Pornography is hard to define, but I know it when I see it.
–Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart
Oddly, I could say the same thing about good home improvements: they’re hard to define, but you know one when you see one (ditto for home improvements that are bad or otherwise “off”).
If you forced me to come up with a definition, it would be that a good home improvement is organic and accretive; the “acid test” is whether, when it’s done, it seems like it’s always been there.
In that vein, a neighbor on my block is in the middle of what looks like a $15k or so landscaping project.
The focal points: neatly defining the (formerly scruffy) perimeter of the front yard with a limestone retaining wall, which subtly picks up the decorative stone highlights in the nearby Tudor home (and takes the home’s already strong curb appeal from a “7” to a “10”); and a decorative stone walkway from the home’s front entrance to the sidewalk.
When it’s done, no one — excepting the owner and perhaps a few neighbors — will be able to tell it wasn’t original.