Need some curb appeal help for brick house

kjmama(6)July 27, 2009

Hi - we are moving to this house and it desperately needs some charm. Any ideas - shutter/ front door colors? Any landscaping ideas? Here is the house.

Thanks so much everyone. I love this site and all the ideas.

From VA house

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Well your house isn't totally lacking in charm now. A different front door color would make the door stand out more.

Some type of tree or taller shrub foundation planting on the left to disguise the slope. Having a symetrical facade really calls out the slope. Try to balance things out with the foundation plantings and then put in the rest of your garden.

The house columns seem rather diminuitve compared to the rest of the house.

Okay... that's just me rambling on but just tossing out some ideas.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2009 at 9:24AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Which direction does the house face? Do you have any need for shade trees in front of the house?

    Bookmark   July 28, 2009 at 1:03PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Is it irrational to wonder why there is no railing on the porch? That might add charm too. And I think some surrounding shrubbery/trees/garden other than at the foundation wouldn't hurt either.


    Bookmark   July 28, 2009 at 11:12PM
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This is a nice looking house. I would just consider painting both the front door and possibly the shutters white. I agree, a porch railing is a nice idea, or maybe even a trellis or two.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 1:25AM
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P.S. I have a feeling your new house was modeled after Thomas Jefferson's house at Monticello. See link below. On that house, the shutters are black, but the door frame is white.

The house at Monticello is an example of American adaption of the neoclassical architecture of the Italian Renaissance.

Technically, there are porticos on the east and west fronts of the Monticello estate house, not porches. A true portico wouldn't have railings since there are commonly steps leading up to a portico.

There are also many historic brick houses in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. that have porches without porch railings, even if there are no steps leading up to the porch.

As you can see in the link below, there is no railing on the west portico of the Monticello house, but since you have a porch, rather than a portico, a railing might work.

If you want to go with a railing for your porch, the railings on the roof of the Monticello house could be a good reference point as far as railing design.

The Monticello estate also has amazing gardens, which may be an inspiration for your future landscape plantings. Copy and paste link below into your browser:

Gardens and Grounds of the Jefferson Monticello estate:

Here is a link that might be useful: The Jefferson Monticello house

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 1:49PM
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Lilyfinch z7 mid tn

ooooh i love your house! How about some window boxes? I think they add instant charm. ( to an already charming house!)Large urns also would look great. Also, a weeping tree would look great as well, maybe a spring flowering one. Please update us on your beautiful house!

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 3:16PM
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PPS: For porch furniture, the Monticello estate also has an online store that carries outdoor furniture, etc. You'll find the outdoor furniture mostly in the "Garden Accessories" section under "Outdoor Decorative". They carry several benches that might be nice for the porch depending on your budget, or they are just good to look at for inspiration. Anything in the "neoclassical" style would probably look good with your new house if you decide the keep the shutters black, and stay with a more formal look.

But for a more "country-ish" look, you could go with white wicker porch furniture, and maybe hang some hanging planter baskets (white wrought iron baskets maybe?) between the columns on the porch. If you want a more "country-ish" and less formal look, I would definitely paint the shutters white, and I agree with lilyfinch that window boxes could really work, especially with a more "country-ish" theme.

In the photo, it looks like there are five little Japanese barberry shrubs (Berberis thunbergii) growing just below the porch area. I'm personally not fond of this shrub, but that's just my opinion. If these shrubs are Japanese barberry (hard to tell for sure from the photo) you may want to look into an alternative shrub depending on the sun and soil conditions of this spot, unless you're not opposed to Japanese barberry. I just have a problem with it for ecological reasons. The sale of Japanese barberry is banned in Massachusetts, but I don't think it's banned yet in Virginia, although it is on the "Moderately Invasive Species" list published by the Virginia Department of Conservation.

You might also want to think about getting some kind of container to disguise the garden hose.

Here is a link that might be useful: Monticello Store online

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 7:01PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Re. porch railings, in case anyone may not have noticed, the walk/stairs up to the porch does have a railing, but extremely understated.

So, pro-railing people, should the porch have the same type of railing as the walk/stairs? Or if the porch has a white railing, should the existing railing be painted white to match?

I tend to think there should be something at the front of the porch, if only because the porch is three feet above the lawn and the existing shrubs are well below the porch level. Hopefully there are no children or klutzy people using the porch who might fall off....

One option might be to put low planting boxes along the front edge of the porch.

I like the idea of painting the front door a lighter/brighter color. I don't know about Photoshop or other fancy software, but you can always play with changing colors in the Paint software that's probably part of your Windows OS.

