Patti L. Cowger Demistifying Design: Mullet curb appeal
Demistifying Design

Patti L. Cowger Demistifying Design: Mullet curb appeal

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In 1992, the song, “Achy Breaky Heart,” made Billy Ray Cyrus famous. It also made his mullet hairstyle famous. You know, short in the front and long in the back without a smooth transition in the middle. It’s sometimes described as “business in the front, party in the back.”

The front makes a good impression. It’s groomed, healthy, and attractive. It makes one think the person is responsible, self-aware, respected, and respectful. The back? Not so much. It makes more of a carefree, anything-goes impression.

I think of curb appeal (the attractiveness of a property for sale and its surroundings when viewed from the street) and a home’s front and back yards as a mullet. A well-kept front yard not only makes a home aesthetically appealing and maintains or improves property value, it even keeps it more safe. These benefits extend to the neighborhood as well.

While beautifully-designed curb appeal can be expensive, it can also cost little to nothing. How is this possible? It’s just a matter of relocating all the “party” elements from the front to the back. These elements include potted plants, furniture, wine barrels, garden art, wind chimes, bird feeders, weather vanes, flags with images such as butterflies, smiley faces or messages, and door wreaths. They will all be happy partying together in the backyard and be more visible to you.

Let me make an exception to the potted plants. A matching pair that flank a front door makes a welcoming vignette. Pots or flower boxes on a porch also look nice as long as they are large enough. It’s better to have larger, but fewer, pots than smaller ones and more of them.

Mow, blow, weed, and water what is left in the front and your curb appeal will automatically be refreshed and upgraded. If you’re thinking of adding new plants, plan before you purchase. Otherwise, you’ll come home with an assortment of greenery where colors, sizes, shapes, and styles don’t work well together. When in doubt, keep it simple.

There is a house in my neighborhood where the entire front yard is black bark (real bark, not wood chips) and about five large boulders and three maple trees. So simple. The key is that they are perfectly scaled and placed where they create balance without looking contrived. Other than a walkway to the front door and a short hedge of pittosporum accompanying it, that’s all there is. I always stop to stare at the elegance in its simplicity each time I walk by. If the homeowners were to ever add some kind of artsy garden knick-knack, it would achy-break my heart.

A green lawn is always attractive. Its water requirements can be reduced by swaths of small pebbles, boulders, bark, pathways, or live ground cover. Choose just two or three materials and use them en masse rather scattered. This will create a bigger and more harmonious impact rather than a scattered, busy one.

I’m looking at my neighbor’s front yard as I write today’s column. It’s designed as I’ve just described. It’s beautiful, simple, and manicured just as curb appeal should be. The only thing distracting about it is that it is so eye-catching and calming that I forget to keep writing.

The mullet has long since been replaced with the fauxhawk where the sides are shaved and all the hair is left on top. In curb appeal analogy, this would mean that all garden tchotchkes would be placed on the roof. This is only slightly more out of place than them being in the front yard. Really. So, stick to the mullet guidelines to make the most of an attractive and proud curb appeal.

Patti L Cowger is a Napa-based interior designer and owner of PLC Interiors. For more information about her design services, visit her website at call (707) 322-6522; or email

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