Ideas on updating a 1951 ranch

dave11April 27, 2010

I posted this previously on "This Old House" forum and got some good advice, but it was suggested to me to cross-post on this forum, so here goes.

I bought a 1951 ranch a couple years ago and have been repairing many years of neglect, especially in the yard. I've hated the color of the brick from the first time I laid eyes on the house, but bought it because I liked everything else about the house, and assumed I could change the exterior. Now that the time has come though, I'm short of ideas. Here are some pics:

I also hate the huge white gable, but have been unable to find a color that would make it less objectionable.

As you can see in the one photo, there is a small building toward the back right side, which is an old stable, also in need of a redesign.

I tore out all the mismatched and deer-shredded foundation plants, and have not yet replaced them, because I can't decide what I want to do with the exterior of the house.

The brick color is very dated. It reminds everyone of old firehouses and school houses and Soviet era government buildings, but most folks so far have objected to me either painting or dyeing the bricks to change their color, or to having some sort of veneer or siding added.

To me, it seems necessary to choose a color scheme for the house, before I can decide on a landscape plan. No amount of landscaping is going to hide the color of the brick, or the big white gable.

All comments appreciated.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Here's what you do you take an eyesore and paint it brilliant white to maximise the effect. The brick looks good to me it is that Klingon forehead that grates, that and having every window outlined and emphasized. If the Klingon forehead was, for sake of argument, cedar shakes and the paint work taupe wouldn't that compliment the nice bricks, rather than fight them? You know that you could do this with computer software in advance as a trial and I don't believe I said that.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 6:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

LOL. Klingon forehead was funny. Actually, when I look at that gable, I always think of Moby Dick's giant white head rising out of the ocean. There was that old movie...

Cedar shakes is an interesting idea, because some of the other houses on my street have cedar shakes for some or all their siding. They are much more modern (1970s-1980s) than my house, but maybe that would work.

You are okay with the brick though? Here is a close-up:

I hate the brick myself. The house would look so much better in another color.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 7:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi dave,

I agree with the previously funny comments. I like the brick color as well. It is pointed very well. You just need to work with brick color palette for it. I like Ink's idea of the shake or any other interesting single-piece pattern siding for the gable end. How about somehow working a dutch hip roof in front of the gable to cut the large vertical face. With the big white triangle staring at you, it begs for a basketball hoop (orange of course). That is all. JMHO Aloha

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 8:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yeah, shakes sound nice, especially if they'll resonate with other houses in the 'hood. The texture of cedar shakes will add another texture to the mix and take the focus off the brick. It's not the nicest brick in the world but it's not the worst by a long shot. And it's in great shape. Do not paint the brick. Just don't.

Do paint the trim! Some people really like forest green with brick. A dark green would certainly look nice with cedar. I'd be careful with taupe or anything light b/c it will pick up on the mortar and bring more attention to your brick.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 9:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I appreciate all the comments. I'm amazed though that folks think the brick color is okay. I guess I look at other houses in my neighborhood, many built at the same time, but with brick of an earthy/neutral color, and how much better they look because of it. Those houses versus mine are like night and day. It's even more out of place because it's surrounded by all the green of the trees and lawn. My bright red house seems to have dropped here from the sky, like in the Wizard of Oz.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 10:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The grass is always greener...

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 11:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
leafy02(6 Central Kentucky)

Your house looks a lot like my mom's house, only hers doesn't have that bulge up top--what is that for, anyway?

I'll say it; that brick is not my favorite--I prefer when more muted and varied shades of brick are used together for a less stark look.

I am a big fan of painted brick for the way it looks, but don't know if I would bring an ongoing maintenance issue into my life by painting the brick if it was my house.

So, assuming you are going to leave the brick as-is, I'd tone down the contrast on the trim and windows by going with something less stark. I think a warm taupe or sage color on everything that's white now would add a lot of appeal. I'd paint the door a darker color for contrast, plant a bunch of shrubs and perhaps copy my mom and put a rose trellis going up the wall on the far right. She also has window boxes, but they're a lot of work and I wouldn't wish them on you ;-)

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 11:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Once you get trim repainted then you need to get some red or coral in the yard. A shrub that has a very reddish tone for your area out in yard toward left or small tree.I've found a kind of coral color looks great with the little bit of brick I have on the front of my house. Get a paint chip about same color as your brick & then start holding it up to plants that are blooming & you will be surprised at what looks good with it. Right now it's red & green & black driveway. Add an old bike painted same color as brick & with basket of flowers hanging off the handlebars in the yard. Maybe a flower bed with a low fence same color as brick. Could have lot of colors of flowers & couple of shrubs in different green than grass, lime green maybe. It may look like too much color to you but it will get toned down with soft colors. Check on the Internet for historical brick homes or old brick homes & see what colors you think look great with the houses. The small building doesn't match house yet, that will make a difference too! So little paint & pulling it all together with landscaping & couple of complimentary flower beds & I think you will have a very sharp looking place! Good Luck!

