Being the Modern Lifestyle Expert, people are always asking me what they can do to make their homes more stylish and inviting to others. It always surprises me how many people never think about how to set the tone with curb appeal. And I mean a very specific focus: the front door. Think you need to own a home to worry about this? Not so. Even for apartment dwellers, your front door sets the tone for what your guests will experience once they’re through the entry.

Guess what? This design detail has been violated by people of all income levels. I’ve seen multi-million dollar homes without any true sense of an entry space. I’ve seen modest homes whose doorways have had wonderful details and an overall clean and welcoming look.

So the good news: this never requires a lot of money, just some creativity, and some basic ground rules. Once you embrace this door “score” you will be shocked as you notice how many others are missing the mark. For example, two of my closest friends, Geri and Paul, think they can’t have control just because one owns in a condominium complex and one is a renter. Not so!

First, here are the three ground rules to which I refer:

  1. Pride in your home starts at the doorstep.
  2. Take ownership, even if you’re not the owner. You’re paying good money to be there, and that give you the rights to make your recommendations to your landlord and/or apartment super.
  3. Little things make a big difference- so start small and build your confidence.

So, how’s your door “score”? To make it easy to remember, I’ve created this simple self-test. Give yourself an extra point for each “yes.”

S = Safe and Secure (Does the lock work? Can you see through the peephole? Is there enough light to clearly see any steps and or walkway?)

C = Color (Although apartment owners or renters may not be able to change the part of the door that is seen from the hallway, is the paint chipped? Do you need to touch-up the paint and trim?

O = Open easily (Have you had to jiggle the key less than 1 out of every 50 times? Have you never worried you might need to give a hip-check to a swollen doorframe? )

R = Ring my bell! (Does your doorbell work? Can you hear it throughout the house? Is it still attached to the house? If it’s a knocker, is it secured to the door or does it need a little tightening?)

E = Every little details counts in your entrance way. A great knocker, a fabulous wreath or a clear number sign make your door more inviting and noticeable.

How did you do? If you’re feeling a little shut out (pun intended,) here are some other details for which you can give yourself extra credit.

Extra credit for homeowners:

Show off the details (hardware, lighting fixtures, architectural styling)
Flower containers, stone statutes or other larger decorative accents offer a wonderful element of surprise.

Work towards consistency with your home/apartment with neighbors. Coordinate color maintenance and signage together.

Pick a color; if your door lacks a welcome punch consider a bright inviting color to welcome your guest from afar.

Extra credit for apartment or condo dwellers:

Owning a home is wonderful, but renting a home or apartment should not mean you have to sacrifice style and design.

Adopt a local green space if you do not have your own. The entrance to your building can spill out onto the curb. Why not coordinate with your building and or neighborhood to do some “green” good.
A welcoming welcome mat can keep the dirt out of your home and can also be monogrammed for a sophisticated touch.

Gorgeous stone vases or decorative pieces not permitted due to fire regulations? How about zesting up the shared wall space in your corridor with some artwork you actually like. Think it can’t happen? It never hurts to ask — you might be surprised if all the neighbors on your floor agree.

Not able to affect the outside look? What about the inside of the door? A good friend in NYC has a steel door, which had always been painted a traditional “apartment off-white wall” color. In only a few hours we stripped it down to its natural steel and polished it; now it’s a conversation piece that his neighbors envy, and it matches his more modern-looking interior design.

Take ownership of your entrance as if you were looking at it for the very first time. What you experience may be shocking and inspire you to make a refreshing new change. Worry about making a long-term commitment? No worries, as keeping it fresh and new after years of wear and tear will require you to come back to this project. Take advantage to upgrade and make new modern changes that will suit your changing home or apartment style.

And there you have it.