Sunday, May 9, 2010

Houses in My Neighborhood: Accessories

Okay, I've shown you a lot of houses around my neighborhood. You've seen good and bad paint jobs. Beautiful plantings and leafy green messes. Lovely and beastly outdoors furniture.

Here is another thing that a lot of folks get wrong: Accessories.

This one baffles me. What is it about a couple of dead plants on your front porch says, "Welcome!" or "I'm proud to live here" or even "I love my house"?

It's so easy to avoid these godawful garden accessories. Unlike that Horribly Wrong Tree that drips all over your car, most Horribly Wrong Accessories can be fixed quickly. Just take a trip to your trash can, followed by a run to the hardware or garden shop. To wit:

Faded U.S. flags:
Dispose of it! (with respect) Then get a new one from the hardware store!

Dead or dying plants in ugly pots:

Junk the dead plants. Move the sickly plants to a side yard or the back, where they can recuperate away from the public eye. Allow only the prettiest pots to sit on your front porch. All the others? Relocate them!

Iffy accessories:
There's nothing intrinsically wrong with Bambi and his mom (above). They are iffy (in my book, anyhow) because they don't go with this traditional-meets-contemporary house:

I think these critters need to walk to another part of the forest where there's a cute cottage.

Accessories with their own accessories:

Flower girl, above, is actually pretty nice. No broken-off nose or hand. But she's carrying a basket of the most unlikely-looking plastic roses. You're not fooling anybody, neighbor!

Replant her basket with something living, like a mound of real moss, or a petite ivy that cascades over the basket's side. I think she'd be much more appealing:

Random sh...random stuff strewn about the yard that doesn't relate to the house or to each other:

Have a plan. Identify the look you're after (Mediterranean, Rocky Mountain hideaway, Greek Revival, whatever) and only allow on your front yard and porch those things that absolutely support that look, and are handsome, to boot.

And no, Early Junkyard does not count as a look!

Seasonal Accessories Disorder (SAD):

Get tough, people! Don't let the holiday icicle lights linger after January 31. Remove the egg-encrusted wreaths from your doors by two weeks after Easter. Sweep the pumpkins off the porch by December 1.

Accessories that are past their prime:

Ruthlessness, again! Try to see your accessories through critical eyes. If your boss's boss came to dinner, would that splintery wooden cow make you cringe? Then junk it!

And speaking of junk...

Dead cars:

Puh-leeze! Relocate the car to the garage, or if it doesn't fit, spring for a self-storage unit. Or get that beast on Craig's List. Don't make the biggest thing in your yard the ugliest!

As for dead furniture:and dead Igloo chests patched with duct tape:

I have three words for you, people:
Bulky. Item. Pickup.

Every city has one; look up the number, give them a call. In most cases, the pickup is free. There is NO EXCUSE for your front yard to look like a trash heap, slackers!


Now, here are some examples of yard and porch accessories done right:

Bright, shiny house numbers and door hardware: check!
Handsome porch light: check!
Large-scale, interesting-color planters filled with beautiful, living plants: check!

Bright-colored American flag: check!
Full-sized, comfy outdoor chairs in an accessible place: check!
Flowers in pots that coordinate with, or punctuate, the color scheme: check!

I'm a fan of sturdy mailboxes that are well painted:

I'm not a big fan of wreaths on the front door. But this one is seasonally appropriate, and the owner switches them out over the course of a year, so this one gets a thumbs up:

I love how this snappy, large-size star draws your attention to a hidden front door (on the right, out of camera range). The porch swing and Adirondack chair look great, too, and underscore the cottage look of this porch:

This house features twin dog statues in a style that agrees with the classic look of the home:

These pineapple whatsits (below) aren't lanterns, and I've never seen them filled with candles or greenery or anything else. I think they're purely decorative. There are four of them placed on a very traditional picket fence that surrounds the house in the above photo. So they get a thumbs up for pairing, quirkiness, and thematic appropriateness (the pineapple, a symbol of hospitality, shows up in lots of traditional American decor):

Cushions, pillows, flowers, and other front-porch thingies all in the same color family is soooo easy to do, and it looks so great:

And finally, if you're gonna go quirky, go quirky BIG. This full-size cow looks terrific because it's so unexpected, its size is so bold, and because the owners repaint her spots every year or two when she starts to look a little sun-bleached:

She's miles ahead of the pink plastic flamingo:

Tomorrow, my final word on neighborhood yards: Scale.

This may be the toughest one to get right. But I'll share with you a pretty darn good rule of thumb. Stay tuned!

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