The following is a post from contributing writer Jami.
Many people dream of living in a cottage. Some don’t. But no matter which camp you fall in, adding cottage character is a great way to increase your home’s value and create a welcoming, cheerful, and imperfect (my favorite part) atmosphere. A place to sit on a front porch and watch horses in the pasture across the street or wave to the neighbors.
When we bought our house eight years ago, the exterior looked like many typical ranch houses built circa 1982. The main impression it left on me was a lot of garage with some house attached. Which was not very welcoming. Why did we buy it? It was during the housing boom a few years ago and that’s what was available in our price range. However, what I really wanted was a cottage – not just a certain house style, but a mentality that welcomed people from the outside in.
Through our subsequent remodeling, we’ve discovered that it takes only a few simple changes – things that are easy to do yourself – to help a plain-Jane house become the “cottage” you’ve always wanted.
5 Simple Ways To Add Cottage Character To Your Home
1. Make The Entry Welcoming
When we moved into our house, friends and family couldn’t find the door. Literally. Once they figured out it was behind the tree, they’d often wade through the ground cover and duck under the tree in order to get to the door from the circular drive.
Wanting people to feel welcomed, this was one of the first outside projects we tackled. We cut down the tree, built a wood porch right over the cement stoop, added two steps leading to the door and a path from the circular drive (made out of broken concrete from an unused dog run on the property).
Other than making sure people can find your front door, other simple ways to create a welcoming entry include:
- Painting the door a contrasting color
- Including a pot of seasonal flowers or greenery
- Making room for a bench or chair (we use ours for leaving items out for people, setting down bags to unlock the door, and taking off muddy shoes)
- Updating the light fixture
- Sweeping out the cobwebs
2. Plant a Welcoming Flower Garden
Don’t underestimate the power of plants and flowers to make a house feel like a home. And to welcome – or not – people to that home. Notice in the before picture above how the plantings hide not only the door but the windows, too? Keeping plants low and letting the windows and doors show create a “please stop by for a chat” message rather than a “shades drawn, don’t bother me” one.
The garden doesn’t have to be big or complicated. Here are some ideas to keep it simple and easy-care:
- Use evergreen plants like boxwood, arborvite, or bird’s-nest spruce.
- In the shade garden above, you’ll find spirea, hostas, hydrangeas and Jack Frost brunnera – all needing only a once-yearly shearing and adequate water. For sunny gardens, consider yarrow, daylilies, sun-loving spireas, Autumn Joy sedum, and low growing roses (the Knockout variety are some of the easiest care roses).
- Fill in with a few inexpensive annuals for spots of color that last all season.
- Make upkeep easy by watering with soaker hoses and using newspaper and mulch to keep the weeds down and hold in moisture.
3. Beef Up Window Molding
Making window moldings larger goes a long way to helping your windows become more prominent and open. It also really blurs the lines as to the actual age of the house. In our before picture on the left, it’s easy to tell this house was built in 1982, isn’t it? Less than $50.00 later, the window could be on a craftsman-style house, or farmhouse from years ago.
We did the same with the bedroom windows that can be seen in the previous pictures of the garden. Eliminating the plastic shutters and making the molding wider was a simple, inexpensive update.
4. Add a Porch
While a porch may not be the simplest or least expensive way to add cottage character to your home, it certainly is one of the things many people long for and adds a friendliness to many house styles.
Since adding a roof is one of the most costly parts of a new porch, we lowered the expense by using the existing roof for part of our new long porch (we moved the posts to make it 6-ft. wide) and constructing a simple pergola structure for the other half. We chose to cover ours with a clear roofing because we live in a wet climate, but it would also look lovely left open or used to grow grapes or a flowering vine.
5. Freshen With Paint
Lastly, a time-honored way to update a house is with paint. As you can see in the above photos, our house went from gray to butter yellow. What I like most about the brighter, cheery color is how the plants and flowers stand out against the yellow background.
Choose a classic color you love that will complement all the other steps you’ve taken to give your house “cottage” character- a place where your friends and family will feel welcomed and you will, too.