old house numbers

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Another makeover goal for this spring and summer? Sprucing up my small front porch.

Spring in the South: pollen, with a slight chance of rain.

Another guarantee: I’m suddenly reminded how much work I still need to do in order to finish my front porch.

My front porch: small, but mighty in potential

Many of you who have followed along have already seen quite a few changes to my front porch area. But even though this is an area I make improvements to year over year, I never seem to finish enough to be satisfied. I suppose that’s the nature of home renovation in general, but I’d really like to make this area more welcoming.

At one point, it was scary and falling apart:

front porch before - humble beginnings circa 2011
humble beginnings

Nowadays, it’s much more cleaned up, but I still think it could use a lot more sprucing:

blue front door with red mums - fall house tour
from the 2017 Fall House Tour  (this is a closeup for a reason!)

Also? Designing is difficult because it’s tiny. I see inspiration everywhere for small front porches, but they’re either too large (an actual, proper porch), or too small (mainly a front door with steps that evenly fan out from the door). I can’t find enough examples of my in-between space to know what might work. It’s a little too narrow to put a full-size bench, and too large just to decorate the door. Also, it’s imbalanced, since the door sort of divides the slab with a third/quarter on the left and two-thirds/three-quarters on the right.

With all of the backyard changes I’m planning, it kind of makes sense to have my front door area on my mind, in a topsy-turvy sort of way. When I finish the backyard projects this spring, I’ll be anxious to invite people over (since that’s clearly a thing I’m doing more often now too). And that means my front door could stand to be far more welcoming than it is.

Previous front porch projects

Basically, paint can do quite a lot! But it can’t do everything.

The new front porch “before”

Every now and then, I like to pretend as if I’m a professional DIY blogger and share an in-depth look at the “before” before I begin. It makes for a great opportunity for you guys to chime in with thoughts I might not have thought of myself. Plus, proper documentation of how embarrassingly crap something looks now makes the “after” that much more impressive.

fresh green grass on new lawn project - after front exterior

Fair warning: I deliberately chose not to clean up or sugarcoat this area; you can see the pollen and my lazy behavior in all its glory.

So, even though there are quite a few improvements made already, there’s still enough left to do to make this a starting point and worth discussing. Here are the ideas I have so far:

Simple cleaning and paint

Tracking dirt around is kind of a given with DIY, but even if my house was as pristine as could be, Mother Nature simply prefers to keep things dirty. And buggy. And weathered. Which is how even though I’ve painted the porch area before (except finishing the ceiling, coughcough), it could use some touch ups. And finishing that ceiling, after all.

front porch in progress

Railing replacement

When I first painted the railing, it needed a lot of caulking first. I knew it might be temporary, and the carpenter bees have continued to stake a new claim on these railings. So, it may finally be time to replace them instead of repair. It doesn’t hurt that my DIY confidence has grown considerably in these last few years, so I feel much better prepared to handle a task like this than I did when I first painted this.

front porch railings need repair

Boost the stonework?

Not entirely sure if this is a good idea or not, but I saw a product in the store that promises to bring out the color in the stone work and seals it. I still haven’t done enough research yet but I like the idea of making the stone really pop.

stone next to front door

A small bench

Since the plants in front of the porch block it from the street, it doesn’t make sense to me to have a bench facing out. Instead, I imagine it would be more friendly for the bench to face a guest as they approach the front door.


I like the contrast the cream trim adds to the siding, but this area could still be punched up quite a bit with more color. New plants, maybe some artwork… perhaps even a small outdoor runner on the ground in front of the bench.

ideas for front porch

Upgrade the ceiling

You may have noticed one of the ugliest parts of the front porch is that the ceiling is only partially painted. In my defense, it’s only partly my fault. The ceiling was already hideous and has a rough plywood texture. So, I thought I’d update it with an old school “haint blue” color, popular with Southern homes (and well, I live in Atlanta…).

left side of front porch - before

It still looked horrible as I painted (and sucked up way more paint than I anticipated). That terrible paint job was kind of defeating, especially when sacrificing my aching shoulders to get the job done. When I ran out of paint, I ran out of motivation to keep going. So, I think I’m going to skip on to plan 2: installing a new layer with painted beadboard plywood.


