When guests come calling, first impressions can work wonders. Here's how to maximise your kerb appeal and impress your guests before they've even crossed the threshold.
1. A lick of paint
Never underestimate the rejuvenating effects of a fresh splash of paint. In or out of the home, your paintwork lays the groundwork for your look, and keeping it tip-top will keep your outer walls looking their best.
If replenishing your home's whole facade seems a lot of effort, your front door is a good place to start. For extra points, paint the trim as well as the door itself or consider adding matching moulding.
2. Outside lighting
The lantern-either-side-of-the-door look is classic for a reason and having an illuminated exterior can be as important for safety as it is for aesthetics. Most outdoor lights will be wall-mounted, but for homeowners with porticoes, floor lamps are equally effective (if a little more available to light-fingered passers-by).
Aesthetics range from ornate, old-fashioned metal torches, to sleek, contemporary spotlights. More traditional options often look elegant during the day but by night, targeted modern lamps can 'wash' your outside walls by splashing them with a sheet-like glow.
3. Front door furniture
Metal isn't your main material for domestic decor, but it comes into its own on the front door. The brass lion's head door knocker never went out of style - nor did burnished letterboxes, elegant door handles and ornate house numbers.
4. Smart window shutters
There's any number of ways to banish light from your interior - curtains, blinds, putting something large in the way - but only shutters amp up your aesthetic on both sides of the brickwork. These statement window dressings are more expensive than their peers, and may periodically need restorative coasts of paint, but they more than make up for it with a breezy, Mediterranean feel.
5. Verdant vegetation
The mere presence of greenery in your living space does wonders for your wellbeing (seriously, science says so), and you don't need a garden to get into gardening.
Install window boxes, flank your entrance with pot plants, frame your front door with creepers or hook hanging baskets onto your porch.
Choose your flora wisely, as you wouldn't be the first homeowner to pick out their fave flowers, only to find that winter withers them into skeletal stalks. Consider evergreen shrubs or attractive azaleas that flower twice a year, or opt instead for sweet-smelling herbs like lavender and rosemary.
6. Install a bird feeder
A firm favourite in the nation's back gardens, there's no reason a bird feeder shouldn't be just as pleasant round the front. A boon more for the ears than the eyes, you can help your local wildlife while adorning your house-front with the sound of tinkling birdsong. It's a win-win.
7. Embrace symmetry
The human brain adores symmetry - in art it's soothing, in people it's sexy - and it can be a guiding light in almost any form of visual design. The front door is your centrepiece, and you can mirror your decor around it - two lanterns, two windows, two plant pots...
Two doorbells might be a stretch, but you never know until you try.
8. Move the bins
The devil is often in the detail and something so simple as moving or hiding your rubbish bins can help make your home exterior feel far fresher. The equation is simple: what do you want your visitors to see when they first arrive - a gate, garden and welcome mat or a foul-smelling pile of garbage?
9. Clean your gutters
This is the outdoor equivalent of cleaning your toilet - wholly unglamorous but essential if you don't want guests wrinkling their noses. An unattended gutter can quickly transform into a sodden, foul-smelling mass of insects and debris, causing leaks into the masonry and through the roof.
Out of sight should not mean out of mind. Gloves on, ladder up, mess out.
10. Pick up a power washer
Whatever you have in front of your house - porch, doorstep, garden path - it's most likely coated with dollops of dirt, and there's nothing more satisfying that purging the lot with a high-pressure power washer.
Easily one of the funnest household chores, the compact power pack and vacuum-like nozzle come with strong Ghostbusters vibes, and indiscriminately scour everything from fence-post to driveway. Alfresco cleanliness doesn't often last long, but while it does, you'll look like an outdoor Martha Stewart.
11. Add a friendly doormat
If you want your home to be more welcoming, why not say it in as many words? If a traditional welcome mat seems a little elementary, the remarkably extensive novelty doormat market will open a new world of possibilities.
Just avoid the inexcusably cliched: "Hello, I'm Mat."