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Whether you plan to move or simply wish to improve your surroundings, a healthy dose of curb appeal sets a welcoming tone for your home. Now that the snow has finally melted, you can put your property's best face forward with tips from exhibitors at the recent Novi Home & Garden Show, like Jeremy Christianson, who did a talk on the topic.

According to Merriam-Webster, curb appeal is "the visual attractiveness of a house as seen from the front street," says Christianson, who owns Plymouth-based Michigan Landscape Design Services.

"Also known as, how your neighbors judge you," he says.

Give them something good to talk about. First, assess the overall appearance of your property. "Is there too much or not enough landscaping? Is it balanced, not with symmetry, but harmony?" Christianson asks.

"Can you see your front door? Does your front yard highlight the architectural elements of your home? Is the gut feeling happy or sad?"

While a minimalist approach to your front garden may not be sufficient, "No plants are better than dead plants," he says.

An overgrown landscape can block the view of your house. "There should be an obvious path to your front door and it should be clear. Planting beds should be maintained, mulched and monitored," Christianson says. "See what should be removed, replaced or rejuvenated and add color and texture with new plant material."

Redefine the planting bed edge, refresh mulch, pull weeds and keep beds debris free.

Layer plants with taller ones in the back and shorter in the front and consider year-round interest when making your selections. "For a front yard, keep it simple. Plant less variety and more quantity," he says.

If you live on a lake, your curb appeal is what's visible from a boat. Add yard art for a focal point or an arbor to frame a view. "It's essentially a doorway in your yard," Christianson says.

Come spring, says Ron Krueger, landscape designer with Serene Surroundings in Plymouth, your property should look clean and fresh. "Stay on top of plant maintenance early on, so that it's not looking rough when the warm weather arrives," he says. "When things start to look overgrown, even the nicest plants can look bad."

The best time to plan is during the winter. "Once spring hits, everyone wants new landscaping and the time is passing by," he says. "Begin pruning before the season starts. Just doing that initial cleanup makes your property start to look fresh."

Consider how your landscape looks at night. LED landscape lights use little power to great effect," says Krueger. Some change color and can be controlled from your phone.

For outdoor surfaces, standard concrete isn't your only option. Jessica Leese, who owns Inspired Concrete Design in Highland (an authorized Concrete Technology Inc. or CTi dealer) with her husband Robert, says the concrete coating they apply doesn't require replacing your existing concrete.

As long as the existing concrete is structurally sound, they can correct cracks and prep the surface before the application. "You're saving on labor because we're not removing the former surface or destroying the surrounding landscaping in the process," she says. "We can create one cohesive look and it can be used for your driveway, walkway, porch or steps; anywhere there's concrete."

The product is twice as strong as concrete and it's nonporous, she says, "There's an option for any budget and style. You can make it look like part of the landscape."

It's about beautifying what you have, says Leese, "We work with clients to create any color, pattern or texture that would enhance the appearance of the home."

Earth Stones in Detroit uses recycled granite to create unique horizontal and vertical surfaces including walkways, driveways, porches, patios, garden walls, columns, mailboxes and retaining walls, says owner John D'Anna.

The end result is rich in texture and tone. "It has a rustic old-world feel and it's environmentally friendly for those who want something cool but affordable that will outlive concrete," he says. "Most ancient cities are made out of natural stone because they didn't have anything else and they're still standing."

There's a growing demand for decorative accents in driveways and walkways. "You can add a little bit of pop on a budget," says D'Anna. Distinctive features, like freestanding columns with lights mounted on top, lend presence to your property while a cantilevered seating area in the form of a rectangular pillar creates a quaint conversation area.

For the façade, homeowners are choosing cultured stone to add visual interest to a porch area, peak or bay window, and colored shutters can really make a house stand out, says Ryan McGlinch, vice president of McGlinch & Sons Co. in Farmington Hills.

Even gutters have become easy on the eyes. "The trend is to blend them into the house," says McGlinch. Copper remains popular and collection boxes for downspouts add a historic touch.

Your front door is a major player when it comes to curb appeal. "We are seeing less of a trend in accenting the front door with color and more with stained fiberglass wood grain and glass accents," he says.

Classic outdoor light fixtures are popular as well.

Fiber cement siding adds another layer of distinction. "Shake siding is a very popular accent to add curb appeal," says McGlinch. "It brings your eye to the house."

With today's technology, asphalt roof designs mimic slate, shake or Spanish tile. "Your roof is becoming more of a focal point, not just with shape, but with color. It's high definition with very distinct color variations," he says.

One way to boost your curb appeal is by pairing white siding with a black roof and black gutters. "It's very detailed with a distinctive outline that blends with the roof instead of the siding. It's a little bit different, so it doesn't look like anyone else's house," says McGlinch.

Personalization is part of the charm of curb appeal. Once you get started, you might inspire your neighbors to try something new.

Jeanine Matlow writes the Smart Solutions column in Homestyle. You can reach her at


Michigan Landscape Design Services (

Serene Surroundings (

Inspired Concrete Design (

Earth Stones (

McGlinch & Sons Co. (

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