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 12:03AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

All great advice. Lots to consider, which is what I hoped to find. Thanks everyone.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 6:44AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
karinl(BC Z8)

The maintenance issue with a painted house is something no one should choose unless their sanity is at stake otherwise. You have a nearly zero-maintenance exterior. That's a decision only you can make. Plan to age in place? How much peeling paint can you handle at 80? Planning to sell? Which do you think would be an easier sell?

If you think you might paint, take steps toward the decision. Maybe you can arrange it so you only paint the trim once, maybe not. Choose a few preferred brick colours, choose trim and Klingon section colours. Paint the trim and Klingon (I'm sure there's another name for that). See how it looks. Landscape around the house, using stone colours that harmonize, perhaps, and of course plants that do. See how it looks. Plant some more, think again.

And then, if you're still not happy, what the heck, paint. But me, I'd make that brick colour work because I'm looking at how many days of my life I want to spend painting the house. Spin around the internet or the library for brick and landscaping, and you may find some examples that work for you.

A garden around the house could go a couple of ways. Floral extravagance, real gardeny look, lots of trees, would soften it up, dress it down. Formal, specialty conifer garden would put a bow tie on a house that already looks neat as a pin. Just a classic foundation planting might nestle it in nicely. Your paint trim colour could anticipate the style you envision for the landscape as a whole.

Go to the home dec forum maybe to find the colour experts. They tend to be a conservative lot, very beige for my taste, but even changing that white to a cream that works with that red will already make a huge difference, and many people there have the eye to select the right one. Even if it's turquoise you're after (and for the record, I wouldn't :-)) they can help you find the right shade. Many WILL tell you to paint the brick, but see first what they can do to work with it!


    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 11:42AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Keep the brick. Lose the white. Agree with ink--this is the perfect situation for photoshop--sure, everything still looks different in real life, but you can really go wild and try taupes, black, dark green, dark blues, anything but white.

I too, like earth-toned houses, probably better than deep red brick, but I don't like what I perceive as the maintenance of painted brick compared to the natural brick, so I think I would be happy with better trim color and at some point, you may even change some of the other things--windows or shutters.

If you look at the house, once you paint the gable, possibly to match the roof, then the largest component WILL be earth-toned.

sunnyca, I'm not seeing any definite need for reds or coral in the yard.

However, if you get the house darkened up and the Moby Klingon toned down, maybe just nearly matching the roof color, then all sorts of white flowering trees and shrubs look great with the red background and your dark green turf. But anyway, once you decide to keep the brick color, then your other landscaping choices will fall into place more easily.

karinl's focus is great, too--once you do paint the trim, yeah, is is kinda expensive to re-do, but not life-savings expensive and is very do-over-able, so while you may agonize a bit over trim paint choices, you can free your mind that they're not irrevocable, so don't sweat blood over it.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 6:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Just for kicks I took a photo of your bricks and loaded it into my color snap paint ap. It says your brick is "Hearty Orange SW 6622" and suggests "Reflecting Pool SW 6486" and "Eider White SW 7014" as coordinating colors.

Using a darker part of the photo, the brick came out as "Red Prairie SW 2916" and suggested "Ecru SW 6135" and "Tiki Hut SW 7509". I think the Tiki Hut, which I would call a nice medium shade of taupe would blend nicely with the roof color. The Ecru is a light straw yellow.

Getting back to the first suggestions, the "Reflecting Pool" color, a sort of pale blue-green, suggests to me that you consider gray-blue foliage with the brick color. You already have plenty of Eider White. ; )

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 9:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
tibs(5/6 OH)

How is the condition of the roof? A different shade of roof shingles could change the whole look If it is a healthy roof don't change it! I got my fingers smacked for chastising someone for painting brick on another post. It would be a maintenance nightmare. When you plant, don't plant any of the azaleas you see blooming now. I have seen houses with your brick that have the cerise, hot pink, cherry red azaleas. Makes my teeth hurt.

My red brick house is from an earlier era. I call it Depression or WPA red brick. All the public works projects in our area were built from it. The highschool stadium. The water plant. The library. The post office. And on and on.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 10:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Color gurus, I'm wondering what color you'd recommend for the front door, once all that glaring white is painted a medium taupe? Roofish brown? catkim's "Reflecting Pool"? Something else?

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 10:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I like the shakes idea. I think once you add that it will tone down that area a lot and also you have a bare house just standing there staring at you with no landscape. If shakes are not in the budget just painting that a color to tone it down and not blind you may help! ;) One thing to remember is when there is no landscape you notice every feature of the house to dislike.
Trust me the brick is not horrid. I had this 70's brick one my first home that had brown and red brick mixed together. I wanted to paint it so badly.
I am LOL at your discription of it.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 11:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Lots of folks are really giving some great advice here. I really appreciate it.

The roof is the original clay tile. It is in great shape and I was told by the roofer it would last another 50-100 years, so changing it probably isn't practical. The roof tiles are a charcoal color with flecks of light green mixed in. It does cast a greenish tint across the roof in bright sunlight, but you can't really tell in the pics I posted.

I have used GIMP before for photo manipulation, and I'm starting to play with the ideas posted here. As soon as I get them presentable, I will post them, to see what folks here think.

