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A Door Do-Over in 5 Steps

Shabby storm doors, peeling paint and sun-fried ferns don’t offer the warmest of welcomes. Nancy Moore, the founder and owner of design/build firm The Porch Company in Nashville, has taken plenty a portico from weak to chic—and it doesn’t take much elbow grease for you to do the same with your own entryway. Put up a good front by following her tips (and one from her green-thumb husband).

1. Set the Mood

“Your front door should always stand out,” Moore says. ”It should be in keeping, architecturally, with the home, but this is also a great place to show your personality through color.”

Pick a shade that reflects you—think teal for funky folks, sleek black for the formal crowd and whitewashed blue for the shabby-chic set.

Once you’ve chosen a finish, consult the paint can (or your favorite handyman!) for instructions on how to prep the surface and whether you’ll need a weatherproof finish.

Clean storm or screen doors with products appropriate for their metal finishes, and patch up any torn mesh.

2. Keep It Simple

“I like the idea of using color to express personality better than crafty signs or whimsical flags,” Moore says. That means it’s time to retire the witty plaques and dancing frogs, and let your front door hog the spotlight. If your entry truly feels naked without an accessory, try a simple wreath. “Less is more. Clutter is stressful, so put away the knickknacks,” Moore says.

3. Home In on the Hard Workers

Evaluate your doorknob, locks and lights. If they all work, give them a good wipe-down and call it done. If they don’t, change the light bulbs or call the locksmith—or think about an upgrade. One simple but stunning swap is tossing the deadbolt and doorknob for a handsome new Schlage handleset. Look for designs that align with your home’s architecture (no nautical lamps on a modern bungalow!) in matching finishes. Once you’ve settled on a style, affix coordinating house numbers in a font that’s easy to read.

And if your doorbell ding-dongs like Cliff Huxtable’s, it’s time for a tuneup. Wireless models are now utterly affordable, while pricier units come loaded with video capabilities and other techy bells and whistles.

4. Come Clean

Go beyond your usual 30-second sweep and give the decking, steps or walkway leading to the door a thorough cleaning—you’d be surprised how fresh the space can look. If you have a porch, run a damp cloth along the floorboards and molding just as you would inside the house, and while you’re down there, check to make sure any waterproof sealants haven’t cracked or peeled.

Finish with a new doormat that echoes the home’s design. Before you buy, consider how much traffic your front door gets: If it’s used sparingly, a thin, decorative mat may suit the space just fine, but if it’s your main entrance, you need a workhorse. Look for a mat with textured rubber or sturdy fibers that stand up to shoe grime.

5. Plant It Right There

Add some life to your entry with live plants in containers that coordinate with the door. For all things green, Moore turns to her husband, J. Paul, her resident plant expert. “A variety of different textures and foliage color or patterns is critical,” he says. “Consider using larger containers or a combination of sizes grouped for an even more impressive display.”

What to plant? That depends on how much sunlight your entry gets. Your options are widest if the doorway sees some rays, but if the area’s under an awning or porch, ask your local nursery which plants in your gardening zone thrive in shade.