July 2010: Rental Rescue



They always say you only get one chance to make a first impression. This old saying not only applies to awkward first dates, but to our humble abodes as well. For many guests, that split-second judgment of our home happens before we even open the front door. When it comes to rentals and homes in general, many of us suffer from poor—or a complete lack of—curb appeal. 

With the dog days of summer upon us, it’s time we paid a little more attention to our outside spaces, whether it be the front porch on a Belmont Victorian, or the 5’x6′ concrete slab at the front door of your Pantops apartment. After all, you wouldn’t show up for a first date with spinach in your teeth and wearing the REO Speedwagon T-shirt you wear to mow the grass.

One quick and inexpensive fix for your curbside dilemma is to spruce up your house or apartment number. After all, giving your house number out is like giving your phone number out on a date: You want people to remember it (most of the time). A lot of rentals come with dated house numbers in basic brass, or whatever’s been on the house or apartment for the last 25-plus years. 

If you’re able to replace your house or apartment number, by all means do so. There are myriad options available, ranging from hand-painted ceramic tiles for the perfect cottage in Ivy, to sleek, stainless steel numbers in bold, sans-serif fonts, suitable for a contemporary downtown condo. 

That being said, many renters won’t have this option, especially those living in apartment complexes. If that’s the case, don’t feel outnumbered.

Try purchasing a large terracotta pot or planter. Using spray paint or exterior paint, paint the pot in a fresh, fun color. (One of my favorite affordable tricks is to purchase the leftover paints and paint samples from home improvement centers that folks discard due to the Goldilocks Syndrome—it wasn’t “just right.”) For a lattice pattern, paint the pot a base color, and once dry, apply strips of painter’s tape in diagonal lines forming Xs. Paint a second, complementary color on top, and remove the tape once dry. Using stencils or freehand, paint your house number on the pot in a bold, contrasting color. Fill the pot with your favorite flowers or plant, and place it outside your door on a plant stand or along your walkway/entrance. 

For an even more noticeable approach, purchase large unfinished numbers from a local store like the Craft House on W. Main Street. Purchase 2- to 3-foot dowel rods (one for each number). Using wood glue, attach the dowel rods to the back of each number. Spray-paint the dowels and numbers in a color complementary to the exterior of your home, and place the dowel rods in a potted plant, planter, or stainless steel bucket full of soil and moss. For additional visual interest, place the dowels in at varying heights. If you have green space, stick the numbers directly into the yard. The mailman and your next houseguests won’t miss your apartment or house from the street.

For some nighttime appeal, tape off old mason jars with stencils of your house number (one jar for each number). Lightly spray the jars with spray glass frosting. Remove the stencils and tape to reveal your house numbers. Fill the jars with LED tea lights for some safe, easy, Southern charm each night. 

Let your number project be the jumping-off point for your summer outdoor spruce-up. If you live in a house or an apartment with a standard 18"x24" mailbox that has seen better days, consider a magnetic monogrammed mailbox cover from companies like www.ewinddesigns.com. The same way you’d accessorize for that all important first date, add things like a nice door mat in a bold, graphic pattern for a pop of color, or some potted plants. As always, you can take everything with you, and the house numbers will serve as a small, affordable memento from your time in the rental. 

With this quick summer spruce-up, you and your humble abode are sure to make the best first impression and get that second glance.—Ed Warwick