My friend, a former fashion writer, came over last week to talk about her new job. We got right down to the important stuff.
“Did you get a bunch of new clothes?” I asked.
“Of course!” She said. “But mostly I got new jewelry and a nice handbag.”
Now, I am arguably the only person in the world in whom this conversation would trip thoughts of curb appeal. But it did.
Accessories, as my fashion-forward friend knows, are what people notice first. Whether on a house or a person, the earrings and outdoor wall lamps, the necklaces and door knockers, the watches and handles, the handbags and mail boxes are what make that critical first impression.
Taken together they either say, “Buttoned up with act together,” or “Meep, meep! Alert! We need a makeover! Stat!”
Thus, I was intrigued recently when I learned that for as little as $100 — or $300 if you go all out — you could greatly bolster your home’s curb appeal with a few pieces of hardware.
Knowing this made me want to start an intervention program right on my own street.
Now, we’ve been over the importance of the entryway. We’ve also covered the significance of details. Today, however, we’re taking this dialogue to the upper division — to entryway details, fine points many homeowners let slide.
You know the homefronts I’m talking about. Their address numbers are rusted, with one or two swinging sadly off kilter. Their door handles and knockers saw their prime during the Nixon administration. And their mail slots creak hauntingly and look as if they came straight from the auto salvage yard.
You know I’m all for vintage, but the difference between original and decrepit is like the difference between aging well and aging at warp speed.
“Handles, door knockers, and address numbers often reveal a home’s age, but not in the best sense,” said Jonathan Begg, product marketing manager for National Hardware, of Lake Forest, Calif.
When worn, tired and rusty, they say, “Stopped caring,” which is a shame because they are easy and inexpensive to replace.
“It was simple,” said my friend of her updated career look. “A few pieces of statement jewelry did the trick, and it was a lot less than buying a bunch of clothes.”
To giving your house jewelry an affordable makeover, Begg offers these hardware refresh tips:
• Pick a finish. Just because your builder chose polished brass for your house when it was built in 1978 doesn’t mean you have to stick with that finish. Satin nickel and oil-rubbed bronze, once considered alternative finishes, are mainstream today, Begg said. However, polished brass, antique brass, antique bronze, pewter, and plain black are also popular.
• Make them match. Whichever finish you select, stick with it for all your outdoor hardware. Handles, door knockers, mail slots and outdoor lamps should match. Note, however, that, just to make life frustrating, one manufacturer’s interpretation of brushed nickel or antique bronze is often different from another’s. “Before installing, put the pieces next to each other to make sure finishes match,” said Begg.
• New house numbers. Address numbers should be decorative and functional. They help make your home stand out when guests or delivery services are trying to find you, and can add a custom touch. Consider, for instance, going bigger. Choose a style that fits your architecture, and a color that will stand out against the paint.
• Handles, knockers and kickers. These traditional pieces of door hardware are usually corrosion resistant, but they still wear out with time and use. If you don’t already have a kick plate, the addition of one at the bottom of your front door protects against shoe abuse, offers weather protection, and can be decorative. If you’re replacing old hardware, the holes typically do line up and the silhouettes tend to be standard, but check first. Try to buy like-size products.
• Mail slots. Tired-looking mail slots also signal neglect. A new one not only adds a look of caring to your entry, but its tighter spring-action can better seal out weather and dirt, said Begg.
Again, these should be standard and easy to replace with an off-the-shelf product. “But they don’t always fit like a glove. Measure first.”
• Allow plenty of time. Although switching out old hardware sounds simple, allow more time for the task than you think you’ll need, said Begg, who admits such jobs take even him longer than he thinks they should. “You always run into a challenge,” he said. “The holes don’t line up, or you hit dry rot, or you need to touch up the paint.”
• In the budget. Although cost depends on what you choose, here’s a rough idea of what new hardware can run: address numbers can range from $2 to $10 each, a door handset from $40 to over to $200, door knocker $25 to $50, mail slot from $30 to $75, and a kick plate $30.
• Check the rule book. Before you replace or add hardware outside, run your choice by your homeowners’ association, if you have one, to be sure you’re in compliance. They may not agree with what you think looks great.
Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Ad Capo Press). Contact her through www.marnijameson.com.