Monday, 30 May 2011

Dan's cardinal sins of decorating. Outdoor edition.

Now that it's finally warmed up outside, rather than throwing my shoes in the car and heading to the gym I've been able to do three of my favourite things. First, I get to jog around the block. Second, I'm getting some fresh air and don't have to worry about being intimated by all the scary jocks and lastly, as I'm jogging and enjoying the fresh air / sunshine / jockless combo I get to critique the homes around my neighbourhood.

And though there are a lot of really nice homes in and around my neighbourhood, there also a few that could use a bit of, to say this. I'm sure we've all had this happen to us - we've been jogging, walking or driving down a street filled with beautiful homes when suddenly we come across one that that stands out - for all the wrong reasons.
Sometimes you'll come across a place that just makes you cringe - maybe it's the paint colour, or the landscaping or perhaps the rusty old Buick parked in the front yard. If you're like me you'll stop, put your iPod on pause and just stand there, almost in awe of whatever it is that the homeowner has done to unintentionally add attention to their residence.

front porch couch

And though we all want people to stop and stare at our homes from time to time, we want them to looking at the elements of our residences that make a great impression rather than having them wonder what the hell we were smoking when we were considering our home's exterior finish and landscaping.

ugly back yard garbage junk pile abandoned car Mesa Arizona home house for sale
Therefore, to help you keep from having your neighbours picket your home and throw eggs at you any time you try to lounge on that old couch that's currently sitting on your front deck, I present to you my cardinal sins of decorating - outdoor edition.

1. Christmas decorations should only be seen at Christmas time.

christmas decorations and lights still up in summer

I'm sorry, but when it comes to Christmas decorations, I am not one of those individuals that believes that it's okay to leave them on your house throughout the year. I do not want to see your icicle lights hanging across your garage after the month of January. I don't care how cold it is where you live. The same goes for inflatable   snowmen and other giant characters. I'm still seeing lights all over the place, but luckily I haven't seen any Virgin Marys, reindeer or over-sized cutouts during my evening runs. If you've still got Christmas stuff outside, do me, and your neighbours a favour by packing it up.

2. Landscaping with rocks, old cars and gravel will only make your neighbours hate you.
Before considering any landscaping projects in your front yard consider walking or driving around the block and taking a look at everyone is doing. Well, maybe not everyone else. If someone has a Buick parked in the garage and unkempt hedges, keep driving. But no, seriously, take a drive. Get a feel for what others are doing. Grass? Shrubs? Maybe a couple of tasteful looking flowerbeds leading up the driveway? All good ideas. Giant rocks? Old vehicle parts in flower beds? Giant solar frogs in flowerbeds? Not good ideas. Not sure what you should be doing? find a friend that has a good looking yard and ask them what they'd do. Or, consider bringing a landscape designer or even a landscape design student in to give you some tips and ideas.

3. Colour me wrong. Finishing your home in a colour so ugly and garish that I should come over and slap you.

The Purple House Italian Restaurant - Homemade Italian Cuisine

There are people that have taste and there are those that don't. Some people are born with it and should be allowed to pick out the colour of their home. The people that aren't born with it should not be allowed near paint chips. 

It's one thing if you live in a unique environment where everyone selects bright and unique colours for their homes. Where a bright purple or or mint green home might be encouraged. But when you live in suburban Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada - you decide to go out on a limb and paint your house pink, I will come over and slap you.
Though you might think that you're being unique and are creating a home that has a distinct feel to it, what you're really doing is offending your neighbours and creating what will probably be known as the neighbourhood eyesore. Again, drive around and see what your neighbours are doing - if everyone is doing earth-toned colours, it's probably a good idea to stick with lots of earth-tones. Are people sticking to the tried and true whites, browns, reds, etc. to accompany their post-war style homes? Again, probably a good idea to follow suit. If you really want that bright colour....consider using it as an accent colour for planters or for cushions on your patio furniture, or inside where your neighbours don't have to see it.
Still feeling lost? Hit up your local paint store for some advice. While the summer student working behind the desk might not be the best person to be giving ideas on what colours you should go with, you will find some great books and pamphlets produced by the different paint companies that show classic colour combinations.

4. Murals do not belong on garage doors.
While I can appreciate all of the hard work and creativity that goes into creating a mural, I'm one of those guys that strongly believes that they have no place on garage doors. Call me a prude, or a whatever you want, but seriously, I'd rather not see a lovely forest scene on the front of your home anytime I drive by your place.

I've only come across one mural door during my time in the city, but it seriously takes the cake for being one of the ugliest - I'd like to throw a picture of it up here, but I have this goofy fear that somehow the homeowner will discover it and be offended by my comments. Then again, that's kind of the point of this whole post. The particular door that I'm thinking about is on a newer home, finished in pink stucco. This particular home has a double car garage with a door that has recreated a wharf complete with fishing boats and lobsters. At some point I'll be brave enough to drive by and take a picture. It's pretty horrific. I'm surprised that the homeowners aren't being egged on a regular basis....cruel but true.

5. Unkempt landscaping will not win you any friends (unless you like small rodents).
Here's a secret that I'd like to share with you - yards require upkeep from time to time. If you're going to have grass, shrubs, trees or flowerbeds, chances are that at some point or another you're going to have to get out there are cut that grass, trim those shrubs and branches and dig through those flowerbeds to keep them looking good.

Being the apartment dweller that I am, I'm stuck with pots. But there are times when I'm wandering around and I see beautiful homes where the homeowners have let grass take over their front flowerbeds. Gorgeous perennials and shrubbery being choked out by bush grass and dandelions. There have been a few times where I've been tempted to pull off my roller blades (that's right....I'm one of those guys) and walk across someone's front yard to start weeding. I'm not saying you have to go all Martha on me and plan thirty different perennials, etc, etc, but make what you've got look good. Pickup some check annuals or look for perennials and bi-annuals that grow quickly and keep weeds away.

And while I could go and on and on with further cardinal sins (and I might just have to) I'll basically sum up this post by saying that your home should be someplace that you take pride in, not an excuse for your neighbours to gossip and discuss how lazy you are. Think about it - you've invested a pile of coin into purchasing your home. Why not retain or add to the value of your residence? Not only will your home end-up looking good, but your neighbours will actually want to talk to you and you'll feel good about where you're add and over what is yours - regardless of whether it's an 800 SF bungalow or a 3000 SF suburban split-level. 

That and I won't be forced to come over and slap you.

Why have what's on the left when you can have (with a bit of work) the home on the right?!

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