There's a lot to love about small houses: less upkeep, lower utility costs, manageable floor plans. If you already live in a small house or are thinking of buying one, you'll probably spend lots of time on the interior. But key exterior design and landscaping tips can do much to play up all that's wonderful about your small home. Here are five ideas, as well as some key considerations, for small houses.

Front of home with picket fence and greenery

Do: Reveal your home's footprint. Don't: Try to hide its size.

One adjective that's often used to describe small-house exteriors is charming. That's because the combination of color, size, and landscape creates an approachable, welcoming facade for street-side viewers. Instead of hiding your home's compact footprint, play it up using proportional containers, window boxes, and added decor items -- here, a hanging birdhouse and retro, metal chairs -- that fit both the scale and style of your home.

Small House Living Large

Do: Minimize visual clutter. Don't: Add, add, add.

Many of us act on the urge to add more -- more landscaping, more trim, more details. Those can quickly overwhelm a small house and detract from its appeal. Here, instead of a dressed up portico and overwrought trim, the homeowners focused on simple supports, stylish yet restrained shutters, and a conservative mailbox.

home exterior

Do: Streamline the landscaping. Don't: Let trees, shrubs, and flowers get overgrown.

Small, clean-lined homes such as this one rely on just a few details for visual interest. To emphasize restrained beauty, pare down the landscaping to just a color or two and a few plants. The low-clipped hedge here offers definition for the home's edge (and hides the unattractive foundation line, too). To add variety without clutter, consider breaking up the sidewalk with an unusual material or a minimalist pattern.

home exterior

Do: Accentuate or add to architectural details. Don't: Mask features that shine on your house.

Look closely and you'll probably see subtle extras on your home that add character; when enhanced in a style-appropriate way, those small pieces help to create a cohesive exterior design. Here, narrow vertical trim pieces break up the otherwise unadorned expanse of the street-facing roofline, while simple trim and moldings bump up the aesthetic of the columns and windows. Bonus: If your home doesn't have these details, they are typically not difficult to add, especially with a few DIY skills.

home exterior

Do: Pick a single color. Don't: Hide your home in the shadows.

Dark colors might seem like a good fit for a small home -- and sometimes they are. But particular styles and sites might be more attractive in a monochromatic arrangement, as with this compact stucco home. The warm, buttery cream color helps the exterior to reflect light, while the pale, subdued contrast of white trim enhances the lines of the open and airy porch.

Home exterior

Do: Connect to the outdoors. Don't: Ignore your yard.

An easy way to enhance the exterior appeal of a small house is to make it live bigger by cementing the connection to the landscape and outside living spaces. This house invites outdoor living with a compact screen porch that encourages front yard interaction. Covered porches, decks, and patios work in the same way, particularly if they're connected directly to your small home's main living spaces.

If you're deciding whether a small-house plan is for you …

• Think about your essential spaces and your daily schedule. Do you really need a dedicated home office, or would a stretch of counter in the kitchen work fine? Is your family into formal dinners, or do eat-prep-dine combo spaces fit your lifestyle? Know what you absolutely need and what you can live without.

• Include outdoor living spaces in your overall floor plan. Small houses live much larger when they have patios, porches, or decks, even if they can only be used on good-weather days.

• Think quality, not quantity. One big full bathroom with two sinks, a tub, and a shower might be much more pleasing, as well as inherently adaptable to life changes, than two small spaces with single sinks and just a shower. Likewise, a roomy living space with a fireplace and bookcases might be perfect in place of two family rooms that feel crowded and don't have any extra amenities.

How to Choose a Home Plan

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