Why painting and landscaping alone won’t transform your home

Why painting and landscaping alone won’t transform your home

I’m about to disillusion numerous home renovators here, but the truth must be told: painting your facade and landscaping your yard is not enough to truly transform the exterior of your property.

Painting will certainly refresh the look and give it a more modern appearance, but it’s like putting on a new jacket; it looks great, but underneath your figure is the same.

What I have learnt over the years is that landscaping and painting accounts for approximately 30 to 40 per cent of what needs to be done to truly transform a home’s facade. The real magic happens when painting and landscaping are supplemented by other clever modifications.

Changes that complement your facade are the difference between a makeover that is clearly DIY, and one that has designer dazzle.

This doesn’t mean you have to give your home a major overhaul and make expensive architectural changes. The best transformations often come from subtle and inexpensive alterations over and above what you were intending to do anyway – but the difference they make can be huge.

These could be updated paving, fencing and cladding, mature plantings, modernised garage doors, a fresh front door, and a mailbox that has design flair as well as function.

For example, if you were going to spend $30,000 to $40,000 on painting and landscaping your home anyway, adding a few extra modifications that might cost somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000 could be enough to give your home a completely new look (and add a lot more value than a simple paint and landscape update).

The biggest issue for home renovators is that they don’t even realise there are other ways to transform a house.

They assume that the only other option is to go to an architect who will give them over-the-top, and expensive ideas. You can achieve a predictably good result, no matter the style, location, condition or value of your home; and an exterior designer will help you, using well-considered touches of colour, materials and landscaping, composed together in a strategic way.

Jane Eyles-Bennett is one of Australia’s top exterior designers and owner of design firm Hotspace ConsultantsJoin Jane in her Facebook group Home Renovators Network Australia for design and renovation inspiration and insider tips for your home improvement projects.

The biggest decision facing renovators of brick homes

The biggest decision facing renovators of brick homes

To render or not to render is one of the biggest decisions facing renovators of brick homes.

On the surface, the pros and cons appear to be fairly straightforward. On the plus side, rendering can cover old-fashioned bricks and freshen up the facade. However, on the negative, there is always maintenance to be done because render tends to crack and deteriorate over time.

But it’s often not as simple as that. Rendering won’t deliver the beautiful facade a home owner was hoping for without actually assessing what is wrong with the facade in the first place.

Typically, a renovator will render a blocky 1970s, ’80s or ’90s brick home and not do anything else. Even if they have gone one step further and painted the gutters and front door, or done the garden up a bit, it still ends up looking like the same house, just in a different colour.

In part, this is because older style brick houses have those skinny windows, often in bronze or silver-anodised finish or cream powder-coated. This window style usually gives the house quite a flat appearance.

When the house is rendered (even if the windows are repainted), the entire facade becomes one featureless surface with little that adds interest or appeal.

To really give a home a designer-style makeover, begin by determining what aspects of the home aren’t working.

It may not be all the bricks’ fault. For example, a lot of older brick houses don’t have a clear focal point at the front. A good facade design can fix this by incorporating elements that will emphasise the front entrance so that the eye is naturally drawn towards the front door.

Consider adding a feature wall or a portico or some sort of roof structure above the entrance so that the entrance gains some dimension, depth and focus.

The most common reason for rendering is to cover up old-fashioned or unattractive bricks. The downside is that while rendering might give the house a better colour, you lose the visual interest that the mortar lines and texture of the bricks bring.

With a bit of creativity and planning, you can add this texture and interest back into the look of the house by adding some other elements. You might even retain some of the bricks and integrate them into your facade design.

However you choose to update your house, it pays to be respectful of its heritage (yes, even if it’s a ’70s or ’80s box). You can still achieve a modern design, but incorporate some elements that give a nod to the era the house was built in.

For example, you might incorporate door handles from that era or add a timber feature that is both modern and reflective of that time period. It’s not about compromising on a modern look, but about blending the old with the modern to achieve a new one.

Achieving a great facade for an older brick home requires more than just updating the windows, choosing a nice colour for the render and overhauling the garden.

It’s about introducing new materials and combinations of materials in such a way that they transform an otherwise flat and featureless house into something with texture, depth and visual interest.

Jane Eyles-Bennett is Australia’s only exterior designer specialising in house facades. Click here to view a selection of Before and After facade designs, created for clients of her business Hotspace Consultants. 

What to do if your home has an aesthetically challenged facade

When it comes to updating your home, it’s important to make sure the style you choose for your renovation suits not only your personal style, but the original character of the house.

I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of homes where the colours and materials chosen to supposedly “update” the house have not worked at all.

