This design mistake is making front yards look cheap – according to HGTV's John Gidding

The Curb Appeal designer warns against these errors to avoid a 'dreaded cheaper look' – here's what to do instead

John Gidding
(Image credit: ScottsMiracle-Gro Greenprints x John Gidding)

Few figures are quite as synonymous with curb appeal as John Gidding. The face of HGTV's (aptly named) Curb Appeal has spent more than a decade acquiring a wealth of exterior design knowledge – including, inevitably, the features we need to avoid.  

'There are so many things that can make a home look cheap: mismatched colors and outdated fixtures are the most important. I would previously say to steer clear of brass, but it is in fashion again now. You have to keep trend aware.' John says in an interview with H&G

As John explains, the most effective curb appeal tracks garden trends and, in many ways, follows a less-is-more approach to design. However, paint and plants aside, front yard maintenance is equally impactful but essential to get right. 

'Some homeowners make the grave mistake of DIY projects in the front of the house without being 100 percent clear about what they're doing,' John says. 'In the end, they're left with poorly executed projects that just announce to everyone in the world that they're not great at DIY – and that's never a good look.'

planter by front gate

(Image credit: Alita Bobrov / Alamy Stock Photo)

With that said, however, John warns that leaving an element of our front yard broken can also look cheap. So it's better to fix things as soon as we can, even if we're tempted to wait some months. If DIY is not your strong suit, it is better to rely on those with more experience, where possible.

'Sometimes people think that if their picket is broken, they can leave it and fix it next year, but I would advise against that. If there's even one thing that's broken or cracked or chipped or missing in the front of a house, it's going to imply a dreaded cheaper look.'

John Gidding-designed front door
John Gidding

Turkish-American designer and Harvard graduate John Gidding is best known as a presenter on Curb Appeal, in which he and his team spend $20,000 on improvements to a front yard. He was also one of the expert judges on the Fox TV show Home Free and has recently relaunched the Curb Appeal Xtreme on HGTV. 

Inconsistent colors, unfashionable fixtures, and poor (or undone) DIY projects are to be avoided, so what should we look to do instead?

'On the other side, an expensive look translates to a 'well-designed' look. The most expensive-looking homes never look ramshackle or thrown together. They always appear thoughtfully curated, with purposefully selected plants and decorative elements that are never mismatched,' John says.

'You have to edit carefully and be selective to create that well-designed, 'expensive' look.'

House with exterior in whtie and white front door, path to door, and foliage plants and flowers

(Image credit: Sadolin)

Lastly, outdoor lighting is, perhaps unsurprisingly, also powerful. 'It goes both ways. With lighting, a home looks expensive. Without lighting, it looks cheap. Every front yard needs some lighting, if only for safety reasons.'

Design features aside, John's garden landscaping tips include incorporating native plants in our front and backyards. He further expands on the benefits of this sustainable planting technique in his book.

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.