Tag Archives | outside

Kerb appeal: you never get a second chance to make a first impression

This post is part of a series on interior design and working with an interior designer.

For our first look at how to make the most of each of the rooms in your home, I’ve actually chosen an area outside – the entrance. Whilst this may not normally fall within the realms of interior design, how your home looks from the street or driveway sets the tone for what lies within. In fact, if you’re selling up, it’s one of the key areas to polish up for a speedy sale.

Even if it’s just you and the occasional visitor entering your home, don’t depress yourself before you’ve even opened your front door because you’ve edged past 4 overflowing bins, tripped in the dark and spent several minutes in the rain trying to find the right key and put it in the right lock.

Consider these ideas, and increase your chances of arriving home with a smile on your face.

The approach

Whether you have a generous front garden, a small patch and some steps, or a front door opening straight onto the street, keep it clean and tidy, and consider the lighting. The smaller the space is, the more these principles apply.


With a small city front ‘garden’, focus on a few bold low maintenance plants, whether in pots or directly into the ground, and perhaps some window boxes. Dare I say it, you can even get some excellent faux shrubs today, such as box plants and bay trees, that will provide you with some greenery and require no maintenance other than perhaps a quick wash down every now and then. Try Green Interiors or The Artificial Plant Shop. However, if you are happy with a little more upkeep, fragrant plants such as lavender, rosemary, or perhaps a scented climber such as jasmine, honeysuckle or clematis, will give you a real welcome home. We got ours from Silk Tree – great plants at a good price with friendly service.

Hard landscaping

For your surfaces, reduce the upkeep required by going for gravel and paving, with plants directly in the ground (rather than pots, that will always need watering). But before you pave it all over in the name of low maintenance, check whether you need planning permission, and be aware that you may be required to use a porous material (to allow rainwater to be absorbed into the ground rather than run off into the drains). If you’re going for pots, the bigger the better, both for greater impact and to increase the likelihood that they will stay in your possession and not be taken uninvited for a walk…


Hmm. Whilst I wholly support maximum recycling of waste, the large number of bins now required to process it all has not been good for the front garden. Ever-present, particularly in front of terraced houses, disguise these eyesores by creating a designated bay behind trellis, fencing, or wooden mini-huts for them to reside in when it’s not bin day. Make sure the view looks good from both the street and your home – I never understand it when people hide bins beautifully from the street and make them the first thing they see when they leave the house in the morning! Plan to include them rather than pretend they will disappear if you forget about them. And don’t make it too hard to pull them in and out of their hiding place or you won’t bother.

The door

Whether your front door could do with replacing or just a new coat of paint, if you’re in a street of similar houses, look at your neighbours to see what they’ve done. Then you can decide if you want to blend in or stand out.

Supersize it

How about this for a front door – 8 metres high! (Living etc, June 2007)

If you’re replacing the door, make more of an impact by increasing the size of the door, and choosing a solid door from sustainably produced wood. If you have a dark hall, you’ll probably want to include some glazing in or around the door. This should be made of toughened glass and can be etched for more privacy. Look at The London Door Company and Urban Front for more ideas.

Dress it

As for door furniture, don’t scrimp on the quality. You can dress up an inexpensive door with quality furniture but cheap fittings on a quality door will cheapen the whole effect. Don’t assume you have to buy new if you want to make a change – try Lassco or Salvo for vintage fittings and you could save some pennies too. Or check out Beardmore or Turnstyle Designs for new (both made in England).

Number it

For your house number, if you have a glass panel above the door, the possibilities are endless with stickers – try Purlfrost.  Or look for interesting numbers at Willow and Stone or HouseBling via Not On The High Street.

The colours and facade

When you’re planning the colours, you’ll want to consider both what the neighbours have done (if they’re visible) and what your home is like on the inside. Again, do you want to blend in or stand out? A dark entrance will make your home seem much lighter when you enter. A bright door might make you smile when you come home.


You can get away with stronger colours outside as they will be bleached with the sun, so paint some testers onto card and hang each from the door to see what you think, both in daylight and at night. At the same time, consider the whole picture. You may have other areas you can paint too: window frames; pots and window boxes; railings, fences or walls. Do you want to use complementary or contrasting colours for these areas? Or you could use the same colour, some items in a gloss finish, some in matt, for a more subtle and contemporary effect.


Finally, consider what the windows look like from outside – do you have shutters, curtains, sheers visible from the outside? Could you line curtains with an interesting fabric for a bit of contrast when viewed from outside? Can people see more than you want them to? Consider translucent stickers from the likes of Brume or Purlfrost, sheer curtains or blinds. Or perhaps a densely packed window box outside, or vases inside, will be all you need.


Consider the lighting of your entrance both from the safety / functional angle, and also how to enhance the look of your home.

What to light

Beautifully lit by John Cullen Lighting

Beautifully lit by John Cullen Lighting

At a minimum, you need to be able to see where you’re walking, where to put the keys, and, hopefully, to be able to confirm that there’s no-one unexpected hanging around. So, put some LED spots to wash across any steps (every other step should be enough) and think about what you can highlight for decorative effect. Do you have pillars, columns, an arch that you can uplight? Fit some 1 Watt LED uplighters to highlight these. If that gives you enough light to get the keys in the lock, even better. Don’t overdo it though – you don’t want every plant and window uplit all evening.

When to light it

You can put the lights on a motion sensor so that they light up when someone approaches, with a manual override so that you can choose to leave them on if you’re expecting anyone.

How to light it

For more decorative lights with visible fittings, go for quality materials that will last a long time and improve with age. Consider how different materials can change the appearance of the same item – if you have a contemporary interior in an old house, fitting traditional lighting in a modern finish could be a nod to what lies within, whilst remaining in keeping with the history visible on the outside.

And, as with any lighting, go for warmer bulbs for a more welcoming and flattering finish. No-one needs to arrive home – or to someone else’s home – in ice-blue floodlit splendour.

Was this useful?  Do you have any ideas to add?  Let me know in the comments!

Coming soon – specific tips for individual rooms, lighting, tips on how to use colour, choose floorings, wall coverings, paint…

If you have any questions you’d like me to answer in this series, leave a comment or send a message via the website – I’d be delighted to help!

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