Up front

A tidy front garden can make a big difference to your home's appeal.
A tidy front garden can make a big difference to your home's appeal.

If you are thinking of selling and want to make a good first impression, or you simply want to improve ‘kerb appeal’ for your own pride, then making the front of your house more attractive is an obvious step to take.

The basics are pretty self-explanatory - have a good tidy-up, give tired woodwork a lick of paint and do any necessary repairs, especially to the walls, roof, windows and front door.

Improving your garden can make your home look attractive to a seller. See PA Feature HOMES Homes Column. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature HOMES Homes Column.

Improving your garden can make your home look attractive to a seller. See PA Feature HOMES Homes Column. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature HOMES Homes Column.

The other area to focus on is the front garden, which can make an enormous difference to the overall appearance and appeal of your home.

This time of year is ideal for brightening up the garden, using window boxes, hanging baskets, troughs and tubs planted with colourful bedding plants. To define the entrance, especially if there could be confusion about which door is the front door, strategically place topiary bushes or tall shrubs in nice pots to guide people to the right door. Hedges provide privacy if your home is close to the pavement, but can make the front room dark, so be careful to strike the right balance.

If you don’t want the hassle of maintaining a front lawn, or you don’t have room for one, stick to low-maintenance options like gravel, pebbles or slate chips, all of which can be used to quickly cover eyesores like concrete and crazy paving. A more expensive, but elegant, option is block paving, paving slabs, or slate or (frost-resistant) ceramic tiles, which are easy to maintain because they can be hosed down. Mix in some flowerbeds and you should have a smart, easy-to-maintain front garden that’s the best of both worlds.

In some locations, especially urban ones where parking is expensive or in short supply, off-street parking in your front garden can be a valuable addition to your home. That said, creating off-street parking won’t necessarily be cheap, and you may need planning permission — go to www.planningportal.gov.uk for general advice, and also check with the local council before going ahead in case your proposal is an exception to the rules.

A house with a beautiful front garden. See PA Feature HOMES Homes Column. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature HOMES Homes Column.

A house with a beautiful front garden. See PA Feature HOMES Homes Column. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature HOMES Homes Column.

In some cases, you’ll need planning for both the parking and a dropped kerb (if you don’t already have one), which are separate applications and usually dealt with by different council departments. Often, the council will only tell you how much it will charge to drop the kerb once the planning for the off-street parking has been approved, so, as you can imagine, it can be quite a lengthy process.

Also, while off-street parking often adds value, it isn’t very environmentally friendly. Plants have lots of benefits, including encouraging wildlife, and natural surfaces like grass and soil allow water to drain away quickly, helping to prevent flooding. At the very least, choose a permeable hard surface for your front garden. Using a permeable surface, such as gravel, permeable block paving, or porous asphalt, may, in any case, exempt you from having to apply for planning for off-street parking.

Whatever you go for, your front garden should be in keeping with your home’s exterior — an ultramodern design probably won’t suit a country cottage, for example. It should also suit your lifestyle, as you don’t want a garden that requires more time and energy than you can devote to it, however good it looks.

Product of the week: the new Illumina Jug Blender (£69.99, uk.russellhobbs.com) from Russell Hobbs is designed to make blending easy, thanks to an innovative light ring around the base that changes colour when you change speed. The blue light is for purees, pink for smoothies, green for soups, and red is the pulse mode, ideal for crushing ice, so it couldn’t be easier to see what you’re doing.

The blender’s titanium-coated two-tip blades are four times harder than uncoated stainless-steel ones, and create a vortex to blend in the most effective way. Not only is the Illumina cleverly designed, it’s also powerful (850W); it looks great in its high-gloss black and brushed stainless steel finish; and is it’s well made — the specially shaped glass jug is a seriously sturdy piece of kit.

How-to tip: the problem with tubes of filler is that it after a while, it becomes hard to get the filler out. You don’t get this problem with a cartridge, because the cartridge gun — like the PC Cox Easiflow Gun (£5.49, Screwfix) - enables you to get every last bit of filler out: no time or filler wasted.