When was the last time you really thought about your front porch, and ideas to beautify the front of your house? You’ve probably spent a lot of time spiffing up the inside of your home or tending to your front lawn, but your front porch is another area of your home that deserves a decent amount of time and attention.
Many people get so preoccupied with decorating the interior of their home that they overlook this area, says Dawn T. Totty, a designer based in Chattanooga, TN. If you’ve let your porch fall by the wayside, you’re missing out.
“Designing a well-curated front porch not only adds value to your home, but it also creates another opportunity for [you] to increase your living space,” says Totty. “Think of it as your outdoor living room.”
Whether you have a modern concrete slab or a grand wraparound porch with a view, there’s sure to be a design tip below to help you make the most of this all-important (and often neglected) space.
1. Bring art outside
Provided that you place it in a dry, weather-proofed part of your porch, “artwork, or even a mirror placed on an inside wall, can create interest and give the look of an indoor living space,” Totty says. It’s like getting the best of both worlds!
2. Set a table (or two)
Although many porches have minimal square footage, “Cocktail and side tables make the space functional and cozy,” says Totty.
A bistro table with two to four chairs should be more than adequate for an al fresco dinner or after-dinner cocktail with friends. And while the chairs and table don’t need to match, “They should complement each other,” she adds.
3. Front porch fire pit
“Table fire features are a great way to create an elegant atmosphere,” says Totty. Even a small fire pit “brings a wow factor to any porch decor,” she says.
Buy one off the shelf or gather ingredients like lava rocks, a rectangular planter, and gel fuel, and craft your own DIY version.
4. Lose the boring porch lights
When you’re revamping your porch space, lighting is key. “Flush-mount lighting is not the only option,” Totty says.
Try modern semiflush-mount lighting or a chic pendant light instead. Either option will illuminate the threshold of your home and give your visitors something to talk about when they walk through the door.
5. Anchor the space with furniture
If space is plentiful, choose a sturdy, solid set of furniture that can withstand the onslaught of weather from all four seasons, says Totty.
Opt for a sofa, love seat, or armchair (or some combination of the two) upholstered in outdoor fabric. Then, place a throw blanket on the arms of the furniture before guests stop by, to make the space feel even more cozy.
The goal, Totty says, is to create “a living room aesthetic for year-round use.”
6. Throw paint on the ceiling
Who says your porch ceiling has to be a shade of blah? Paint it a striking color like sky blue to “increase the depth of the space and ensure the architecture remains the focal point,” says Dee Schlotter, senior color marketing manager at the paint company PPG.
If blue isn’t really your style, Schlotter suggests picking a color that will harmonize with your surrounding landscape.
7. Beam it up
Wooden beams are the architectural addition you didn’t know you needed. If you have a sloped, wide opening above your porch, consider adding in a few beams for a rustic, Craftsman-style vibe.
If you live in a rainy or snowy climate and are worried about water damage, you can still join in on the fun. Just check out faux wooden beams.
“Unlike real wood products, faux beams stand up to extreme outdoor conditions and don’t attract wood-boring pests. They don’t split, crack, or chip like real wood, and are much lighter and cheaper than buying old barn wood,” says David Ellwanger, owner of AZ Faux Beams. Faux wood might also be a good choice if termites are a problem in your area.
Any homeowner with a yard will want to learn how to prune trees. After all, foliage is a valuable feature on a property, even more so if it’s well maintained. Plus, pruning isn’t just aesthetically pleasing, but important to a tree’s health. And maybe yours, too!
“Pruning allows air to freely circulate through the tree, which helps prevent disease and promote better flowering,” says Jeff McManus, the director of landscape services at the University of Mississippi and author of “Growing Weeders Into Leaders.” Another bonus: Better air circulation keeps the tree from falling over (and onto your house!) in high winds.
While you could hire a landscaper, any homeowner can learn how to prune trees. Here are the steps, tools, and timing info to do it right.
“The best time to prune trees is generally in the late winter or early spring,” says McManus. “The reason for this is that it’s easier to see the limbs while they’re bare, pruning cuts will heal faster, and it’s right before the tree starts to grow anew in the warmer weather.”