I don't think there's enough room for windowboxes. The porch windows are quite low, and that space is already in use for chairs (we don't know how shallow or deep the porch is; putting the chairs in front of windowboxes might not be an option). Windowboxes below the windows above the walk/stairs would interfere with people using that approach to the porch (the windows are 3-4' above the walkway, and we don't know how wide the walkway is). The windows on the other side of the house already have shrubs at that height.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 7:17PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I'm not a house design person so I didn't mention it earlier, but one thing I think detracts from the charm of this house is the whiteness of the peaked overhang above the porch. As it already protrudes, it is made all the more prominent by its light colour relative to the brick. I think I would paint that a different colour, along with the spindly posts. And yes, I did notice the railing on the steps, which is what made me wonder why there is none on the ... porch? portico?

Windowboxes may look charming from a distance but I'm willing to bet they're a nightmare to keep watered and looking spiffy, as well as bringing untold opportunities for bugs, mold, and damage to the house. I like my plants, and the water they need, kept in the ground.

Looking forward to hearing from the OP again.


    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 7:43PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Yes, Karin, exactly! We notice the big white gable rather than the rest of the house.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2009 at 2:55AM
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First I love the house. I like the layout and the porch.

Next-- I agree that your front door and shutters are too dark and the white is too white for the dark brick. The sidewalk railing is too dark too.

The white might not stand our so much though if the shutters and door were a lighter color. They have computer programs in some stores now that let you take your photo in and make changes in color, and that's what I would do first, and then decide on other changes

As for planting. Right now all the plants are lined up along the foundation. Red is not really a color you want next to the red brick like the ones along the porch. I would have a bed shaped somewhat like a question mark from the corner to in front of the porch and along it to the sidewalk. If you want to keep the plants that are in front of the porch move them elsewhere or sprinkle them around the the big part of the bed. Keep lighter flowers or leaves next to the brick

    Bookmark   July 30, 2009 at 6:49AM
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When you have your picture on the computer try the railing in white too. I think the white stands out because it is all alone on the porch.

If you don't go where they have a computer program for choosing colors then check out this site

    Bookmark   July 30, 2009 at 7:02AM
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Aside from all the painting and rail installations offered up, for landscaping ideas consider planting some trees on the slope to frame your view (hopefully of something nice...!)from the inside and from a curb-appeal point of view.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2009 at 9:16AM
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A large flowering tree off to the right or weeping tree would look good, placement would depend on whether you wanted some shade on house at that end. Down to left a small growing tree, we call them specimen trees- 1 that is eye catching- maybe with lovely umbrella shape. Center of yard needs an irregular border flower garden, you can pick easy to grow things like lavender,should have at least 3 colors & 3-5 small shrubs, couple of them toward left end, others 1 in back about where porch ends on right & finally 2 more towards street at that end. Right now it's "house" & "grass" needs personal touch. Shutters are way too dark, I agree with others that if they were white would tone down white overhang, make pillars seem larger, porch railing in white would make it more interesting also. The plantings in front of porch should be tall enough to come up to floor of porch(it shouldn't be seen from street. Hope someone with right computer program comes & makes there changes on here so you can see them before you do anything. It's a nice house & you want to show it off to advantage!!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2009 at 12:24PM
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Try adding maybe a white railing to the porch? That would certainly do something. Maybe take out the thin black (metal?) railing for the steps and replace with matching white wooden rails. Paint the door! (and the shudders)

You could get some hooks to hang on those posts, or hang hooks from the top of the lookout on the porch, for some lovely hanging baskets (petunias, or million bells would look very nice and add a nice punch of color). Or if you make a railing, you can get one of those things that lets you hang planting boxes off the side of the railing.

Get 2 big pots for each side of the door. A good shade plant will be very nice. Get some cute chairs, maybe wicker? Or a nice rocking chair or two. Put them in the corners.

I think the A-frame atop the porch needs some dressing up. It's awful stark! I'm just not exactly sure WHAT to put there. But it needs something ! :)

You need some flowering trees! Focus on shrubbery/trees, the basics, and then get some perennial flowers in there for some color. How about a pretty cherry tree or a pear tree? Pear trees are BEAUTIFUL in the spring, with all the white flowers. Maybe somewhere off to the right of the house? Just make sure you don't plant it too close--they will get BIG. Magnolia trees are also a very nice choice. I'd suggest a japanese maple, but I think it would blend in a little too much with the bricks.

For some spring color, now would be a good time to order some daffodil bulbs :) You can plant them once and never have to worry about them again. They come back every year in numbers, and they're very hardy. Deer won't eat them. You don't have to dig them up or anything. You can worry about next summer's plants next spring. But for now, focus on the big foundation type plants. Try some hostas, they are nice (however I find whenever we've put them in our front yard, deer munch on them! But I don't know if deer are an issue in your area)

    Bookmark   July 31, 2009 at 8:21PM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

Pretty house. I would add trees and your yard looks big enough to support one or two large shade trees and some understory trees like Appalachian Spring dogwoods (they are disease resistant and the dogwood IS our VA state tree!) or some other flowering trees-can you tell I love trees? I just planted a Vitex (Chaste tree) which flowers in the summer and is oh-so-pretty.

I agree that the columns could use some beefing up. You can do this easily by nailing up boards around the existing posts to form a larger box and then paint. To soften that huge expanse of white, maybe leave the edges white (you may want to add a wide trim piece across the bottom) and paint the center of the triangle a softer hue such a taupe or sage that is not a sharp contrast. I would also paint the door. Pick your favorite color! Then, after you live with that for a bit, choose your shutter color.

I agree that window boxes are pretty, but they are difficult to maintain and I'm not sure they would really add to your house.

One of the best things you can do is take your time. A lot of creative staring can help you decide what you would really like. It can also help you avoid impulsive mistakes and, believe me, I've made my share of those!!! Always remember, it's an adventure and you can go back and change anything. Have fun and enjoy your new place.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 5:18PM
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Looks like you'ver received a lot of great advice.
Here's a little something...and it is a quick fix.

Three very large ceramic planters on the porch floor, one between each of the four pillars. Plant very colorful flowers and tall spikes as well as cascading vines or flowers. You could also add two hanging baskets above the two end planters and/or a door wreath.

Happy home-making.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2009 at 9:47PM
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Goodness! Thank you for all the ideas! What a tremendous help! Our compt has been down, sorry for the slow reply.
I liked all the discussion on the railings, shutters, and plants. I never would have connected the Monticello inspiration and look forward to exploring that site. Also, couldn't quite pinpoint the "big triangle" as an issue. Thanks. The shutters giving a formal or country feel is right on. I will try to "paint " my pic.
The house faces southwest so shade could be good. I liked hearing what plants people suggested and why. You all are great!!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2009 at 10:22PM
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If you are looking for other landscaping ideas, I have found a website from Google that might help you. Thanks.

Here is a link that might be useful: Landscape designs

    Bookmark   August 9, 2009 at 3:08PM
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Thanks, what do people think about putting some type of window or ornament in the pediment - similar to the monicello window?
Thanks for the website idea.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 6:16PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Actually, at one point I was thinking of suggesting a fake window, louver, or vent in the gable, but decided I didn't know enough. The gable seems a bit on the short side for a window -- but then there are plenty of houses with low attic rooms which are in use. When I was house-hunting a few years ago, I saw an old place (which turned out to have been the childhood home of a friend of my mother's); there were two big rooms in the attic, but the ceiling was too low for them to be counted in the square footage -- however, I'm short and would have been quite happy using that floor for my bedroom.

Why don't you play with the photo in Paint or Photoshop -- or even on paper -- and see how it looks?

I've seen round, rectangular, triangular, rectangle-with-domed-top, and rectangle-with-triangular-top gable windows and vents.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 8:53PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I wonder if it would work to take it a step at a time. My hesitation in putting up such a window would be that it would have to be very small to avoid contributing to the problem, that is, if it dwarfs the house windows it will only exacerbate the weight of the overhang.

Maybe do a few other things that are cheaper and that you might want to do anyhow - paint the shutters a lighter colour, beef up columns and/or railings.. maybe even paint the overhanging triangle to match whatever softer colour you put on the shutters (or darker so it maybe recedes relative to the shutters)... and then see whether such a window is needed?

I'm SO not a house design person, so take that with a lick of salt. But my years of living in an in-process reno tell me that sometimes deferring a decision makes it clearer what to do.


    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 10:12PM
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Trying, maybe, to add to and ask a few related questions.... it has been some time since the original post and a bit of time for me to reflect on all these ideas.

Now - how do I know how big to make the columns? People definitely agree they need beefing up.
Two - Topie identified this style as neo classical - Would it be odd then, to add some "cottagey" type elements - like a victoriany screen door or porch supports? What about a picket fence or arbor some where? Am I off my rocker?:)
Three - I may need to ask this in another post, but what type tree do you see on the left of the picture?
Thank you again for all the wonderful ideas! You guys are such a help

    Bookmark   April 10, 2010 at 11:40PM
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dogridge(7b nc)

I agree that the house has definite neoclassical architecture. If you prefer more of a cottage look, you might consider taking down the pediment.
However, if you want to go with the neoclassical/Greek revival theme, then you should play up the portico. Beef it up with moldings (dental molding is especially prominent in this style, bigger round columns would be good. I believe you can get hollow fiberglass columns that can fit over the existing support posts.
I like the photo with the red door. A big door knocker would look great too.
The landscape should be very structured with clean lines. If you want an arbor, you might consider one like P. Allen Smith has in his book Garden Home. His home in this book has a greek revival cottage look to it, which works really well, but his home is not quite as formal and symmetrical as yours.
I think some large trees in the front would help enclose your landscape and home. Not sure what is hardy in your zone, but a big oak is always pretty.

Courtesy P Allen Smith, Garden Home.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 1:39PM
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Thank you dogridge! Those pictures are so helpful and gave me ideas I hadn't considered at all. WOW

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 2:42PM
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