Adding curb appeal to a home is more than just getting a few potted plants for the doorway and a cute welcome mat—like, a lot more. After buying my house last year, I spent hours on Pinterest and Instagram looking for exterior and landscape inspiration, and meeting with every local contractor about painting the house, planting bushes in the garden bed, updating the front walkway, and more.
The process usually goes like this: I list my projects on sites like TaskRabbit, Nextdoor, Angi, or HomeAdvisor; wait until a contractor gets in touch; set up a site visit; walk the contractors through the property; and then wait for a quote. All the while I’m falling deeper into the inspiration black hole. All of this can take weeks depending on the project, but as with many things during the pandemic, for us, it took months—all before execution even started.
While there’s nothing like an in-person visit with a local expert, if I could do it all over again, I’d choose an online exterior design service instead. It’s safer during a pandemic, more time- and cost-efficient (some local contractors charge a fee for a site visit), and less awkward—there’s no standing around asking how they’re faring in the pandemic as you show them the yard.
Most of the services I researched offer reasonably-priced packages that include virtual design consultations (so the creative onus is not all on you), digital renderings, shopping lists, and revisions if needed; some even connect you to local and licensed contractors to execute on the idea. And to a homeowner’s ear, that sounds like a dream come true.
Now, every homeowner will also tell you that home renos and updates are never truly finished (lucky me?), so here are the four best online exterior services I’ll be using for my next batch of upgrades. Don’t worry though, I’ll find a way to keep my plants and doormat around.
When you talk about curb appeal, landscaping is a huge part of it. It can hide your home’s foundation, soften harsh edges, hide unsightly generators or septic tank covers, and more. It’s the first thing people see when they stop by your home, so you’ll want to make a good impression.
Tilly, a woman-owned and -run business, can help reimagine your whole house with its eco-conscious landscape designs based on your space, needs, and location. You’ll get matched with a landscape designer who will set up a video consult for a virtual tour of your space.
While it won’t do any of the physical work for you (none of these services will), it does give you a comprehensive layout with options for common and native plants, bushes, and more that you can then pass onto a landscaper to execute. Also included is a round of revisions within 45 days of receiving your new design—the longest lead time we’ve seen offered. Choose between three plans for your front yard, back yard, or both spaces, and add-on features like a side yard, lighting, or even 3D renderings of your space (a 2D rendering is included with your package).
Tilly doesn’t do hardscapes, so you might expect to see new features like garden beds or walkways if they make sense with your plan, but not specifics like the type of materials.
Yardzen is similar to Tilly in that it creates a landscaping rendering based on your preferences and location, which you then take to a contractor to execute. But it goes one step further by actually connecting you to a Yardzen-approved contractor so you’re guaranteed to work with someone who understands the plans and your budget. The prices start off higher than Tilly, but finding a good contractor is a second full-time job, so if there’s an easier way about it, I’m game.
It’s also expanded to doing exteriors this past July—making it a perfect option for anyone who wants to knock out both things at the same time (read: me) and ensure a cohesive design. You’ll be able to reimagine your entire house from the roof and siding all the way down to house numbers and even the mailbox—much more comprehensive than any online service I’ve seen.
However, be prepared to invest—if I were to do the Outdoor Transformation Design for my house, it’d cost $3,395. And again, that’s the price before any physical work gets done.
Brick & Batten’s before-and-after photos are always really creative and dramatic, so if you need more than just a fresh coat of paint and trim, this might be right for you.
After you send a photo of your home (either the front or back, whichever you need help with), you fill out a short survey about what you want and need (there’s no video or phone consult), and then wait a few weeks for a design to get dropped into your email. You can get a free revision with 48 hours of delivery, so if you’re not a fan of the paint colors or lighting, you have the opportunity to change it; if you have more changes though, there’ll be a fee depending on the request.
Brick & Batten doesn’t do landscaping or hardscaping, but they will clean up what’s existing so you can imagine your space better. You can easily pair this with a service like Tilly for landscaping ideas.
This free app is fun for homeowners who like to DIY. The app creates a 3D model of your house based on photos you upload, then you can go in and change features like siding, roofing, and windows from reputable brands like James Hardie and Alside. Once you’re happy with the new look, you can share it via app or download and share with contractors and designers to execute your vision.
requires more work on the homeowner’s end but if you’re someone who has a specific vision in mind or likes to experiment with ideas yourself, this can be a good option. If nothing comes of it, at least it’ll help you pass the time.
What projects are you planning for your house? Drop some inspo below!
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