Consider the trellis.
This simple construction--usually slim strips of wood in a lattice pattern--is the basis for any number of architectural elements you can add to your residential investment properties for an almost instant facelift. If you're looking for ways to boost your property profile, easy-to-install trellises enhance a house with an elegance and appeal that translates to a higher-end tenant and, in turn, higher rents.
A Short History Of The Decorative Grid
Trellises (treillage in French--it's the name of more than one luxury subdivision in the Southeast) date back to ancient Rome and Greece. These open work structures provided a framework for vines and other plants to climb; creating much-needed shade relief from the hot Mediterranean sun. An botanical arbor is simply a trellis canopy with lots of trailing plants--medieval paintings depicted the Madonna and Child in front of such an arbor. In Japan, wisteria is the traditional trellis vine--the delicacy of the blossoms is at the mercy of the wind, sun, and rain--much like man is really not in charge of his destiny, either.
Adapting History To Contemporary Homes
Even with such an ancient and global pedigree, the architectural trellis adapts well to modern life. Here are some ways to dress up a house's exterior by incorporating a trellis or two.
Trellis Over A Window
This is the easiest trellis trick. You'll need a pair of brackets and a grid for each window--don't use them over every single one; just the focal points in the front of the house. If you're not sure what that is, go out in the street and look at the house. Which window--or windows--is your eye drawn to? Each house is different and trellis placement should be unique to the house, so what works for a cottage won't work for a colonial. The brackets attach at the window corners and the trellis lies horizontally across and attaches to the top of the bracket.
Make sure the bracket complements the house in style and scale, and measure the trellis to fit over the brackets. It should extend beyond the brackets like it's a tabletop.
You can paint the trellis and leave it bare or landscape it with climbing vines--again, it depends on the look you're after. For a modern house, bare is better. However you dress it up, an over-window trellis creates the illusion of taller windows.
Trellis Over a Doorway or Garage
If your front entry is the focal point, put your trellis there. You can use the over-the-door kind, or install a surround trellis. If you opt for the surround, it can be a squared-off element, or an arched one to complement an arched entry.
If you're putting a trellis over the garage, you'll need several brackets to support the weight--one at each bay corner.
An entry trellis needs some landscaping or it just looks like you forgot something, but the garage can go either way. Be sure to choose fast-growing, hardy plants that will pretty much take care of themselves.
This is a great way to camouflage a not-great-looking exterior wall. An example would be faded or mismatched siding--add a trellis to that side of the house and plant some ivy--by the time you get the tools put away that ivy will take hold and be halfway up the wall.
Turning a Trellis into a Pergola
Okay, in truth those ancient canopies where the Romans dined on their couches under the stars were pergolas. A pergola is a fancy trellis--like an open beach tent, with supports and a roof. A pergola takes a patio from plain to pizzazz with very little effort, and you've got more of an outdoor room concept to offer your tenants.
Believe it or not, adding trellises is a great way to save on water use--you can soften the look of the house with plants, but choose drought-resistant ones. That lets you hardscape more of the property and avoid most lawn maintenance.
Worthington Millwork can help you design trellises and pergolas that fit your property, the materials are a weather-resistant PVC. They can even offer online quotes--just send them your specs and you're on your way.