Great Spaces: There grows the neighborhood

Architect/TV host John Gidding offers tips for multiple-home improvement, or just a single room

By Steven Lindsey

Anyone who owns a home can quickly name the one house on the block that ruins the whole street for everyone. It could be as simple as an unkempt yard or as drastic as broken-down cars perched on cinderblocks on the driveway. Architect and HGTV host John Gidding’s new show, Curb Appeal: The Block, is all about tackling entire groups of homes and building a sense of pride in a community. Fortunately, you don’t have to go on a reality show to benefit from his advice, from ways to improve your own home to getting everyone living around you in on the act.

Taking on the neighborhood

In Curb Appeal: The Block, Gidding is challenged with designing and improving facades on more than one house. Rather than just helping one person make his or her home shine, his job is to upgrade an entire block while staying true to the aesthetics of the homes and rely on historic and contextual cues.

“It makes a big difference when multiple homeowners in a neighborhood feel the benefits of a curb appeal facelift, typically with the side effect that after we leave, those neighbors continue to find ways of beautifying their surroundings and further strengthening those neighborly bonds,” he says.

The biggest culprits for bringing down curb appeal, according to Gidding, are ugly yards, shoddy or unappealing front doors, little regard for quality lighting, lack of color, faltering shutters and gutters and a crooked mailbox.

“A clean yard with well-maintained planting beds and mulched details is all you need in terms of landscaping. Some colorful plants following the path to the front door doesn’t hurt.”

And, he says, if you don’t have a dedicated path to the front door and have people walking up your driveway, you’ve broken Gidding’s No.1 rule: Always have a path to the front door.

“After that it’s about bringing color to the front door to attract attention to the entrance, and then decorating the entrance with a place to sit, a sconce or lighting fixture that matches the metal finishes of the door hardware, and then complementing the entrance colors with accents on the facade like repainting shutters or installing window boxes. It’s really not rocket science, but it can require some color coordination and taste.”

Without a TV crew in tow, people may find it difficult to get their neighbors to feel the need to improve their homes’ curb appeal.

“The most effective grease for this particular wheel is from the elbow. In other words, if you are willing to put in a little work yourself, you’ll be amazed how receptive neighbors can be to chipping in. The worst thing you can do is tell neighbors how to improve their lot or side of the street. You end up fracturing the very fabric that needs to be built up,” he says.

“On the other hand, if you propose a weekend where whoever wants to can join in doing a few projects around the neighborhood, you’ll find more and more people willing to help out. Once that kind of relationship is built up, the sky is the limit for how much improvement a block can affect as a team.”

Increasing your home’s value

“Kitchens and bathrooms are the tried and tested focal points for a successful home renovation,” Gidding says. “Granted, they can be expensive to redo, but invariably the investment comes back in property values. For kitchens, cabinet resurfacing, countertop upgrades, and new appliances are the big-ticket crowd pleasers.”

“For bathrooms, it’s retiling and new fixtures. Both these rooms are slaves to trends, so it’s good to be well versed in what’s new and hot in the market.

One year it’s all about the convection ovens and induction cooktops, and another year it can be about natural cabinet fronts and stone backsplashes. To avoid picking trends that will become dated, always look for low-detail (no multicolored inlays within the backsplash), high-quality (granite and stainless) upgrades.”

When adding value to a home that isn’t for sale, the only difference is the ability to infuse more personality in the renovations. This is a good time to hire a designer and really work on changes that will enhance your lifestyle. Built-ins are a great example, as are custom pieces of furniture that fit within specific nooks in your home. Try to maximize the spaces within your home that aren’t being used optimally. Spaces under the stairs can be reclaimed, breakfast nooks created, offices built into bedroom corners, you get the idea. These are all upgrades that will improve your day-to-day, while still being generally appreciated down the road if you do decide to sell,” he advises.

Prepping your home for sale

Gidding’s first HGTV show was Designed to Sell, a show that helped people transform their homes to sell faster and get a higher price. There are a few projects that anyone can do to make a house more appealing to prospective buyers, including some that don’t cost a thing.

