Dressing Up a Drab Front Door/Porch and Keeping the Charm of an Older Home

This post is sponsored by Signature Hardware.  As always, all opinions are 100% my own.

One thing’s for sure about The 1878, and that is that it wasn’t its curb appeal that drew me in in the beginning. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the bay window, and loved the side porch–Lord knows I love the character of that side porch, but it just wasn’t the style of home that I had dreamed about or envisioned us living in. So when everything on the inside of the house was in complete and utter chaos, I focused my attention on the exterior curb appeal of the home (or lack there of).

 Making our house attractive from the outside is just as important to me as making the updates inside.  I want my guests to feel welcomed and not frightened by the exterior of our home.  I even had a comment on Instagram that said that this house would be perfect for Halloween time, HA!.  Not a look I want to go for year round!

While this is not a major undertaking– like landscaping (we’ll focus on those types of things in the spring), it’s a few small changes that can make a BIG impact, starting with the Drab Front Door.

There’s no denying that this baby was drab and sad—it had definitely seen better days . . .

When we first purchased the home, the front door was nailed and screwed shut, so we kept it that way for several weeks, until I got brave enough to take it on.  I slowly but surely removed each and every screw only to have a solid wood slab door almost fall on me!  No hinges, nothing in place to secure the door to the frame.  My hubs looked at me and said-“let’s just buy a new door.”   Ughhhhh! I thought, not only because the antique solid wood door was gorgeous and had so much potential, but because I imagined the can of worms we’d be opening up by ripping out the door frame and side lights.  I was determined to make it work.

  • First things first:  Assess the Front Door and Surrounding Areas

Clearly my front door situation needed a little extra TLC, so the first thing I did was grabbed some new hinges from the local hardware store and made sure the door would actually work for the size of the frame, as it isn’t original to the house.  I got it swinging with a few slight adjustments and some help from the hubs—solid wood doors are HEAVY!

There were some other issues as well:

Dried out door sill, faded stain, peeling, trim paint
Rusty handrail, missing doorbell, weeds growing on the steps, overgrown shrubs
  • Refinish The Door 

Because my door had multiple knob and deadbolt holes, my original plan was to just patch them up, sand ’em and paint the door a fun color -you know, the easiest route 😉  But after receiving many pleas on Instagram to save the wood door, I removed all of the hardware and decided to bite the bullet and sanded it down.

  I then replaced the wood threshold, and painted the sill with a thick Deck paint, which filled the cracks and the dried wood.

I patched up the extra holes with wood filler, and then I was at a complete loss for what to do with the holes that my door lock set didn’t cover.

I could have plugged it with a dowel slice, but that just felt a little beyond my DIY skill set, and I knew that staining the wood filler-filled hole would make it stand out like a sore thumb. (I’ll get back to this below).

  • “Jewelry” Time

I knew that I wanted the door to look authentic, so I searched for some hardware that would seem to fit the era of the home.  I knew immediately that Signature Hardware would have exactly what I needed.  Signature Hardware is an online retailer of products for bath, kitchen, and home. They also carry many vintage inspired pieces that match the character of an old home.

I decided to update the old faded mail slot and chose the Heavy Duty Bronze “Letters” Mail slot.  I love that the detail around the mail slot coordinates so well with the trim around the door’s window.

The dated brass light fixture was replaced with two very stately light fixtures to flank the door.

I love the way the Whitby Bronze Wall Sconces mimic the shape of our mansard roof/home, and how they really draw attention to our front door.

Speaking of attention, we had no doorbell! How would I know when all of my packages were delivered, lol?

I was able to find the Egg & Dart  Doorbell from Signature Hardware to complete the whole look.

The detail on the doorbell coordinates so well with the door trim and the mail slot, I swear it makes my heart go pitter patter!

Once all of this was done, I was still left with a patched hole in the door, it was an eyesore!

Luckily my friends at Signature Hardware saved the day with the Hanover Solid Bronze Entrance Set.  This entrance set worked perfectly to solve my problem.

It has an exterior plate that extends the length and covers all of my door hole problems. This set is so beautifully crafted and sturdy.

I also love how it is slightly minimalistic in contrast to the mail slot and trim detail on the door.