Every good front porch has beautiful flowers to make it look more welcoming. And I want me summa that, pronto. I want planters and flowering shrubs and trailing vines. Short of that, just things that don’t look dead and brown and covered in spring pollen. (Confession: I already have new planters and new plants waiting to be shared, so that post and video are coming very soon!).

But even after that new post, I still have ambitions for more planter spots — next to the new bench, maybe a large fern, etc. Oh, and beautiful hanging planters that aren’t just the plastic things that come with the hanging plant when you buy them on clearance.

improved trim but a little further to go

New house numbers

My mail guy is terrible; he mixes up our mail all the time. And even worse? I’m not even sure if I instead have a mailwoman now, because every week when I see a mail carrier dropping off the mail, it’s a different person. So, who is filling in for whom? As a result, my neighbors and I are often trading off the mail to get it to the right mailbox.

old house numbers

And that led to some self-reflection: even though I have numbers on my mailbox, and next to the front door, do I contribute to the confusion in any way? Could there be ways to make my house numbers even more visible — increase the contrast? So, I bought some new house numbers that stand out more. Now, I have a plan to mount them in a way that is sure to get noticed by even the most confused Uber Eats driver.

What else?

Feel free to let it fly: what else should I do to upgrade this porch a little? I have no intentions of changing the footprint of the porch itself (there’s always the “change literally everything about this porch by rebuilding it and pour new concrete” guy, so I’ll nip that in the bud right away). But if you have some decorative ideas that I haven’t listed here, I’d welcome the input! And if you’re still going stir-crazy with winter, please know that I’m sending lots of warm-weather vibes your way. Happy Monday, and happy spring!

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  1. Are the porch railings absolutely necessary? Without the railing on the long side you could have a nice long bench along the wall without it feeling too cramped. You could even branch off a couple paving stones from the front walk to the porch to make a little path to the bench.

    1. That’s a great idea! The posts are necessary of course, but I suppose the railings aren’t structurally relevant. I haven’t really thought of taking them out completely (I have bushes I planted in front of them that I’d have to remove). Thanks for the suggestion!

      1. I was gonna suggest the same thing (and possibly beefing up the columns, like YHL did way back when..)
        Also: some light source close to the house numbers might help…
        Looking forward to the “after”
        Greetings from Germany

    2. I was going to make a similar suggestion. Great minds and all that.

      Beef up the posts a bit and get rid of the railing as well as the decorative drop area at the top – it will make the narrow space feel less cramped. Window boxes might be nice too.

    3. My thoughts too. Without the railings, it might feel more open and welcoming. Keep the posts (obviously) but maybe wrap the bottom and top with molding. Just my thoughts, but it’s your home. You do what you want that you’ll love.

  2. I’m so excited to see the updates you have in store! This may seem counter-DIY but just a random thought to consider: what if you didn’t put the railings back? If you feel your porch is small and you already have bushes as a divider, maybe take them away to open it up? If you need the posts for structural reasons, maybe add some trim to make them a feature? I look forward to watching whatever direction you decide to go in. Thanks for being awesome.

    1. Thanks Jennifer! So far that’s a popular suggestion that I hadn’t thought of before! Could be a good idea to have less wood for the carpenter bees.

  3. First, I second/third the removing the railing! I’d also remove the detailing on top and maybe beef up the supports so they’re more substantial. You could leave the bushes if you still wanted the barrier and liked how they softened the transition. I’m not sure if it’s possible from the pictures, but painting that octagonal window trim black to match the living room and adding a ore substantial black light fixture could provide some cohesion, especially if your new numbers are in black. Or, upgrading the light fixture to match your new letters, whatever the finish may be. Love the idea of the beadboard ceiling and little bench. As always, inspiring!

    1. The new numbers will be the same color as the existing light fixture, but WAY more modern in style! But good thinking on the posts being a little chunkier… I don’t know if it would look right with the rest of the house or not. Perhaps I’ll need to do a follow up and try to Photoshop it or something to give myself a better idea.

  4. Definitely following – I have a shallow front porch too. I like the previous suggestions to remove the railing, especially since you already have bushes in the front that kind of define that area. Have you thought about beefing up the posts? Ours are 8 inches wide (my husband was just like why are you taking a ruler outside in the dark), and I’m guessing that post is a 4×4? Not sure if that would be overkill, but it seems like if you’re mounting your numbers there it might look more proportional to go a least a little bigger (not sure if that would look goofy with the full scale of the house).

