The Front Porch: Before the “After”

Another makeover goal for this spring and summer? Sprucing up my small front porch.

Spring in the South: pollen, with a slight chance of rain.

Another guarantee: I’m suddenly reminded how much work I still need to do in order to finish my front porch.

My front porch: small, but mighty in potential

Many of you who have followed along have already seen quite a few changes to my front porch area. But even though this is an area I make improvements to year over year, I never seem to finish enough to be satisfied. I suppose that’s the nature of home renovation in general, but I’d really like to make this area more welcoming.

At one point, it was scary and falling apart:

front porch before - humble beginnings circa 2011
humble beginnings

Nowadays, it’s much more cleaned up, but I still think it could use a lot more sprucing:

blue front door with red mums - fall house tour
from the 2017 Fall House Tour  (this is a closeup for a reason!)

Also? Designing is difficult because it’s tiny. I see inspiration everywhere for small front porches, but they’re either too large (an actual, proper porch), or too small (mainly a front door with steps that evenly fan out from the door). I can’t find enough examples of my in-between space to know what might work. It’s a little too narrow to put a full-size bench, and too large just to decorate the door. Also, it’s imbalanced, since the door sort of divides the slab with a third/quarter on the left and two-thirds/three-quarters on the right.

With all of the backyard changes I’m planning, it kind of makes sense to have my front door area on my mind, in a topsy-turvy sort of way. When I finish the backyard projects this spring, I’ll be anxious to invite people over (since that’s clearly a thing I’m doing more often now too). And that means my front door could stand to be far more welcoming than it is.

Previous front porch projects

Basically, paint can do quite a lot! But it can’t do everything.

The new front porch “before”

Every now and then, I like to pretend as if I’m a professional DIY blogger and share an in-depth look at the “before” before I begin. It makes for a great opportunity for you guys to chime in with thoughts I might not have thought of myself. Plus, proper documentation of how embarrassingly crap something looks now makes the “after” that much more impressive.

Fair warning: I deliberately chose not to clean up or sugarcoat this area; you can see the pollen and my lazy behavior in all its glory.

So, even though there are quite a few improvements made already, there’s still enough left to do to make this a starting point and worth discussing. Here are the ideas I have so far:

Simple cleaning and paint

Tracking dirt around is kind of a given with DIY, but even if my house was as pristine as could be, Mother Nature simply prefers to keep things dirty. And buggy. And weathered. Which is how even though I’ve painted the porch area before (except finishing the ceiling, coughcough), it could use some touch ups. And finishing that ceiling, after all.

Railing replacement

When I first painted the railing, it needed a lot of caulking first. I knew it might be temporary, and the carpenter bees have continued to stake a new claim on these railings. So, it may finally be time to replace them instead of repair. It doesn’t hurt that my DIY confidence has grown considerably in these last few years, so I feel much better prepared to handle a task like this than I did when I first painted this.

Boost the stonework?

Not entirely sure if this is a good idea or not, but I saw a product in the store that promises to bring out the color in the stone work and seals it. I still haven’t done enough research yet but I like the idea of making the stone really pop.

A small bench

Since the plants in front of the porch block it from the street, it doesn’t make sense to me to have a bench facing out. Instead, I imagine it would be more friendly for the bench to face a guest as they approach the front door.

Color

I like the contrast the cream trim adds to the siding, but this area could still be punched up quite a bit with more color. New plants, maybe some artwork… perhaps even a small outdoor runner on the ground in front of the bench.

Upgrade the ceiling

You may have noticed one of the ugliest parts of the front porch is that the ceiling is only partially painted. In my defense, it’s only partly my fault. The ceiling was already hideous and has a rough plywood texture. So, I thought I’d update it with an old school “haint blue” color, popular with Southern homes (and well, I live in Atlanta…).

It still looked horrible as I painted (and sucked up way more paint than I anticipated). That terrible paint job was kind of defeating, especially when sacrificing my aching shoulders to get the job done. When I ran out of paint, I ran out of motivation to keep going. So, I think I’m going to skip on to plan 2: installing a new layer with painted beadboard plywood.

Planters!!!

Every good front porch has beautiful flowers to make it look more welcoming. And I want me summa that, pronto. I want planters and flowering shrubs and trailing vines. Short of that, just things that don’t look dead and brown and covered in spring pollen. (Confession: I already have new planters and new plants waiting to be shared, so that post and video are coming very soon!).

But even after that new post, I still have ambitions for more planter spots — next to the new bench, maybe a large fern, etc. Oh, and beautiful hanging planters that aren’t just the plastic things that come with the hanging plant when you buy them on clearance.

New house numbers

My mail guy is terrible; he mixes up our mail all the time. And even worse? I’m not even sure if I instead have a mailwoman now, because every week when I see a mail carrier dropping off the mail, it’s a different person. So, who is filling in for whom? As a result, my neighbors and I are often trading off the mail to get it to the right mailbox.

And that led to some self-reflection: even though I have numbers on my mailbox, and next to the front door, do I contribute to the confusion in any way? Could there be ways to make my house numbers even more visible — increase the contrast? So, I bought some new house numbers that stand out more. Now, I have a plan to mount them in a way that is sure to get noticed by even the most confused Uber Eats driver.

What else?

Feel free to let it fly: what else should I do to upgrade this porch a little? I have no intentions of changing the footprint of the porch itself (there’s always the “change literally everything about this porch by rebuilding it and pour new concrete” guy, so I’ll nip that in the bud right away). But if you have some decorative ideas that I haven’t listed here, I’d welcome the input! And if you’re still going stir-crazy with winter, please know that I’m sending lots of warm-weather vibes your way. Happy Monday, and happy spring!

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