There are a million and one different styles, ideas, colours and concepts to choose from when renovating, so how do you know which ones to go with? Nothing screams “devalued” like a disjointed and aesthetically challenged facade, so getting these choices right is imperative.

No amount of money will improve the kerb appeal of your home if you don’t get the basics of the design right. Colours are only a small percentage of what makes up a beautifully designed home exterior.

The houses with the best street appeal look great because of the materials and colour selections that have been used — and how they are composed together on the house, yard and fences.

Focusing on one design style when renovating your facade is a great way to streamline your ideas and eliminate the risk of ending up with clashing elements and no unifying style.

Another bonus of focusing on one design style, and ultimately creating a much more appealing looking home, is the value you can add to your property.

A great place to start is by gathering images of your favourite design and style. This usually begins as a project filled with excitement about what is possible, but it is easy to become overwhelmed.

The trick to identifying one design style or theme for your renovation is to start wide, then narrow down. Gather all the images you can find that you like. This might be 50 or 100 photos – or even 200 or more.

Next, go through your images and see if you can pinpoint a common thread that runs through them. You might find you’ve pinned lots of contemporary homes with splashes of timber and grey. Or perhaps the majority of your pics are a combination of modern and Hamptons style.

It could be any number of style, colour and material combinations that run through your photos as a common theme. Even if you don’t know the name of the style, the important thing here is to group similar images together.

Once you’ve identified the most prevalent style in your collection of images, eliminate any that don’t fit with that range.

The great thing about this process is that you are narrowing down your choices of what you can do to your home by only giving yourself renovation options that fit within your most favoured design style. Confusion and feeling overwhelmed – be gone!

To work out ways of incorporating some of the ideas you’ve gathered, take particular note of what colours, materials and products have been used – and also how they have been composed together to create the look you’re drawn to.

Never start your renovation by picking out individual things from random images and applying them to your design.

That will almost always end up looking like a mismatch of unrelated styles patchworked together. Always start with identifying your design style first so that the final result is a collage of cohesive elements that all work together to create a beautiful space, area or facade.

Jane Eyles-Bennett is one of Australia’s top exterior designers and owner of design firm Hotspace ConsultantsJoin Jane in her Facebook group Home Renovators Network Australia for design and renovation inspiration and insider tips for your home improvement projects.

How the ‘sprinkle strategy’ can help you transform the facade of your home

Re-painting the exterior of your home will update it in a way nothing else will, but a spectacular facade requires careful consideration about what other features will make an appearance.

One of the design strategies we use in my design practice is what I call the “sprinkle strategy”. The sprinkle strategy is used beyond your main house colours and is what gives your facade a more cohesive and balanced look.

When renovating your facade, it’s usually best to stick to three or four colours for the overall concept. These will include things like paint colours, brick, timber, windows/guttering colours and every other element that exists there (excluding the landscaping).

Out of these three to four colours, you will generally have one main colour, then one or two less prominent colours. Finally, you should have an accent colour.

Your accent colour is something that contrasts with the other colours on your facade. It could be a much darker or lighter paint or trim colour than the other colours. Or it could be a different coloured material like timber or stone. This accent colour or material is typically “sprinkled” around your facade three to four times.

For example, imagine you’ve painted your facade, done all the trims, painted the gutters and roof and you’re now ready for the accent or contrast colour – the sprinkle. You might choose timber as your sprinkle in which case you might choose a timber front door, timber accents on the letterbox or portico and a timber-look garage door.

There is no hard and fast rule about what colours or materials should be less prominent. Sometimes you need to work in with whatever is existing.

In the example below, I re-designed the house facade keeping the red brick intact (the main colour in this instance). I had to work with the existing classic cream window frames, so used an off-white/very light cream paint colour and timber detailing as my secondary colours on the existing house and new entrance portico. My accent colour was the dark grey coloured roof, the plant pots on the front of the facade and the driveway.

The idea behind the sprinkle strategy is to make your house look more visually interesting and cohesive but not overdone. It gives you a happy balance so that you don’t end up with a jumbled mix of too many colours and materials, nor a lack of interesting elements to break up a plain or uninteresting facade.

Each area of your facade links to the next, giving a cohesive and easy-on-the-eye aesthetic.

If you wish, you can take the sprinkle strategy one step further by repeating your accent colour and material on the inside of your home. This will, of course, depend on your choice of accent, but it will help you create that much-talked-about indoor/outdoor flow for your home.

Jane Eyles-Bennett is one of Australia’s top exterior designers and owner of design firm Hotspace Consultants. Download her FREE “Home Renovators Guide to Planning your Facade Transformation” here. 