  5. You might better leave the railing other wise the bees may just go for your posts and I suspect that they are structurally necessary, Better feed those bees what you want them to have and not give them options. Love your posts, I am too old to DIY now (72) but enjoyed it in my day.

    1. I don’t know if the railings are all that structurally necessary (the posts, definitely…). But since my house is cedar siding, it’s not the posts they’re really going after if the railings are gone. They look for the easier entries, like the roof line and places where the trim comes together (I’ve seen it). But definitely worth considering as far as what else I might have to do to combat them if their food source and habitat is gone. Thanks for the input!

  6. Hi Sarah, I don’t usually comment on my blogs (I just enjoy the contents) but I did a similar project on my last house. Mine was a similar style to yours with the same type of railings although my ‘deck’ was wood. The planting’s in front of the railings kept the moisture from the rain from drying out properly and so everything was rotting out way too soon. I rebuilt the deck, cutback theplantings to allow more air circulation and DID NOT replace the railings. The posts remained but without the railings and in your case you could remove some of the upper detailing. This had the effect of opening up the space making it look larger than previously and perhaps giving you the room to add a bench should you take this route. Mine was also a little more modern looking which I think would suit your house too. Just a suggestion ?‼️
    All the best, Cher

    1. Thanks for the comment, Cher! My house is so cottage-y that it hardly ever feels all that modern to me. But the idea of removing the railings does give me more to think about!

  7. Once Iadded my comments re removing the railings, I saw the previous comments recommended the same. Sorry for the duplication however I did do this and it did work out great!

  8. Personally, I like the railing. It provides a little more separation, which I like. A couple suggestions would be to put a very narrow (like one plank wide) table right up against the wall to add some weight to the larger side. Then I would stand a large copper or weathered brass ornament or plaque on the table, maybe something round to relate to the little window, like a big sunburst figure. Your potted plants are placed symmetrically but the porch isn’t symmetrical. I actually really like the way the pots look, and I wouldn’t change that part of the porch. I think if you played up the differences, maybe the placement of the door might look like a decorative choice, instead of iffy planning by the builder. Also, instead of a bench, I might get a wooden chair with an unusual shape, and paint it a bright color. If it was really more for looks, it wouldn’t necessarily be the sturdiest. I get these chairs at garage sales or thrift shops for a dollar or two and go to town. Then I give them away because my porch is too small to fit even a small chair. Overall, I think your choices for the porch are really pretty, and I love the color you chose for the door. Oh, and in the fall, I would make one of those gnarly witch brooms for the door side.

  9. I agree with chunking up the posts. Could be simple like what Kristi did (Addicted to Decorating). Also like the idea of removing the railings and adding a long narrow bench in their place on each side. Am torn about the top transom-style woodwork. Really like it actually. I think a different color blue, a bit richer, would be better than the light one.

    Have you considered covering the cement with wood/non-wood planks, stained, or stenciling it?

    A colorful metal wall sculpture on the one wall or a Starburst mirror? Macrame hangers for plants? Colorful or cement planters? Solar fountain using decorative pot?

    It’s not a lack of identifying numbers on your house. It’s more a mail person being rushed/careless.

  10. I suck at imagining new spaces (which is why I love reading your blog to FIND inspiration!), so have nothing of value to add, but I just want to commiserate with you about the mis-delivered mail! We just bought our first house last July and holy cannoli, our letter carrier is the WORST at mixing up addresses! I have no issue hand delivering it to the correct folks, but it always makes me worry how much of my own mail is floating around at the wrong location. Yeesh.
    Good luck with the porch! And the mail!! Lol

    1. Haha, well I investigated it a little (because I’m me, ha) and saw that some people who had the same issue were told that they technically HAVE to return it back to a mail sorting facility to be reprocessed when it’s misdelivered. Sorting it out between neighbors is apparently wrong (even though that’s obviously much easier). But if you ever get pissed enough about the mail problem, you and your neighbors can return all the wrongfully delivered mail to the nearest sorting station and the fact that it’s all mixed up will alert them that the mail carrier isn’t doing their job properly. Enough times of that and it obviously will result in them noticing the unusual amount of mail problems to do something about it. But that is far more work for a random homeowner, so it’s seldom done!

