In an old book about National Trust Gardens the gardener at Standen, Robert Ludman, who in the 1980's looked after twelve acres single handedly, talked of a gardener he knew called Jack Lilly whose principle was 'keep the toes shiny and you don't notice the dirty heels' by which he meant keeping the paths and lawns as good as possible.
Our lawns are very far from perfect but, weather permitting, we'll cut the grass two days before the open days, and cut the lawn edges the day before. A crisp line between the long grass area and the short grass area makes the long grass look intentional and not just neglected. We'll put bark mulch on the front edge of all the beds straight after the last grass cut. This makes the biggest difference to the look of the whole garden. I like to use granulated composted bark - it looks like dark rich soil and sets off both grass and plants perfectly. Coarser bark (which lasts longer and is cheaper) can be used further into the beds.
Our stony soil looks better covered in a bark mulch (excuse the weedy looking little geranium!)