DIY: Sprucing Up the Front of the House – Adding Curb Appeal on a Budget

October 24, 2017

Farrow Ball Light Blue Front Door Exterior Eggshell and masonry paint in Porch Brass bumble bee door knocker chequerboard tiles

Image:Design Soda

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Reader, let me be real, my private shame for the last two years has been in the shape of my front porch. There are far worse problems to have in life, accepted, and even within decorating mishaps. But let me get this off my chest, I think it’s something verging on historical vandalism when you invest in the cheapest most eye-assaulting-orange bricks on the market to cover up the only Victorian feature on the front of your home. This is what the previous owners did to our Victorian bay window in order to afford themselves some extra space for coats and boots. They didn’t just build alongside it and thus deprive the living room of two panes of light, but they actually took bricks out of the bay to put some of the horrible said cheap bricks in their place. 

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Estate Agents shot of the the front of the house as we inherited it.

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In my bravado I thought it would be the very first thing I’d knock down when we got the keys to the house, but nearly two years later and it’s still here. Forces combined against me, first of all the horrors in the bathroom pretty well stole our budget for the porch. And then, there was the front door issue, I didn’t dislike our front door per se, but it is a 1950’s door with a huge pane of bevelled glass made in an age when people left their doors open and security wasn’t an issue. I merrily trotted down to salvage yard after salvage yard before discovering that our door has somewhat unique dimensions to be commonly found in most salvage yards. I went on waiting lists and waited, nothing! I looked into the cost of a new door in a Victorian style which truly made my heart sink – surely a door can’t cost that much?! It does! And much as I’d like a new door, if I’ve got £4K to spare I can probably think of other better ways to invest it. And so I ignored the front in-part. 

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Farrow Ball Light Blue Front Door Exterior Eggshell and masonry paint in Porch Brass bumble bee door knocker chequerboard tilesFarrow Ball Light Blue Front Door Exterior Eggshell and masonry paint in Porch Brass bumble bee door knocker chequerboard tiles

Image:Design Soda

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During our first year here I painted tired picket fences in Farrow & Ball Downpipe exterior eggshell (which next door would now like to do too – double bonus!) and planted pretty flowers to distract from the slightly utilitarian feel of the front. I dug up the uneven turf and laid pebbles in their place and the area looked much better. But in truth my heart always sank a little as I put the key in our tasteless plastic porch door, the porch is just horrible and I wasn’t sure where to start with it. The inside of the house is full of period features and I’m super happy with all the redecoration, but the outside jars. Of the four photoshoots this year, only one magazine was brave enough to attempt to shoot the outside and they didn’t publish it as more than a thumbnail. Hint taken, there was no escaping it, my pretty little house was in need of some kind of facelift to the front. 

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Farrow Ball Light Blue Front Door Exterior Eggshell and masonry paint in Porch Brass bumble bee door knocker chequerboard tiles

Images:Design Soda

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In an acceptance of defeat with rewriting the book on the outside, this Autumn I decided to try and make peace with what we had. As with many decorating issues, my mind turned to paint. It truly is the most transforming thing and I approached my favourite paint brand Farrow & Ball for some eggshell for the front door and masonry paint for the inside porch. I was expecting this to transform the space a little. But I hadn’t banked on just how much better the inside area of the porch would look. I used Light Blue which is a very delicate shade, there’s a hint of green to its silvery blue-ness and it has a clean and sophisticated feel. It’s a colour I contemplated when painting my mothers front door in Oval Room Blue three years ago and when she didn’t choose it, I knew that it would be my next door colour! I’m so pleased with this shade, it’s super-muted hue adds just the right amount of colour to the space, but its also punchy enough to not feel insipid or safe.