The backside of the lockset, has a curved handle and turning knob deadbolt.

  • A Place to Welcome your Feet (and Your Guests)

Usually, finding a cute or whimsical door mat is not such a challenge for most homes.  However, as you can see, our front steps lead all the way to the door, no stoop, no porch, just steps, so this made it quite challenging to find a mat that was proportionate to the first step.  I thought about purchasing some of those rubber stair treads and using just one for the main step, but then I thought of modifying a door mat to make it fit, by purchasing this over sized coco coir door mat and trimming it down to fit my step, using a utility knife.

I used this previously trimmed doormat as a template

In my humble opinion, I think a door mat should at least meet the width of the front door or larger.  You can even layer a flatter weave area mat, with a smaller more decorative rug, for added texture.

  • Plants and Wreaths

I am a huge fan of keeping a wreath on the door year round.  I am known to keep a stash of plain grapevine and/or willow wreaths, and then I stick seasonal items in them, such as pinecones, eucalyptus and fresh sprigs of evergreen in the winter.

This wreath is bright and welcoming for late summer, and softens up the square edges of the door and window.

I also purchased two faux topiaries to flank the door.  I like how they add balance and really frame the entrance.  These are a great option if you’re into little or no maintenance like me!  You can also add a smaller pot of seasonal flowers or shrubs to add interest and color.

How about a little before/after action:

I still have some work to do, but this has made such an improvement!  I am so grateful to Signature hardware for partnering with me to make this makeover happen.  I can’t wait to continue working on the curb appeal of our home. What are some of your favorite ways to dress up your front door?  Share in the comments!


Click here to see how I had Privacy glass and house number added to our front door.


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  1. Shanna SOUZA
    September 6, 2018 / 1:09 pm


  2. Erin Marshall
    September 6, 2018 / 3:01 pm

    Such a beautiful restoration Carli. I love what the new hardware has done. It's all coming together so nicely.

    • Made By Carli
      September 6, 2018 / 8:41 pm

      Hi Erin!!! The new hardware has truly brought the door to life, thanks so much for stopping by!

  3. Made By Carli
    September 6, 2018 / 8:40 pm

    Thank you Shanna! Xoxo

  4. Laura Husband
    September 7, 2018 / 1:14 am

    You are incredibly talented! I will certainly be checking out signature hardware! Beautiful pieces thanks for sharing!

  5. Tanida West
    September 8, 2018 / 2:15 am

    Wow what a difference. It always amazes me how you can make basic pieces look so amazing. Love the door mat!

  6. Tamara Inzunza
    October 23, 2018 / 8:14 pm

    Love it! Thank you for showing all of the stages of this project. I think it helps for people to see how it was done. Great finish.

  7. July 28, 2020 / 3:39 pm

    I would give almost anything for that front door! However, in the original photo of it, you show the glass as frosted with the house number within a circle. Now it looks like clear glass. Did you remove the frost and the number? I hope not as I sure love that! Anyhow, it’s a very attractive looking house with a very attractive looking homeowner standing in the doorway! Such a nice smile!

    • madebycarli
      July 30, 2020 / 2:05 pm

      Thank you so much! This update was done prior to the privacy film/and house number 🙂

  8. July 29, 2020 / 6:24 pm

    That door is serious perfection! I am going to add some vintage character to a salvaged 1920’s door that I am going to use in my 1920’s kitchen as a faux back door. Love the “letters” plaque!

    Beautiful job and gorgeous home!

    • madebycarli
      July 30, 2020 / 2:11 pm

      Thank you Amber 🙂

  9. Jessica
    September 30, 2022 / 10:56 am

    What finish was used to protect the wood on your door?

    • madebycarli
      October 3, 2022 / 4:08 pm

      Hi Jessica, I later stained it with Minwax Gel Stain and then protected it with Cabot Clear Wood Protector.

  10. Jennifer Kopczynski
    November 22, 2022 / 7:58 am

    what stain color did you use?
    where are the topiaries from?

    • madebycarli
      November 22, 2022 / 4:11 pm

      Hi Jennifer! I used Minwax gel stain in aged oak. The topiaries are from Homegoods☺️

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