This article appears in Summer Home & Garden magazine 2020.

As house sizes shrink, homeowners are thinking about the front of the home not only as a greeting area but also as a gathering and living space. Putting the right touch on this space makes for Instagram-worthy curb appeal.

“The main trend that we’re seeing is people are transforming their front entrances with sitting areas and courtyards,” said Joe Raboine, director of residential hardscapes with Belgard. “Like a front porch, a set of chairs, a bench [or] a small table and chairs can be a welcoming sight to guests and passersby. It fosters random meetings and conversations with friends and neighbors.”

To provide a sense of security, surround and define the space with low walls, he said.

Connecting the front entrance with a walkway that leads to the street creates a door’s-always-open feeling.

“Often homes are built with sidewalks that only come from their driveway. This is also not inviting, and connecting a driveway walk with a street connecting walk can transform a home,” Raboine said.

Depending on home style the sidewalks may be straight and linear or a casual sweeping organic shape, which imparts “a more magical and inviting feel. Sometimes as it approaches the street it gradually widens, which can give it the illusion of length,” Raboine said.

Tidying up is the simplest task a homeowner can do to boost curb appeal, said Maureen Reddy, a professional stager and owner of DaVinci Designer Gallery in Winthrop, Massachusetts, who advises:

• Trim trees and bushes.

• Edge and mulch flower beds.

• Power wash pavement walkways, porches and siding.

• Paint the front door and/or shutters.

• Purchase a new mailbox.

• Decorate with flowers and plants.

“These simple upgrades, even if you’re on a budget, will show the potential buyer that the home is well maintained,” Reddy said.

Less is more, said Jason Anderson, broker with Living Room Realty, Portland, Oregon: “Green lawns and mulched weed-free garden beds are always a great lure for buyers to put their own stamp on.”

Decorations depend on home style, but strategy is everything.

“Layer your textures, tie existing elements together, and add focal points leading up to the entryway and mixed borders along pathways,” Anderson said. “I would also argue that tying in elements from your home’s exterior to hardscapes is equally important.”

“Muted grays and tans are always popular, safe colors when choosing pavers for a front walkway,” Raboine said. “However, if someone wants to make a statement, red and terra cotta blends can really add a pop of color and emphasize the entrance to a home. Couple this with a bright front door, and it can transform the look of a home.”

No matter how much you’re investing into curb appeal, remember to match your upgrades with the style of the house. For instance, a contemporary home should boast a sleek and angular pathway while the seaside cottage should be outfitted in cobblestone.

“This principle also applies to outside lighting. Make sure the design elements of your exterior are cohesive,” Reddy said.

There’s nothing more inviting than a well-lit front door.

“Exterior lighting with LED lights can make a huge impact on curb appeal and add an extra layer of home security,” said Jake Goodson, also a broker with Living Room Realty. Don’t be afraid to splurge on a high end fixture, but be sure it honors the style of the home, he said.