  11. I’d ditch the railings and move the bushes elsewhere in the garden (or donate/compost them). The long side that just ends is a bit awkward and without a railing you could extend it to meet the house window (the angled wall beyond the end of the concrete in the photo above-sorry if I’m not explaining it very well!). You could then have a bench/ seating on the longer side leading out onto a gravel/paved area the edge of which could be defined with planters/gardens or lawn edging. HAve you thought of a hanging chair? Like one of those cocoon-style ones? Fairy lights would also be so cosy!

  12. My first thought is to get rid of that funky railing on the top, sort of pseudo Victorian trim that does not go with your house at all. My second was to remove the railing to get rid of that closed in feeling. I see that lots of others have the second idea as well, and some the first. I like the suggestion of beefing up the posts. That you may want to photoshop before you do it. But simplifying the look will make the front of the house look more cohesive. Getting higher contrast house numbers is a good thing, too.

    1. More thoughts: if you are concerned about losing your hanging plant hooks if you take down the upper railing, you can install your hooks on the “new” upper rail and use chain to bring the plants where you want them. And re the porch ceiling: if you don’t all your blue pain disappearing into the rough plywood, either prime first or cover the rough plywood with beadboard which gives a cottagy touch. Best of all, if you go the bead board route, you can paint it before you hang it, thus eliminating most of the painting above your head, you will only need to couch up your nail/screw holes.

  13. I know my comment is going against the grain of the other suggestions, but I’m in favor of keeping the railings because I think the porch will look incomplete without them. If you want to dress them up or camouflage them, you could hang window boxes from the railings and fill them with colorful annuals, and go with ferns for the hanging plants (assuming ferns would do well in that spot!). I’ve always been a fan of how window boxes add some greenery and color above the foundation level and nicely accent windows or small spaces like this. Whatever you choose to do, I’m looking forward to seeing the outcome!

    1. I love that you’re going against the grain! I’ll have to look up a few inspiration ideas to see if I like the look! Thanks for the suggestions!

  14. So maybe a crazy thought, but do you need or want the porch railing at all? I’m guessing the vertical pieces help support the roof. But the rest is probably decorative. I wonder if the whole porch would look more open without the rail at all, just a couple decorative but structural columns? …and less places for the bees to burrow into!

    1. Haha, or I could just read all the other comments first since 30 other people thought the same thing before me! I blame early morning blog browsing. ?

  15. I would definitely remove the railings and beef up the columns. Removing the railings will make it feel so much bigger! Kristi over on addicted2decorating just did a fabulous front porch remodel where she made the columns more impressive and put a wood overlay on the porch. That could also look fabulous for you.

    Painting your door a brighter color might also bring a splash of bright to the area, like a teal or robin’s egg blue. I have big pots of succulents by my front door, which I love because they are super low maintenance and bring in shades of green and blue and pink. Just a colorful ceramic planter with the right plants would also go a long way to making it feel brighter and more welcoming.

  16. If you made a wooden sculpture of of the railing wood or similar and put it in your front garden area the bees could keep a food source and may not attack your house?
    Hi from Essex UK

  17. For the rockwork, get it wet, if you like the colors better, by all means coat them. We had these around our fireplace growing up and I remember when we washed ours, there was a lot more red in ours.
    For the mail person, grab a pain pen and print your street address on the inside of your mailbox door so it’s visible when the door is open. Helped us out a lot.

  18. Perhaps this isn’t on the table, but do you want the railing? I feel like the porch would feel larger without it. But perhaps it would be too ill-defined or lack architectural interest without it?

    1. It’s definitely on my mind at this point… so many folks are saying to remove the railing altogether that it’s giving me lots of thoughts!

  19. Hi Sarah, so lovely to have met you. If you want to keep the railings, you might consider window boxes. That will bring a pretty pop of color higher than a container on the ground or shrubs and flowers planted in front of the railing. There’s all kinds of window box options for all kinds of plants and gardeners. If you don’t want to commit to a permanent window box, look for porch rail containers that are plastic and fit over the railing. You can keep them out during the spring, summer and fall, then remove them in winter. Hydrangeas look nice in window boxes.

