Front-of-house trends

In Exterior | |

Give your home a full-frontal makeover with new lights, paint and an Amazon-sized mailbox.

When it comes to the exterior of our homes, the pressure to create a good first impression tends to make us a wee bit conservative, a little nervily tasteful. Front doors are usually period-style, as are exterior lights, knockers and letterboxes.

Front-of-house trends tend to emerge gradually and subtly. In 2015, we still love classic door furniture and lantern lights, but lifestyle shifts are changing the look of our front yards, bringing in big storage and shiny mailboxes, while our worship of smartphones may yet fuel the renaissance of the novelty door chime.

Two lifestyle revolutions are changing the face of our exteriors. The first is possibly the least sexy subject in the universe: rubbish. Keeping up with rules and regs on what we throw away, how, where and when, has become as fraught as trying to adopt a unicorn. Officially sanctioned wheelie bins and hideous recycling receptacles have proliferated, and now, unless you happen to be a fox, there’s no uglier sight than a residential street the night before rubbish collection.

There are a few attractive off-the-shelf silos in which to corral our bins when they’re not kerbside: see the fine example pictured far right. And the Porthole, one of Hemingway Design’s ShackUp sheds, would work a treat. But better designs are needed to conceal these carbuncles.

The second shift in modern living that is transforming domestic exteriors is the way we shop. Or, more precisely, the way we don’t. Ordering online is fabulously modern, but we are becoming sick of describing our “safe place” in 30 characters, and tired of calling on neighbours to retrieve our parcels. So larger letterboxes are becoming the norm. “We have noticed that A4 boxes are the most popular — a shift that’s happened over the past five years,” says Emma Cooper, building marketing planner at B&Q.

Lately, a bigger and better solution has presented itself: American-style mailboxes. Jon Holloway, founder of Garden Trading, anticipated this trend and is now reaping the rewards of his foresight. “Sales in January 2015 were up almost 30% on last year,” he reports. “Our lockable box on a post is great for the end of a driveway or lane.” He says his small, wall-mounted postbox, which closes with a discreet click, rather than the clanging of a traditional letterbox, is “ideal for those times when the newspaper is delivered too early and the noise of the letterbox wakes you up”.

The paint firms, too, have been looking at trends and creating exterior ranges in finishes that reflect recent tastes in interiors. Noting the death of gloss indoors — OK, not death, but it’s looking sickly — Little Greene concluded that we would welcome a low-sheen alternative for our exteriors. Accordingly, this month the brand launches Intelligent Exterior Eggshell and Tom’s Oil Eggshell.

“We have heard increasing requests for low-sheen finishes for woodwork in recent times,” says David Mottershead, the firm’s managing director. “The new-formula exterior paints give woodwork a gentle lustre, rather than a mid-gloss finish.” One of gloss’s selling points is its toughness, but these paints are just as durable. “They have a six-year life expectancy, thanks to their high resistance to the ravages of the weather and UV,” Mottershead says.

If you don’t hold with supershiny doors, I bet you already have an opinion about novelty doorbells, and that view is that they’re not for you. But if you love choosing and changing personal ringtones on your mobile (as everyone does, up to and including members of the cabinet — remember Michael Gove’s Beyoncé ringtone?), then it’s a small step to a personal chime.

That’s the thinking at Homebase HQ, anyway. “Before the introduction of wire-free door chimes in the 1990s, a simple ‘ding-dong’ was the most popular option,” says David Cornaby, buyer at the DIY chain. “While this remains a preferred choice, as technology has progressed, so has the number of sounds available.”

Cornaby explains that most door chimes now offer between one and eight sounds, increasing to 32 on some models. “Visitors can arrive to the chime of Big Ben, Mozart or the royal fanfare. For those looking for something more personal, the latest technology allows MP3 files to be uploaded as the doorbell sound, be it a personalised message, a favourite song or even a celebrity voice to welcome guests.”

So what would your chime be? Go on, if you had to? I might go for a startling bar of Michael Nyman, or the “Grr-agh” sound that signalled the end of each episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And I’d change it to Kenneth Williams saying “Stop messing about” for parties. If you simply can’t bear the idea, stick to knockers. There are some lovely big knockers on these pages. M-m-matron!