“The single least expensive and most effective strategy isn’t even a design tip. It’s a clutter tip. Get rid of it!” Gidding says. “I’ve found that the homes that stay the shortest amount of time on the market are the ones that have removed about 50 percent of all clothes, belongings, knick knacks and assorted items from their shelves and closets. Some choose to rent a storage unit, some are already in their new homes and smartly move everything but the staging items to it, and others simply call Mom and use an extra bedroom as temporary holding space.”

“I always tell people to make their closets look like they live a charmed life of white shirts, beige pants, and sandals. It’s the lifestyle you’re selling as much as the house, and a cluttered home is possibly the single biggest detractor when selling.”

As far as actual design strategies, the rules are simple.

“Make sure every room is staged to have an identity,” he says. In other words, no guest rooms that are “storage rooms” and no this-dining-room-could-also-be-an-office” spaces. He also advises to use neutral, low-saturation colors on all walls that complement any furniture. Add fresh flowers to the foyer and other appropriate spaces, plant annuals and perennials in the front yard for curb appeal, and make sure the house numbers are appealing and visible.

His most important tip, which goes hand-in-hand with clutter removal is to clean, clean, clean.

“That means within drawers, every bathroom and kitchen surface, under beds, and every nook you think a buyer will not look, but trust me they will. Oh, final tip. If any bathroom has carpeting, be prepared to keep that house on the market for a nice, long time.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 15, 2011.

—  John Wright

Starvoice • 12.31.10

By Jack FertigMel-Gibson-fourth-rant-audio-released

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAY

Mel Gibson turns 55 on Monday. After riding years of box office success, karma bit the actor/director in the ass hard. His homophobia and anti-semitism are no secret, but charges of domestic violence and racism throughout 2010 hurt his career. He was dropped by his talent agency and his film Edge of Darkness was considered one of the bigger flops of the year. Mega-ouch.

……………………………..

THIS WEEK

Sun squaring Saturn adds the weight of age and responsibility, but Venus enters Sagittarius, leading affections and aesthetics toward new adventures. She gets in the middle of that square offering frivolous escape that can too easily complicate problems at hand, but she also offers creative solutions.

……………………………..

CAPRICORN Dec 21-Jan 19
You’re at the top of your game, but what’s next? The answer to that is not as urgent as it may seem. Relax, indulge in a romantic or sensual retreat and the hard questions will gain perspective.

AQUARIUS Jan 20-Feb 18
The world’s troubles are not necessarily your own. Discussing global and personal worries with friends help balance it out. For answers, look across borders and oceans.

PISCES Feb 19-Mar 19
Put your deep, dark imagination to work. Even in a bleak future there are opportunities. Even if the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train, you can ride it out.

ARIES Mar 20-Apr 19
The responsibilities of work and relationships feel oppressive. A romantic adventure is needed. If partnered, plan a getaway. If single, a stern attitude is sexy, but balance it with playful warmth.

TAURUS Apr 20-May 20
As hard as you’ve been working, you’re entitled to a much-needed release. If you really need to beat someone, there are eager victims. Just keep it safe and consensual.

GEMINI May 21-Jun 20
Play only for funsies. Take a chance on love or a passionate facsimile. Incredible sex is no basis for a solid relationship. Take it one day at a time and see what else there is.

CANCER Jun 21-Jul 22
A strong sense of responsibility at home can be a millstone or a motivator. Go with the latter. Once you drag your tush into action, momentum will make the rest of it a lot easier.

LEO Jul 23-Aug 22
Even you have inarticulate moments. Take them as a creative challenge. Playfulness boosts morale and productivity. Too much, not so good. Turn up the jokes and your dazzling smile.

VIRGO Aug 23-Sep 22
Your best investment of time, energy and money is in your own home and community. Think ahead before taking on responsibilities. Spreading good will at home will help build your standing.

LIBRA Sep 23-Oct 22
The weight of the world seems to be on your shoulders. Opportunities can be hard to find, but they’re there. A lighthearted chat with a sister (genetic or otherwise) can help you get perspective.

SCORPIO Oct 23-Nov 21
Life is tough, but don’t let troubles wear you down. When you find yourself worrying, channel that into constructive thought toward a solution. Stick to basics and remember what’s important.

SAGITTARIUS Nov 22-Dec 20
You may be worrying too much about money. Focus on your personal assets, the kind you’d have even if you were penniless and naked. You almost always fare better than most.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 31, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas