If this were your house, what would YOU do?

nursekathleenJune 27, 2010

I am trying to recreate a bit of a craftsman (yeah - I know it isn't one) cottagey feel to our house. I want shutters, but that window above the porch won't work. The cottage is about 100 feet from the lakeshore so a beachy feel would be nice....

Opinions wanted on everything, good or bad! This photo is from last summer. The plastic pots on the porch are now iron urns.

Thoughts? Thanks!

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cherylnsw(NSW Aust)

Not very much at all, plant wise. A new colour for the steps is about all.

I think it's very pretty.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 8:50AM
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Pretty! Lovely plants---my only suggestion would be some height in between the 2 round green shrubs.... Not crazy about the gap there. Maybe some tall perennials in that spot. Cottagy looking flowers like foxgloves come to mind. I also think rather than urns (which say formal to me) I would paint the pots white or cream to match the trim around your windows and tie them into the house a bit more. It looks lovely though :)

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 9:17AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

The thing that strikes me as most needing doing is not garden-related. I'm not sure if it would be possible re building setbacks etc. but to me, what is most needed is a wider landing at the top of the stairs (how do you open the screen door without stepping back off the landing/down the stairs?) and a railing for the stairs and porch landing. That entrance as it is now strikes me as awkward and unsafe so changing that would be my first priority.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 9:49AM
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Thanks guys! Cheryl, painting those steps is in the cards. Not sure what colour though?

As for the spot in between the shrubs - there is an endless summer Hydrangea in there, tho in this photo it's small. It's bigger this year, and we put a trellis with a Clematis in the middle behind it.

I'll try to post a more recent photo tonight.

Woodyoak - that's the next big thing on our list, after updating the electrical (which is scarier). We do hate those steps :( It's actually wider than it looks, so it's possible to not step off into the abyss when you open the door...but there is no railing. There WAS a wrought iron one at one point, but a PO must have removed it as you can see where it was once attached, but is no more :(

Thanks guys....more pointers gratefully accepted :)

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 11:21AM
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agree about landing, steps; and also front door, more formal/substantial, better color, along with window casings that shouldn't be white (with current color scheme).

The annuals you have are fine for some temporary enjoyment, but if you really look at the front yard, that rim of small flowers does nothing for the house or curb appeal; it's partly (or maybe largely) that the pink-and-white candy color scheme doesn't go with the earthy house colors. but also a design issue-- a few clumps of color work better than the low rim next to the lawn. The orange daylily actually works well. Someone with more design savvy can maybe define why--somehow the house front calls for something more structural than the impatiens.

So as you begin to plan your longer-range plants and color scheme, think more golds, russets, creamy colors, maybe some ornamental grasses. It's not so much that you can never alllow any pink, (though fall colors will be sublime) but not the bubble-gum pinks and brilliant white.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 2:01PM
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Thanks Frankie!

I agree, the door is wrong (coming off this year!) and the window is wrong (installed by PO).

Thanks for the tips! Much appreciated. I have a lovely blue hydrangea coming up (will post a pic!), do you think some blues would go well? I agree the pink and white doesn't work. Best laid plans, and all :(

Or maybe reds. I LOVE the "pop" of annuals. What about some red Geraniums in containers? We would like perennials for most of the gardens, but love the burst of colour annuals give. Would reds work? I'll admit it - I hate that orange daylily. I don't care how well it works with the house ;)

It's staying, though. I can't fight reality ;)

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 2:47PM
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The entrance lights on each side of the door are too small. Get a medium sized light so they are not lost. A nice light makes a nice statement at the front.

Would install a gutter on the one side of the porch. Yeah, might not look perfect, but what happens now...it seems the water runs off and lands on the bottom window area?

On the one gutter on the far right on the main house, the pitch is too great on the bottom leader, it is too noticeable. Start the pitch closer to the ground to conceal it and run it to the right of the home and it will be invisible behind your landscaping (not to the front of the house as it is now). Paint gutters that are behind the browish color. Gutters should not stand out. Typically they are white to match the white trim at home corners. However you do not have not painted trim there so the gutter would look better painted. The gutter should be installed against the corner trim, not out on the exterior wall as you have.

Nice home, the above is picky, but you asked. These things caught my eye at first glance.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 2:52PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

For the steps, consider a color you're already using on the house. You currently have red-brown siding, pale mocha trim, white windows and door, mixed colors of stone, and dark/black metalwork. You don't need an additional color! If possible, I'd make the steps a light brown sandstone color to blend in with the stone facing.

Then paint the gray doorsill to match the stone facing. (I'm assuming you have to use separate types of paint for the wooden porch and cement sill.)

I've read that on the sister site Home Forums, there's a forum where people give excellent color advice -- and even sometimes do color mock-ups. I'm not sure if the correct forum is Home Decorating or something else. [The Home Forums are linked on GW's main page.]

Anyway, I think you need someone with a much better eye for color than I have to analyze the colors of the house exterior and landscaping. The best I can articulate it is to say:

1) If you can't find porch paint to match the stone facing color, I don't know what would be the best color for the porch, but ideally it should tie into one of the other colors already in use on the house exterior.

2) Something about the red-brown siding color bothers me. How long till it needs to be repainted? Peach? Something in the blue or periwinkle range: maybe a dull or slightly grayed periwinkle? (I see that you're using blue and violet flowers, as well repeating blue in the two wreaths: do you hanker after a blue house?) You don't have to change everything at once, but you can make a master plan now and move in that direction a bit at a time.

3) I don't quite like the lovely pink flowers with the colors of the house. I wonder how peach would look with the stone -- but then there's that siding.... If the siding weren't that color, perhaps the pink wouldn't be a problem.

Is there a sunny spot in the backyard where you could move those orange daylilies? Daylilies come in every color you can imagine (except stark white and true blue), as well as several colors you can't imagine. If you can't find a good color at the local garden center or Big Box, there are plenty of daylily vendors who will send you bare-root plants by mail. You can probably find several growers in your area. People at the Daylily Forum can help you ... to become completely addicted! Just ask them about local daylily growers or their favorite mail order vendors. Plant in early spring and water well.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 2:59PM
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OOOOhhhh, How about window boxes, not ornate or large, but at least one under the main window to the right. And removing the built in planters could release alot of space to put in some flowering shrubs. By removing the built ins, you would take away the "restricting" or linear feeling since you are so close to the sidewalk.

As far as color of plant material, I am one that believes any healthy plant is the correct plant and you obviously have the ability to grow a garden so don't concern yourself with pallettes and "rules".

Enjoy your space and let your mind wander, that is what gardening is all about. You have good taste and know what you are doing, so please don't be too concerned about what everyone else thinks......take your time and enjoy the time outside.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 3:49PM
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I don't like the number "2" next to the door. An odd number such as three or five would be much better. Just kidding.

What you have is working well (other than the cold color steps in a warm color environment).

I really like the pink and white annuals because they have a lot of visual power without size. They create a strong wide base line that makes the house not look tall or bulky in a very limited space. I also think they advance from the bottom of the house that helps in the same way. This is a trick that I'm going to do my best to remember and use if a similar situation comes up.

I would not want to see the hydrangea between the two hollies get as tall as the hollies. In fact, I'd rather see the depth maintained in that space by using something flat on a short trellis against the wall and keep the annuals in that planter the way you have it.

I would not put window boxes on this house because it would counter act the effect of pushing the house back that you have achieved thus far.

The way that the lawn pushes back into the house while being framed by the annuals adds a lot of depth again in very limited space.

This is a great photo to study in my opinion. There are a lot of subtle things that are doing an incredible amount of work here that could easily be overlooked.

I think it is very well done.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 5:40PM
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My sincere apologies for not getting a more recent photo up. I love the opinions, even though they are diverse (pink flowers: no, pink flowers: yes!) I love reading them and appreciate it so much!

Tom: agree about the lights. They are too small. They were off the rack at HD, did I mention when we bought the house it had NO exterior lighting whatsoever? Fumbling for keys in the dark: no fun! So at least those are functional. Pretty in that respect will come later, as will the gutters (also PO fault, ha ha).