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2010 at 7:40AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I don't think you can use some generic color-combo recs--like you would get on exterior paint company handouts from paint stores-because they are typically aimed at the body, trim, accent, blah blah blah. This photo shows that the OP has very specific areas of trim juxtaposed in specific ways with roof and issues of mitigation. So, a broader view of color theories and effects come into play.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2010 at 10:20AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
apophrenia(8 PNW)

Heh. I was the one who recommended that Dave come here, and now he's being sent to the Interior Design forum! Keep cross-posting, Dave, and maybe eventually you'll find a photoshop whiz willing to spend some time on helping you tame your Great White Klingon.

Seriously, I do think it's time to hit the photoshop or the GIMP and start experimenting with colors - and maybe even some of those pastede-on evergreens (I hear the landscaping gurus *scream in horror* even as I type this suggestion). I really do believe that there's some combination of paint and plantings that will make you feel a lot better about your brick. Sadly, I'm completely inept when it comes to both photoshop and landscape design, otherwise I'd try to help you out myself.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2010 at 4:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Apophrenia--I'm making slow but steady progress with the Gimp. I've taken out the shutters and have been able replace the gable with a shake siding pattern with a color matching the tile roof. Just need to try changing the rest of the white trim.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2010 at 5:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

A gimp is someone with a limp where I come from so be careful with that one besides yours is a fixable problem isn't it? Since you came over here there must be some thinking about using stuff in the landscape to disguise your imperfection and here we are reassuring you about the brick colour. We are so supportive of disability that we miss an opportunity to encourage invention. My bricks are the same colour but it doesn't keep me a wake nights, what colour should bricks be?

    Bookmark   April 29, 2010 at 6:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
apophrenia(8 PNW)

Indeed, I always wondered about the...sensitivity? of choosing that particular name for a graphics program. But it is free and works happily with Linux, so I'm willing to overlook its somewhat dubious moniker.

If the Klingon forehead were cedar shakes and the paintwork something in the taupe range, inkognito, as per your original example, then what "stuff in the landscape" would you think might complement this house?

    Bookmark   April 29, 2010 at 10:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The house is very nice. The brick is lovely. The white trim is also terrific. What is obviously missing is landscaping. Foundation shrubs in green, chartreuse and red, close in size but varied. Only three. Repeat the three. No other foundation shrubs.

Some tall shrubs or small trees of the same color family or same kind of greenery for the side of the house near the garage, or the side with the basement windows. Repeat lower greens on the other side of the walkway.

Do some curvy mulch areas near the walkway and plant compatible colors in annuals, perennials or what you like.

Dont paint the brick. Landscape the proerty.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2010 at 1:25AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

HOUSE: The brick is great! The roof is a pleasant neutral, and you say it's in good condition.

What is strange is the way the windows are snugged against the gable, which is accentuated by the shutters. And the huge, glaring gable of course. Removing shutters and painting gable and other woodwork in something muted that blends with the roof and brick - maybe a grey-green or grey-blue?

LANDSCAPE: It's got a nice lawn, but some planting around the house to emphasize the entry and the walk, and break up the expanse of brick on the right would be nice. You have a perfect spot for some small flowering trees and perennials between the walk and the house.

RE: the GIMP ... originally was the General Image Manipulation Program, but its long name was changed to the "Gnu Image Manipulation Program" when GNU ( ) took over the development. The use of "gimpy" to mean "walks with a limp" is US slang dating from the 1920s. Do you also think cartographers should give up the use of "plot" because it's crude and insulting French slang, have all machinists and Irish dancers stop using "jigs", etc.?

    Bookmark   May 1, 2010 at 2:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

What I meant lazy was that such unfortunate acronyms lead to unfortunate distractions in an otherwise interesting thread. And as the gimp Gump said "that's all I have to say about that" .

I didn't see your question until now apophrenia. My first concern would be about structure before details. Read laag's response on the focal point thread regarding what to emphasize and what to tone down and you may see how the the lay of the land from the 'postman's view' accentuates what is wrong with the house. Can you see how landscaping could provide a more balanced view?

    Bookmark   May 1, 2010 at 5:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Dave, I'm intrigued by your mention of Soviet era - was that global or what? To me, the color of Soviet era is brown, brown, brown...
If you get the trim painted and still hate the brick, grow a vine on it.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2010 at 2:54AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm not fond of the orange/red brick either. Have you considered (rather than painting) having the house covered with a stucco finish? I don't know where you are from and if it would work. I don't know what that involves but it adds a new look to the house. Perhaps in a darker tan or rustic color and painting the gable a corresponding color to the tan. I also hate the brick on my house and have considered and am looking into the possibility of stucco upon the entire 2,200 sq ft of my home. Just a thought.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 3:17AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
New construction landscaping
I am looking for any suggestions for low maintenance...
Landscaping ideas - Need help with suggestions of plants please
We would like to seek help in filling our concrete...
Help with frontyard design changes
Hi, I’m in the process of replacing turf in my front...
Plantings for Driveway/Walkway Design
We would like to pave the driveway. (I hope I am in...
Overwhelmed by new homes
I bought a new home just over a year ago in Northwest...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™