Wednesday, August 15, 2012

THE FRUGAL FIXER-UPPER: Creating Maximum Curb Appeal on a Minimal Budget

I remember the day my hubby Joe came home and told me one of the houses down the street was going to be going up for sale and that we should think about buying it. He tried to explain which house it was, and despite the fact that I walked by this house at least once a day during the six years we lived at our old house down the block, I kept asking him, "WHICH house?" because it hadn't managed to register on my radar. To say that our present home lacked curb appeal when we bought it would be something of an understatement. If you were being charitable, you would call it "nondescript". If you weren't, you might choose a word closer to "eyesore". Every time I pull out the photo we snapped the day the "sold" sign went up on our house when we bought it, I wonder what the heck we were thinking:

I'm happy to report that nine years later things have improved substantially, and this is what the place looks like now:

Welcoming and vibrant!

I'm even more pleased to report that most of the improvements we made cost much more in elbow grease than they did in dollars. 

Some of the first things we did after moving in were ripping off the nasty indoor-outdoor carpeting from the front steps, removing the ugly screen door and painting the front door white, painting the mailbox, window frames and door frame, ripping out and rebuilding the porch rails, and removing the aluminum trim from around the top of the porch (we painted the wood underneath and added a decorative molding).

The porch rails were definitely the most costly portion of this entire makeover (it's been several years since we replaced them, so I can't recall the exact cost, but somewhere in the neighbourhood of $300). Almost everything else we've done has been extremely inexpensive.

On the "most blood-sweat-and tears" front, ripping out the cedars and stump from the front garden probably wins top honours. For several years, we planted annuals in this space, then I got tired of spending so much time and money on the garden every year, and got myself a free perennial garden two years ago. I can't believe how well-established it looks just two seasons later! I get a lot of comments from visitors and passers-by on how attractive it is, so I guess my amateur landscaping job turned out pretty well :)

We've gradually added lots of "finishing touches" to the porch over the years, and I think we've managed to pull together a comfortable, casual and coordinated look. 

Joe build these Muskoka chairs from a Norm Abrams pattern (I think it's in his New Yankee Workshop book), spending only a fraction of what it would have cost to buy ready-made wooden Muskokas (we spent about $30 bucks a chair to build them and they retail for somewhere in the neighbourhood of $200 if you want good quality ones). He also designed and built the matching footstools from scrap bits and pieces of lumber.

This little side table was also cobbled together from wood scraps. The coleus in the terracotta pot is on its second season as I successfully overwintered it in a south-facing window. The insect candle holders were a yard sale find (I think I paid $1 each for them).

Yet another of  Joe's woodworking projects assembled from random small pieces of wood is this picket fence planter, which this year is bearing a wonderful abundance of coleus:

We wanted a bit more seating for the porch, and created this bench seat from a few scavenged wooden pallets topped with a cotton rug I picked up at a yard sale for five bucks. I spent a LOT of time sitting out here reading and people-watching in the summer months! Someday I hope to get some bigger, comfier pillows knit up to add to this space.

Joe and I both love stained glass and we were thrilled to pick up this stained glass light shade at a neighbour's garage sale for $2 a few years ago. Joe used the guts from our old exterior light to wire this up and it's been a functional and beautiful addition to the ambiance of the front porch.

We also have a stained glass window hanging front and centre from the top of the porch. It's from one of the old windows in our former church and although I can't remember the exact amount we paid for it, it was definitely much less than you'd pay for antique stained glass at an antique store or show.

In case you've forgotten where this all started, here's a final look at

and AFTER:
Can you believe it's the same house? Definitive proof that a total transformation doesn't have to decimate your budget.

What have you done to spruce up your house's curb appeal on a shoestring budget?

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