The (Lack Of) Curb Appeal When We Moved In and the Plans to Improve It

Our house's curb appeal when we first bought it would have earned a C or maybe a C+ if you're being generous. The only redeeming quality was the architecture of the house itself. But obscuring that charming bungalow was a slew of concrete chunks, a gigantic Buddha head fountain, endless weeds, falling over palm trees, an overgrown and half-dead lemon tree, wobbly pavers, house numbers in my least favorite font (Curlz), a rusty satellite dish on the roof, peach-colored columns, a broken gate, too many of my least favorite plants (short palm trees and birds of paradise), a failing aluminum bay window, a pale and wonky roof, and sad looking mulch. Sounds great, yes? Here are some photos for ya and at the bottom of the post is my list of improvements to tackle.

Note: Most all of the improvements have already been done, so if you've seen what the exterior of the house looks like now and you're wondering what I'm talking about, know that we're traveling back in time to revisit these projects. Buckle up.

The Gold Hive Front Yard Gard Curb Appeal Before-8761.jpg

Can you count the 7 different species of palm trees in this photo? The palms were out of control. I'll warn you - I don't like palm trees, so you'll hear me talking smack about them again and again. I can hear some of you gasping at the thought of disliking the iconic Southern California tree. But here are my thoughts. 1. Palms provide none of the benefits that other trees do. No shade, little to no refuge for animals, no variety in changing foliage, and no flowers. 2. The palms make a mess. They drop little bits when their seed pods open. Plus, when their fronds die, it involves ladders and tall cutting instruments to get them down. The worst part is they can't be composted, so the fronds just go into the landfill. 3. I'm just sick of seeing them. I love an iconic treelined street with super tall mature palms (I like the ones on my block seen below) but this cluster of a bunch of varieties of short stubby spikey things just gets my goat. I'm also seeing too many palms installed at brand new bland shopping centers in an attempt to look California coastal but it looks manufactured and unnatural. I'm just not a fan.

I know I haven't convinced you to hate palms, and I'm not trying, but those are my thoughts on the buggers.

The Gold Hive Front Yard Gard Curb Appeal Before-8753.jpg

Did someone prop up a falling palm on a piece of concrete? Did that make it better? So confused.

The Gold Hive Front Yard Gard Curb Appeal Before-4945.jpg

This is the view looking down the driveway from the garage. It looks also like I was photographing from inside of a bubble - sorry my pre-blog photos aren't the most high-quality! Seen on the right is an aluminum bay window that needs to go (but more on windows later). The chickenwire gate is useless and not functioning. The gate and the adjoining fence are both filled with termites, too. The birds of paradise plants on the left are overgrown so it's impossible to get out of the passenger side of the car. The tree by the bathroom is leaning over the driveway so much so that you can't even pull a car in more than half-way up the drive. What looks like grass is actually weeds, and where grass should be in between the two strips of concrete for the car to pull in, there is dirt. If we're getting nit-picky, you'll see that a crawl space vent behind the recycling bin is sealed off which meant the area didn't get adequate ventilation and the humidity caused rot and termites. More on how that ruined our hardwoods here.

Can you tell I just love the outside of the house? I sound like I'm complaining, and I am. But the point I'm mostly making is that so much can be improved in so many instances (exterior and interior) if you just remove the neglect and the muck. A fresh cleaning is sometimes all that's needed - and outsides need cleanings too.

The Gold Hive Front Yard Gard Curb Appeal Before-8763.jpg

In the foreground is a pomegranate bush that I was genuinely excited about but (spoiler!) it never produced fruits before I accidentally killed it when trying to transplant it.

The Gold Hive Front Yard Gard Curb Appeal Before-8764.jpg

Not much of a looker when you're walking down the street. Not the worst, but not a looker.

The Gold Hive Front Yard Gard Curb Appeal Before-8768.jpg

Our new neighbors told us that this house was referred to as the "Buddha head house" - there's no wonder why.

The retaining wall in the foreground are pieces of concrete. I'm all for repurposing leftovers from construction demo, but not in this capacity. Maybe if plants were in front of the wall to hide it, or if the recycled concrete was used as filling for a new wall, but the pile of chunks? No thanks.

Those pavers by the orange flowered bush weren't installed properly and were super wobbly and unsafe. They are pretty flagstone pieces, so don't worry, we'll reuse them.

The Gold Hive Front Yard Gard Curb Appeal Before-8769.jpg

Here you can see that half of the lemon tree is dead, and the adjacent shrub is covering up the entire porch and blocking all the light into the living/dining room. Poor thing.

This is also a great view of that weird peach color. I love the dark green trim and red accents on the house, but that peach color on the columns and the shingles makes the house look jaundiced.

The Gold Hive Front Yard Gard Curb Appeal Before-8770.png

I grabbed this shot from Google Street View to get a wider view showing the driveway and the side of the house. This is also a better view of the roof which is a super pale grey. A feel a darker roof that could tie into the dark green trim would be so much more grounding and period-appropriate for this 1915 bungalow. Not to mention, it's super old and has 4 layers of other roofing materials underneath it.

Be sure to get a look at the big hole at the end of the driveway where our cars bottom out every. single. time.

And if my distaste for the exterior of the house wasn't clear enough before, here is a list of improvements we plan to make.

  • Remove weeds, dead plants, and cut back overgrowth

  • Remove concrete chunks and tired mulch

  • Rehome Buddha head fountain

  • Remove plants along the side of the driveway for easier car access

  • Remove the excessive amount of palm trees and trim the ones that will stay

  • Remove failing gate and repair damaged fence

  • Replace aluminum bay window with wood double hung window

  • Replace house numbers with nicer font and install with better visibility

  • Paint exterior of house (in phases)

  • Replace roof in a darker color

  • Remove satellite dish, excess wires, and spare electronics on the exterior

  • Repair crumbling stucco on the lower half of the house hidden behind plants

  • Plant low-water and climate-appropriate plants

  • Install a low-water drip irrigation system

  • Remove rickety pavers and install a steady footpath

  • Install low-voltage path and accent lighting

If you enjoyed the tour of the outside of the house when we bought it, take a look at what the inside looked like for a fun comparison to how she looks today. If you want a preview of what the exterior looks like right now, click here. Or, don't click that link and follow along with the journey for a fun surprise to see how she improves over time. I'll take you through each and every one of the items above over the next few weeks.