 Farrow Ball Light Blue Front Door Exterior Eggshell and masonry paint in Porch Brass bumble bee door knocker chequerboard tiles

Farrow Ball Light Blue Front Door Exterior Eggshell and masonry paint in Porch Brass bumble bee door knocker chequerboard tiles

Antique brass push button Victorian style doorbell

Images:Design Soda

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The Light Blue shade works really well with our internal hallway (which is Oval Room Blue) and I had just the things for the door which I’d bought before we even moved in. This Bee door knocker (above) has been quite the hit on Instagram, I received dozens, if not hundreds, of email enquiries about it when I put it on Instagram Stories the weekend I was painting. I found it on Pinterest years ago and used the visual search button to track it down to ironmongery designer Michael Healy in America. I loved it so much that I bought the Bee door knocker through American Amazon, though its become available on UK Amazon in the last month (perhaps there was a surge from these enquirers on Stories!) and I’m so glad I did, its not cheap at just over £100 but in honesty decent door furniture is always pretty pricey. I paired the Bee knocker with a beehive design key fob from Willow & Stone and a new lock with matt antique brass pull from Wayfair. One thing I did install when we first moved, since we were having other electrical things changed, was the brass and marble Push button doorbell you see above, which came from Architectural Decor for £55.

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Farrow Ball Light Blue Front Door Exterior Eggshell and masonry paint in Porch Brass bumble bee door knocker chequerboard tiles

Image:Design Soda

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I was so happy with the new look, my nineteen fifties door was no longer an eyesore. But now the external porch looked so much worse! It was now the sole eyesore out front (bar the redundant satellite dish that I still need to find an odd jobs man to take down for me) and the orangeness of the cheap bricks looked all the more frightful next to the muted tones of Downpipe and Light Blue. So I took a punt with my leftover masonry paint, which had been super easy to use (the most joyfully thick paint I’ve ever applied!) and decided to paint it. I worked from the point of view that it couldn’t look any worse than it did, and if we’re not knocking the porch down for a few more years then I had to colourwash the aspect that most jarred with me. I have said this many times before, but I am a great advocate of classy paint to cover up a multitude of sins. If you don’t have a massive budget, I think paint will take you a long way. I believe in investing in good paint with high quality pigment and my chosen brand that I have been most loyal to for the last decade is Farrow & Ball. Now they say you can’t make a silk purse out of a sows ear don’t they, but I think you can throw some Farrow and Ball paint on pretty well anything and fake a decent semblance of style. I can’t lie, it still massively irks me that someone has bricked up the corner of the bay window here, but using the masonry paint from Farrow & Ball has changed the look of the front from ugly 80’s new build (which it isn’t!) to something coastal and stylish. The colour works beautifully with the pebbles and the Downpipe on the fences, and I have also sanded and painted the windowsills in Downpipe to bring the scheme together.

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Farrow Ball Light Blue Front Door Exterior Eggshell and masonry paint in Porch Brass bumble bee door knocker chequerboard tiles

Image:Design Soda

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And that should be it, a happy tale of how with minimal effort I’ve changed the feel of the outside of our house, increased its curb appeal and stopped internally sighing at the aesthetics when I come up the path. Except that as with so many things in life, last weekends storm decided to throw us a curveball! Whilst out picking some lavender from the front for a shoot, our front door slammed shut in the wind as it has many times over the last two years, except this time it shut with such force to shatter the entire glass panel!! I won’t lie readers, I did cry, I couldn’t believe that only two weeks after finishing my paint work nature had put us right back to square one. Happily I have managed to track down a pretty Three arch Victorian front door (after 5 hours of searching online, it’s amazing how dedicated a search becomes when you have hardboard as the central part of your door!) so I will finally have a pretty front door. 

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Saturday’s tale of woe above! But at least the outside looks pretty (below). The porch stays for now, and the new door will definitely be painted Light Blue again. But I’m looking forward to sticking a wreath on the new door once it’s hung and I’ve sanded and painted it (will be a bit of a restoration job though). And who knows, maybe by Spring I may have sorted my porch problem now that I no longer have an unsafe door. In the meantime I’ve received lots of compliments from the neighbours on the colour, maybe I’ve made my way up the Christmas card list for removing the eyesore we all had to pass! 

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Farrow Ball Light Blue Front Door Exterior Eggshell and masonry paint in Porch Brass bumble bee door knocker chequerboard tiles

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2 thoughts on “DIY: Sprucing Up the Front of the House – Adding Curb Appeal on a Budget

  1. melanie lissack

    Oh god Ruth!!! I can just imagine how you felt when it broke! It HAD to be after you lovingly painted it! The front looks beautiful though and that bee knocker and buzzer are amazing. It is all in the details!

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