embrace the modern farmhouse trend—one size does not fit all when it comes to a white house and black trim,” adds Elly Poston, founder of Elly Poston Interiors. “And those contemporary windows that were hot in 2018 likely are not going to be in 2028.”
“The quickest way to date a project is inconsistent building materials that scream 1980s, 1990s, or 2000s,” says Poston. “Pick a palette and a material, then embrace it,” she adds. In the same vein, if remodeling or updating your home, ensure any new additions are consistent with the existing elements. This can be especially tricky when it comes to brick, which Lowe notes to avoid brick with pink or orange undertones.
“Replace overgrown shrubs, especially if the home is obscured by them, and add interest with texture and color of plants,” suggests Liz Williams of Liz Williams Interiors. While landscaping won’t date a home the same way building materials will, fresh plantings can take your house far in terms of refreshing the exterior. “Tired plants should be removed or need to undergo ‘rejuvenation pruning’, ” says Jean Liu of Jean Liu Design. Williams also recommends updating old containers and planters by adding fresh plantings or simple ferns.
It’s probably high time to rethink leaded glass and ornate iron entry doors. While these things might not necessarily be outdated on their own, they’re likely not helping in the curb appeal department. Williams suggests swapping old gutters for new systems, especially copper if the budget allows, and replacing or repairing cracked pathways. Where appropriate, update concrete with freshly laid stone or brick. This also applies for things that might just need a good deep clean. “A facade and driveway that has accumulated soot over time could benefit from a thorough power wash,” says Liu. She also suggests giving any glass a good cleaning, replacing dim-lit bulbs, and changing out welcome mats that have seen better days.
Whether it’s the size, scale, or color—the right shutters can make or break the feel of your home’s exterior. “Shutters arose out of a need for protection from the elements, security, and privacy, but over time, they became like ‘earrings’ for windows — being applied as pure ornament without any regard to function,” explains designer Katie Wolf of Wolf Interiors. Having inappropriately scaled shutters is a signal of a dated exterior. “A true shutter should function, cover the window if closed, and have hardware to feel truly authentic,” says Wolf. “For hardware, shutter dogs [tiebacks] are not only there to hold your shutters open, but they provide an opportunity for a design element.” Any shutters on a home, should have the proper hardware to hold them open, whether operable or just for looks. Shutters should also reflect the shape and size of the window. “If your windows are arched, your shutters should be arched,” adds the designer.
Overly Manicured Lawns and Faux Plants
“Manicured lawns can look beautiful, but with so much water going to the care of lawns, I think this look is starting to feel dated and out of touch with the changing climate,” notes Hodges, who is seeing more gardens with native plants. Hodges also recommends staying away from fake plants on doors and in hanging planters and window boxes when possible. “If you can't use a living plant, try preserved plants which will last longer but still look great,” she suggests.
Obscured and Frosted Block Windows
While we put a great amount of thought into window treatments on the interior of a home, it’s not just the fabric that needs the attention. While frosted, leaded, and textured windows serve the purpose of privacy, these materials more often than not feel out of fashion today. “Glass block windows seemed like they might have been making a comeback recently, but to me, this architectural material always feels outdated,” says Hodges.
Mismatched Paint Scheme
Paint is one of the best ways to give your home a refresh, but consider your palette before you commit. Mismatched colors and shades will do the opposite of boosting curb appeal. “I love a tonal color palette, such as using the same color family to paint the body of your house, then shifting the palette a bit lighter or darker for the trim and windows,” says designer Laura Jenkins of Laura W. Jenkins Interiors, who looks to historic homes for inspiration. “Don't be afraid of color. If you don't want to commit to color on a large part of the house, have fun with the door,” suggests Jenkins. And while there are so many colors to play with, be sure to consider the style of your home too. In general, Lowe advises staying away from brown trim paint unless your home is a classic Tudor style, and being wary of trim colors with yellow undertones, especially if it’s against brick.
Polished Brass Hardware and Lighting
Just as lighting sets the tone for a room inside the home, it's one of the main ways that establishes a warm welcome on the exterior as well. “Polished brass hardware and lighting feels like a holdover from the 1980s,” says Jenkins. “I love brass hardware and lighting, but I always use ‘living finishes’ that will patina and age with time — which is especially important on historic homes.” When thinking about exterior fixtures, it’s also best to steer clear of overly ornate selections that may date your home down the road.
If it’s time to replace your roof due to damage or age, it might be a good idea to consider using something other than flat, strip asphalt shingles. “If you’re updating your roof, use dimensional architectural shingles or if you have the budget, a luxury material [such as cedar shake, slate, or copper accents], especially if your roof is highly visible,” suggests Jenkins.
From out-of-place stucco roofing to Tuscan-inspired villas, it’s easy for a home to date itself as trends and styles change around it. “Unfortunately the building boom of the nineties left us with a lot of homes with questionable architectural significance, like McMansions,” says Bethany Adams of Bethany Adams Interiors. “The height of the ‘Tuscan Kitchen’ trend also resulted in many exteriors leaning vaguely Mediterranean —double height arched windows, columned entrances, and pale gray stucco exteriors with bright white trim which feels outdated today.”
The power of paint is undeniable — both positively and negatively. “Faded shutters and a dark front door can easily date your home,” says Griffin. Even if a whole exterior refresh isn’t in the cards, a bolder hue on certain elements will go a long way. “Fresh paint will always update an exterior, especially a contrasting color on the front door,” says Williams. “If you have a front porch, consider repainting or updating the furniture as well.”
Retro House Numbers
“Even though house numbers are a small detail on an exterior, it’s one of those things that can date a home. If you’ve lived in your home for over ten years or if you’ve moved into an old home, chances are that the house numbers need refreshing,” says interior decorator Rashida Banks. “Changing the placement, font type, and number size are all factors to consider to help give your exterior a rejuvenated look. And if you are using sticker numbers, definitely replace those with something more modern like wall mounted numbers."
Lower Quality Windows and Doors
When you think about it, windows and doors take up a large portion of your home's facade, so it’s important to consider the type of product you’re selecting. “When upgrading windows or doors, be sure to use quality products that replicate the original style of the home,” says Jenkins. “And never use windows with fake mullions!”
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