Step 1 is pretty simple: If it looks sick, remove it. You don’t want to leave anything on the tree that will impede new growth. If a limb is diseased, it could infect other healthy branches, so get it off. Same with any dead leaves, fruit, flowers, or limbs. Plus, “limbs that touch your home or roofline should always be removed,” says McManus.
Step 2: Work from the inside out
Once all the dead stuff is off, “move to the inside of the tree and remove twiggy horizontal growth that crosses the center,” says McManus. “I also like to remove any crossing or rubbing branches and water sprouts, which are branches growing straight up in the center.”
Once you’ve worked your way to the outside branches, trim any limbs that are growing out of bounds. A well-manicured tree generally looks symmetrical, so if something is sticking out or one side looks bushier than the other, try to get the tree in balance. Also check the tree from several angles.
Step 3: Look for the wrinkles
When removing an entire limb, you want to prune close to the trunk and above the wrinkles. “Look for the rings of wrinkled bark where the limb meets the trunk and cut just outside the wrinkled ring,” says McManus. “This helps the wound heal naturally.”
If you don’t need to remove an entire limb, look instead for an outwardly growing side shoot or side bud (this doesn’t mean a flower bud, but rather a bulging spot on the limb where the tree will launch new growth). Cut at a slight angle (about 45 degrees) just above the shoot or bud.
Step 4: Use a three-cut method for larger limbs
For limbs larger than 1.5 inches in diameter, you should use the three-cut method to remove the limb in order to keep from damaging the tree. If the bark tears or is pulled off the tree as the limb drops to the ground, it’s tough for the tree to heal quickly, and may even lead to future damage of the trunk. The three-cut method helps prevent that from happening.
Using your pruning saw, make a cut along the bottom of the branch, about 4 inches away from the trunk of the tree. Cut about one-third of the way in. This cut is a preventive one that keeps the bark on the limb from pulling away, down the trunk of the tree, as it’s being removed.
Once the first cut is done, move about 2 inches outward from the first cut. This is where you’ll make a second cut—this time on the top of the limb, removing the limb by cutting straight down, parallel to the first cut.
After most of the limb is removed, you can cut closer to the rings of wrinkled bark where the limb once met the trunk. Cutting off this last stub will help this wound heal naturally.
Step 5: Before you cut, always ask why
“Never remove more than 25% of the tree when pruning,” instructs McManus. “And keep in mind, most newly planted flowering trees need very little, if any, pruning.”
A good rule of thumb to stave off over-pruning: Question your cuts before you make them. “I teach others to ask, ‘I am cutting this limb because…’ since this will help you examine your cuts and keep you from removing too much,” says McManus.
A recent report by CoreLogic revealed that U.S. home values appreciated by more than 37% over the last five years. Some are concerned that this is evidence we may be on the verge of another housing “boom & bust” like the one we experienced from 2006-2008.
Recently, several housing experts weighed in on the subject to alleviate these fears.
Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac Chief Economist
“The evidence indicates there currently is no house price bubble in the U.S., despite the rapid increase of house prices over the last five years.”
Edward Golding, a Senior Fellow at the Urban Institute’s Housing Finance Policy Center
“There is not likely to be a national bubble in the way that we saw the first decade of the century.”
Christopher Thornberg, Partner at Beacon Economics
“There is no direct or indirect sign of any kind of bubble.”
Bill McBride, Calculated Risk
“I wouldn’t call house prices a bubble.”
David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices
“Housing is not repeating the bubble period of 2000-2006.”
A recent article by Teo Nicolais, a real estate entrepreneur who teaches courses on real estate principles, markets, and finance at Harvard Extension School concluded that the next housing bubble may not occur until 2024.
“Those who study the financial crisis of 2008 will (we hope) always be weary of the next major crash. If George, Harrison, and Foldvary are right, however, that won’t happen until after the next peak around 2024.
Between now and then, aside from the occasional slow down and inevitable market hiccups, the real estate industry is likely to enjoy a long period of expansion.”
The reason for the price appreciation we are seeing is an imbalance between supply and demand for housing. This has created a natural increase in values, not a bubble in prices.
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