Missingtheobvious: I LOATHE the siding. It is circa 1970, in crappy condition, and to me looks poop brown. It is ALL aluminum - all the trim, up the porch posts,etc. It is an aluminum monstrosity. Can't be painted, or so I'm told - or at least it's not worth it to try. You are correct in assuming that I hanker for a different colour. I want it pewter gray, with white trim, a beachey sort of style with fishscale shingles over the porch. I guess in my mind I'm already trying to go there with the pink and blue flowers. I do love blue, but the gray is what we are after eventually (two years hopefully).

Doublenoodles: window boxes are on the list. Not everyone's favourite, but I think they would look lovely! Thanks for the tips.

Laag: I hate that #2. No, really, I DO. So much so that I have another one, a wooden sign, with a gold leafed 2 and a gold leafed seashell attached. It is rectangular like an innkeepers sign and just waiting for hubby to attach it ;)

Thank you all for the compliments - it was a blank slate when we moved in, all that was there were the planters with the two shrubs (which, by the way, are a pain...they grow like weeds and have to be trimmed constantly).

I am AMAZED no one mentioned the hideous mailbox. Maybe far away it doesn't look bad. I want one that goes vertically - not horizontal, to match the curve of the porch. And one that doesn't have little wooden kitty cats stuck to it. I am not kidding. You just can't see them here. I loathe that mailbox.

It came with the house too lol.

Many thanks!

    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 1:27PM
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I love your house!! I'd paint it a more grey/blue toned color though, like you said... and go for darker colored plants. Sages, lavenders. Maybe a stained glass in the uppermost window?

If you can't paint the brown... what about doing the rest in green? (or blue... brown and blue are very popular combinations right now)

I wouldn't take out the lawn but might add some soft grasses or blue fescue to soften the edges of the lawn. It's kind of abrupt right now... sidewalk, lawn, stairs. (and I'd take out all the pink :)

    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 3:17PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Laag: Thank you for those very instructive remarks. Very thought-provoking.


    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 7:01PM
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Kathleen, you absolutely CAN paint your aluminum-sided house. We had ours painted 10 years ago and it still looks good. The key (as in all painting) is in the prep. The siding must be powerwashed very thoroughly so that any chalkiness in the existing siding goes away. Then it most definitely can be painted. The guy who did ours sprayed and then brushed. We did a lot of research and heard a lot of naysayers before we found the answers we needed, but I can tell you for sure that it can be done and will not only look great, but the paint job will last longer on aluminum siding than it would on wood.

Also, you will find that changing out your exterior lights and your house number will make a world of difference in moving you towards the craftsman/cottage look you desire. Rejuvenation Lighting is costly but really good stuff, and they have a lot to look at under the heading Arts and Crafts.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 8:47PM
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pippi21(Z7 Silver Spring, Md.)

Kathleen, your home has a lot of potential. I agree with some of the suggestions that were given and if that is aluminum siding from the 1970's, it can be painted. The home we bought in 1978 had aluminum siding on it. Vinyl siding had not come around. We thought that it could not be painted too..but somebody bought a foreclosure home 2 doors from us, had a professional painter powerwash the outside to get all the dirt, grime and chalky oxidation off. Sprayed a primer on and next exterior paint. It looked like a different home, so then we had the same thing done. It came out beautifully. We sold that home 5 1/2 yrs. ago and it still looks good and had we stayed there(lived there 27 yrs.)we would have gone the vinyl siding route. I'm sure the current owners will do the same one of these years. What does the back of the home look like? It takes money and time and if your husband is handy around the house, it sure saves money. If you contract to have a professional do work, get at least 3 estimates and by all means, check the contractors out with a licensing agent. Word of mouth and satified customers are the best reference a contractor can get. Ask for references and check them out. Contact the references or write and ask if you could come by and see the work that the contractor has done for them. Most people may be hesitate at first but if you explain your reason, when you get there, you'd be surprized how easy the conversation will flow. If a customer isn't satisfied, it will show up in conversation. I had people to allow me to make copies of their blueprints of their screenen in porch when we were building ours. Don't rush, Rome wasn't built in a day! Flowers and paint are cheap and makes the biggest difference in exterior appearances. If that was my house, I'd definately put up a railing on that one side for safety reasons and even going down the stairs. You don't want anybody to fall and in today's world, people sue at the drop of the hat anymore. Pick the least costly things to replace first, then tackle the more pricy projects when you can swing it financial. Sometimes an older home can break you but that looks like it has good bones and is built well, just looking at it from the photo. Do you have a good size yard in the back? Did I understand you to say it is a lakeside community or near a lake? I like your idea of color desires. How long have you lived there? Does it have a basement?

