before and after

Before & After: A Muted Arizona Home Gets Bright & Cheery Curb Appeal

by Erin Austen Abbott

I love a good curb appeal makeover. As a child, I would drive all over Memphis, TN with my grandfather (a land developer), just looking at houses, talking about what details we loved — from the roof shingles to the landscaping to the choice of pavers on the driveway or walkway. I’ve started doing this with my son as well. He’s five and his dream is to live in a tudor-style home one day.

Sharing my love for stunning curb appeal are Jesse and Stephanie Smith, based in North Central Phoenix, AZ. To find the right house on which to display their aesthetic dreams, they weren’t scared of a fixer-upper when they started their home search. They knew it would need good bones and to hold their family of five, as well as have room to homeschool their three children. Once the family walked into the home, they just knew it was for them, with only a few changes that needed to be made. “We wanted an older home with character and potential,” Jesse shares. “It didn’t need to be the best house on the block. We really desired to be close to friends and a close neighborhood community. We didn’t realize how close it was to our friends Thomas and Emy Porter (designers of our front yard makeover) until we turned on the street to find it was the same neighborhood.”

Jesse and Stephanie began quickly brainstorming on the curb appeal project with Thomas and Emy, owners of local salvage wood company Porter Barn Wood. “We wanted a modern farmhouse feel for our front yard,” Stephanie notes. “The only true inspiration Jesse had was ‘X’ fencing to line the front yard, so the kids could safely play in the front. That was all the instruction Thomas and Emy needed for the project.” Once Thomas had a sketch for the yard, they got to work. After demo they painted the house white, then created the long black “X” fence lining the front yard. Next came the reclaimed brick pavers — circa 1903, from Columbus, OH — on the side for communal eating and gathering. Faux shutters, made from Kentucky horse fencing using the Japanese technique Shou Sugi Ban (preserving with fire) replaced the existing shutters. Porter Barn Wood also made a custom Dutch door from reclaimed oak threshing floor, painting it Stephanie’s favorite color.

The porch continues the “X” theme with planter boxes to bring in bright pops of color. Thomas, Emy, their children Teak (11) and Pepper (8), along with Stephanie, Jesse and their children worked to complete this project in just eight days. Jesse shares, “The most special aspects of the curb appeal project are the reclaimed brick pavers from my father’s home state, the handmade Dutch door which is reminiscent of Stephanie’s Mennonite and Amish heritage, the handmade light fixture using Eisenglass mica, and to top it off, the most special thing of all is [that] it’s all handmade from our close friends Thomas and Emy Porter of Porter Barn Wood.”

This is a home that would stop my grandfather and me on one of our drives, taking in the congruency of the home and the bright and cheerful colors. Not to mention, I’m a sucker for a Dutch door. —Erin

Photography by Jesse Fitton Smith / @porterbarnwood / @jessefitton

Image above: The completed Smith home, with a charming facelift, new side patio, flower boxes and quaint new fence. 

Jesse Smith for Design*Sponge

Porter Barn Wood made a custom Dutch door from reclaimed oak threshing floor, painting it Stephanie’s favorite color.

Jesse Smith for Design*Sponge

The porch features the faux shutters, which were made from Kentucky horse fencing using the Japanese technique Shou Sugi Ban (preserving with fire), the mint green Dutch door and the custom-made light fixture (handmade by Thomas Porter).

Jesse Smith for Design*Sponge

Before, the yard wasn’t as secure as the couple would have liked for their three children to play in the yard.

Jesse Smith for Design*Sponge

From a small cinder block barrier to a farm style “X” fence on the porch and on the exterior of the yard.

Jesse Smith for Design*Sponge

The “X” fence on the porch and around the yard mirrors the shutters.

Jesse Smith for Design*Sponge

Before, the porch didn’t have railings to host flower boxes, nor was there a patio on the side of the house.

Jesse Smith for Design*Sponge

As you can see, the house went from dark tones to a cheery white and mint color palette.

Jesse Smith for Design*Sponge

Now the home has the curb appeal of a quaint farmhouse, with flower boxes and a bright paint job.

Jesse Smith for Design*Sponge

The only true inspiration Jesse had was “X” fencing to line the front yard, so the kids could safely play in the front. Thomas and Emy brought that simple vision to life and used it to inform the entire yard’s makeover.


House color: Behr Exterior Semigloss “Almond Cream”
Dutch door: Behr Exterior Semigloss “Spearmints”
Faux Shutters: Shou Sugi Ban (preserving wood with fire)

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  • Amazing makeover. I love the style and color of the front door. The flower boxes add a splash of color to the front.Excellent job!

  • Very cute, though I’d think about redoing the front yard with native drought-friendly landscape once the kids are older. I notice all the new native landscaping in my neighborhood of California and it is much more attractive than grass, as well as being more environmentally friendly. That water bill in AZ summer must be daunting. The muted greens with pops of lavender or orange are quite stunning. I think the colors of native grasses, cactus, and flowering bushes would really complement the mint green and cream of the house. I particularly appreciate some yards near me that have been designed to attract and nurture butterflies. At least in CA, there is an organization that will come help you design your yard for butterflies. I see the little signs popping up everywhere.

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