  20. Do you have to replace the railings or can you just leave them off? If there’s a big drop off I get needing them, but IMO it would open up your porch a bit, and you may end up with more seating options. I have that issue with my front porch, its only 4′ deep and even though technically the footprint is the same, it visually just looked better without the railings when we removed them to replace it all……but its too high to safely leave it like that so we replaced the railings. But yours looks closer to ground level so thats my 2 cents!

    1. oops, sorry the comments must not have all loaded when i went to write mine. Now i see others have made the same recommendation. sorry for the duplication!

  21. i am brand new here just signed up today, i would also ditch the rails but would keep the top thingys maybe put glass block into them or trailing plants.paint the floor a light color and try to disguise the hose and faucet a bench over it and undo the hose after every use ,i am a klutz and i am sure i would trip over it every time i walked over there haha.

  22. I’m with removing the railing. They aren’t necessary as your porch is at grade. They also block the view when seated on the porch. Also agree with beefing up the posts. What about adding a header to the front door trim? You are able to do much to the side trim of the door except maybe make it a little wider if you do the header. The window trim next to the front door is higher than the door trim. I feel that the focus of the entry should be the front door. Changing out the trim would do that making for a grander entrance. Of course PAINT THAT CEILING ;), and neutralize the paint on the floor. Change out the light fixture and you have a plan for the house numbers. Plants in pots on either side of the door, add a door mat and take a breath. Step back and see if its necessary to remove the trim at the ceiling. My guess is yes. I think it would really open it up if you also remove the railing. Oh, and hang a plant or two!

  23. I had to go to the house tour to get a photo of the whole front of the house. looking at it i agree about the railings. OR make them more substantial… if you look at the whole house from the street the thin railings look like they dont belong or unfinished.

    If you want to keep them i would paint the the same color as your door which would allow them to keep a separation from the yard and yet they would disappear a bit.

    I think i would get rid of the top ones either way not sure why they are there…
    so my suggestion – leave the lower ones and paint them the door color and ditch the upper ones.

    as for plants – the other poster about plants close to the wood railing is right. so keep them low. annuals would be good or maybe maybe nothing… put the plants in pots on the porch.

    those beds get a lot of sun and it will take some hard plants to stand to the hot georgia summer sun!

    personally i would not do hanging plants

    as for the stone – well my suggestion would be to paint it – unless you can find something that really makes the colors pop – right now from the street its kinda hard to tell what is there – dont take me wrong i love stones but i would make them the highlight of the porch or cover them up (dont flame me too much).

    not sure if you are really going to sit on the front porch (does it face east or west) so maybe just a bench and some nice large pots but i wouldnt put a lot of furniture … its too small for more than a big pot with a nice evergreen and a bench or table.

    my two cents worth ;o

    1. You’re right, the porch is really too small to sit out there comfortably, but I think a small seating set or bench might be nice for when we want to decorate. I don’t think painting anything the door color (navy) will be the way I go, but I think removing them is a good idea.

      I have a professional landscaper this year who will be providing me with a new plan for what to do with the front. An opportunity to review a new service came up and I’m taking advantage to see what ideas they have and I’ll implement the ones I like most. It will also give me some time to finalize the new house paint color.

      And thanks for the info on having to get a view from the street (I actually didn’t even think of it). I’ll add that pic into this post as an update!

    1. Well Eileen, aren’t you a ray of forking sunshine? Let me help you out here, since reading comprehension seems to be an obstacle for you: THERE IS NO “AFTER” in this post. The post topic was about looking at what’s not working on the porch, and a lot of readers weighed in on improvements to be made, which I found super helpful! They were far more constructive than your approach, which isn’t helpful at all. I’m going to go ahead and mute your future comments; I suggest you take your negativity to Facebook where it belongs — not my personal blog.

  24. Did you do an AFTER post? I will see if I can find it, but I hope there will be an AFTER at some point. Love your response to Eileen! LOL!

    1. I too wish there was an after… I haven’t posted it yet! I got sick of the door color so I’m repainting it (it’s been years, so it feels like time for a change) and there should be some new updates when that happens (hopefully this fall/winter).