    Bookmark   July 1, 2010 at 4:07PM
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pippi21(Z7 Silver Spring, Md.)

Are you or your husband computer savy? At least you know how to post a photo; I don't know how to do that and I'm envious!
Perhaps you somebody on this website would be kind enough that has a landscape software program that could play with some ideas on the computer program for you. Or you could buy the software yourself and play with it.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2010 at 4:13PM
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Pippi21 - thank you for the comments!

As for painting the house, we recently looked into it. It would cost several hundred dollars in primer, paint, supplies etc. even if we did it ourselves, and since we are planning on re-siding the house anyway in two years, we are not going to bother. But thank you to those who say it can be done!

The very next thing we need doing unfortunately has nothing to do with aesthetics - the electrical needs updating. Yes, it does have a basement, and when we pulled out the (very poorly done) "finishing" down there, we saw what a rat's nest of DIY wiring there is. So that is priority. Fires are no fun :(

The railing is on the list - for obvious reasons. We are not sure how to tackle that - the steps are concrete, I do hate the look of wrought iron (which we assume the house had originally on those steps) but can't figure out what else we could make them out of (how would you attach wood railings to concrete?).

It DOES have good bones, just needs updating. The yard is a good size, we have plenty of room in the backyard, and yes, it is two houses from the shore of Lake Ontario - the beach is around the corner. The interior of the house is in pretty good shape - kitchen needs updating, but the original gumwood and trim is there and only needs a coat of shellac to bring it up.

We have owned the house just under two years. In that time we have redone the back landscaping, replaced several windows, gutted the basement, waterproofed outside walls, and completely gutted and redone the upstairs attic master bedroom - 400 square feet. Whew! And we are only just beginning! :)

    Bookmark   July 5, 2010 at 11:28AM
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I have not read anyone's responses yet. My favorite thing to do is to makeover houses and here is my opinion for a beach cottage makeover:

1. Paint the entire house a light color, preferably White, this will unify and balance the 2 sep. sections of the house and make it appear larger
2. Add Louvered shutters in a Pale Blue color
3. Add a Sailboat weathervane (in a verdis green/blue finish) atop a Cupola
4. Add gingerbread corner brackets to the peaks of your house
You have craftsman lighting already
5. I would accent the top window with a pretty open lacework curtain
6. Definitely add a white flag pole and white bracket to the house with a med sized flag closest to the driveway
7. Change the front glass door to a Cottage Screen door with the gingerbread cut outs (Alexandria is the one I would pick). Go to vintagedoors.com to see the door. You can paint it in the blue to match your shutters and add color, will tie in the blue to the house (shutters).
8. Add a white railing down the steps on both sides. It should be cottage-y looking with details. (nothing straight and modern). Must be white
9. You could hang a painted sign with a "name" for your beach house/lake house, like Lake House and the circa date it was built and hang that from the top left peak under the gingerbread bracket I mentioned earlier.
As you can see it's all in the small details. It's like a painting that's so pretty, there are hundreds of tiny details creating on beautiful picture.

  1. Finally, I would add a white picket fence, maybe 2 feet to 2.5 feet tall framing the front yard.
    P.S. Of course I have more to add....
    You could paint your mailbox the same blue as the door and shutters or change it to one on a post.

Also, you could add scalloped lace curtains hanging in your 3 windows on the left to add cottage appeal. The victorian brackets (gingerbread details) for the peaks could also be in the same blue to tie in the door, shutters and gingerbread details on the 2 peaks.

Under the front right windows I would plant Fairy Roses in pink for an informal feel. .The current bushes are formally shaped in a round shape and the fairy roses would be informal and the soft pink color would look great against the grayish colored stone. Hope this helps! If you do it all, can u email me pics! Thanks!

    Bookmark   July 5, 2010 at 12:45PM
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p.s. Paint the steps the same blue or same tone but darker ...... (blue)

    Bookmark   July 5, 2010 at 7:05PM
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