The two must-haves when renovating your front facade

It’s a nice feeling arriving home to a house with a beautiful facade, so if you’re thinking of updating yours you’ll want to get it right.

A common misconception is that the main way to improve your home’s facade is by choosing the right colours. This is important, but there are two other things that are far more important to get right – “visual balance” and “focus”.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking these concepts don’t apply to your home – they apply to every home (if you want it to look great).

Visual balance
It doesn’t mean that everything has to be symmetrical and matching (although in some houses it is), but there has to be a sense of things being even and balanced.

Imagine the difference in visual weight between a small white box and a large black box. The black box is visually heavier because the box is bigger and weightier, and the dark colour is visually heavier. The white box is smaller, lighter in weight and colour, and so is a lighter visual weight.

With that in mind, if you now take a look at your house front on and note everything you see, you should be able to tell if your house is visually balanced. If it is, there will be some sense of an evenness or balance to all the features. However, if you’ve got something like a big garage door, a tree, and/or a lot of detail on one side and then absolutely nothing on the other side, then the house is not visually balanced. Similarly, if you have a double-storey with steps leading up on one side but just a single level on the other side, there is a visual weight difference.

To improve the facade of a house that does not have visual balance, you need to even things out. You can use colour, texture, landscaping or other interesting elements to alter the visual weight of the different components.

Focus
A great facade design aims to have one strong focal point and that’s often your front entrance. If you have too many things drawing attention at the front, you lose focus, so choosing just one strong focal point is critical. The trick here is to make sure the other elements are not competing with the focal point but complementing it in some way.

For example, if your garage door is overly detailed or if there are too many different colours and materials going, this can complicate the scene and detract from the one focal point you want to be your hero.

If you’re lucky, your house might already be visually balanced and have a good focal point. If that’s the case, you can strengthen the focal point or downplay elements that detract from its visual balance.

If not and you’re planning on a considerable update to the facade of your home, then an exterior designer will help you ensure you have these foundational components for your renovation, correctly in place.

Designing an appealing facade means getting the fundamentals of the design right. If the fundamentals (in this case, visual balance and a strong focal point) aren’t there, no matter what colours you choose, your facade will lack that special something that could otherwise have been fabulous.

Why you shouldn’t buy your own renovation materials

Like most renovators, you’re probably looking for ways to save money on your renovation. You might think the obvious way to limit costs is to buy your own materials instead of having a tradesperson purchase them for you. Seems logical … doesn’t it?

However, if you look beyond the surface, you will see that buying your own materials isn’t always a wise move.

Why?

Well, let me give you an example. Let’s say you’re renovating your bathroom and you’ve bought your own tapware. Whether the plumbing is staying where it is or being relocated, once the tiling is done, all the plumber has to do is fit the new taps.

But what happens if something goes wrong after the taps are installed? Does the fault lie with the product or with the installation? Who pays to rectify the situation?

In all likelihood, if you had purchased your own products and handed them to the plumber to install, you would have to foot the bill to remove the tiles, change or fix the plumbing components that had failed, re-waterproof the walls, then retile the walls. However, if the plumber had purchased the tapware under your instruction, he or she should take full responsibility for fixing the problem – even if it involves paying for more materials and another trade to replace them (in this case tiles and the tiler).

Weigh up the hundreds or thousands of dollars it could cost you to get back into a wall to repair a problem as opposed to the (usually) much smaller extra cost of getting a tradie to buy your selected products and materials on your behalf. It’s a no-brainer really, isn’t it?

Let’s look at another example. Perhaps you’re renovating your kitchen and you’ve saved some dollars by ordering your own bench top. Come installation time, the kitchen installers and the joiner are ready to do their bit, but then you realise the bench top doesn’t fit the space.

Who is at fault here? Unfortunately, it’s you, and in this situation, you would now have to spend more time and money trying to get a new benchtop measured, ordered, delivered and installed.

It’s far better to spend a little extra up front for a tradie to purchase materials than it is to pay to have them fix a problem or redo a job when something goes wrong. And trust me on this one, there are many times things don’t quite work out when you are renovating.

Sometimes, you don’t find out there is an issue until a month or so down the track. What happens if you have a plumbing leak behind the wall in your bathroom or your kitchen bench sags?

If a tradie has purchased the materials, then you have to deal only with them, but if you have purchased the materials, then you have to battle to find out who is at fault – the installer, the manufacturers of the product, or the suppliers of the product.

Having each contractor take responsibility lessens miscommunication, disagreements and problems on site, and may not even cost you more. Often tradies and contractors get a discount from suppliers that they pass on to you.