1950's Red Brick Ranch Help

DetroitNateOctober 14, 2013


I bought this small brick ranch just about 1 year ago. I'm unhappy with the previous owners choice of landscaping across the front of the house. Clearly the huge pine has to stay, but I'm looking for suggestions regarding the rest of the landscaping.

Just some street view images:

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pinksand(7a MD)

Where are you located? That will help determine plant recommendations. As far as designing the space, I think the large shrub that reaches the roof in front of the house could be taken out. Is there another shrub beside it to the left or is that all just spruce branches hanging in front? It might help to trim some of those braches back a bit. Working with what you have, I would turn the little lawn space defined by the curved front walk and driveway into a garden. I would also expand and curve the front bed a bit. Just some thoughts, I'm not an expert in any way.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 2:12PM
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It's just north of Detroit. There are actually 3 shrubs in the front, in this picture you can see them. I'm hoping to rip the 3 out in the spring in favor of shorter, low growing shrubs that won't block the house. I like how the pine frames in the house, but hate how those 3 are covering too much of the front.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 2:20PM
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"Clearly the huge pine has to stay... Let's not call that a pine any more. It's probably a spruce ... possibly a fir ... but definitely not a pine.

It's not possible to draw a completely cleaned up version of the house front over the existing pictures so I'm trying to provide the illusion of that ... which, of course, means limbing up the low-hanging foliage of trees out front. Regarding the large shrub to the immediate left of the picture window, since it looks rather healthy, I'd look into the possibility of limbing it up into a small tree. A large expanse of unbroken, plain roof isn't especially a handsome sight, so having a small tree in that location would help the overall picture. Whether it's possible to do would depend on what kind of plant it is and if desirable architectural features are behind it. If what's behind it is predominantly blank wall, then keeping it could be a big plus. The overgrown green shrubs at the left half of the house face should be removed for sure.

A new bed line and linking plantings with groundcover would make a significant improvement in the overall picture.

I would suggest widening and reconfiguring the steps and walk. Currently, they look scrawny and cheapen the look of the house.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 2:31AM
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Thank you for the reply. My apologies, I should have probably used the term evergreen instead if pine. That's why I'm here though! I like your ideas, a lot actually. I have attached some more photos of the front, a few closeups of that tall green/red shrub dead center as well. Hopefully someone can chime in as to what type of tree/shrub this thing is. Behind that shrub is the bathroom window. I'm not sure how I feel trimming the spruce/fir up 10ft yet.

An issue with that shrub is that it is not very symmetrical because it is growing so close to the house.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 8:03AM
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mjc_molie(z6 CT)

You definitely need to open up the front of your home before tackling any new landscaping.

The evergreen in the front corner is a beautiful specimen, but it overwhelms the house --- physically and visually. If I were you, I'd contact a licensed arborist for opinions as to limbing it up.

I don't recognize the tall shrub in the center. Maybe someone on the forum can. In any case, it's much too close to the house. Limb it up all the way up to highlight the branch structure against the house, as Yardvaark suggested, or remove it. Perhaps an arborist could suggest possibilities --- removing/moving/trimming.


    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 10:12AM
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I like the little tree next to your porch. I don't see the need to have an arborist look at it. Just trim it up as Yardvark suggested. Live with it as a tree for awhile to see how you feel about it. Did you say the Junipers were staying?

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 6:52PM
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"I'm not sure how I feel trimming the spruce/fir up 10ft yet." One couldn't say the magic number of feet based on an imperfect photo. It would be worked out on site. Hopefully, the bathroom window doesn't rely on an evergreen for its sole source of privacy. :-)

"An issue with that shrub is that it is not very symmetrical because it is growing so close to the house." Some conditions can be remedied with maintenance. Some would require a new plant instead. Your last photo leans toward the latter.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 9:18PM
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Thank you Yardvaark, your advice has been great.

This may not be the proper forum for this, but I'm planning on having gutters/trim redone on the house. I'm debating color because the stark white is not pleasing on the red brick.

This is a photo of my neighbor across the street, whose brick is identical to mine. This looks great, but I am trying to avoid having an identical looking house as his (color scheme). Thoughts?


    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 1:12PM
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It's fine to personalize, but IMO too much emphasis is applied to the idea of "expressing one's individuality" and being "different" ... many times at the sacrifice of being less than best.

The picture of your neighbor's is on the dark side, but it appears that his trim color is taupe (a neutral "stone" color.) I think you could improve upon this by using a similar color that was a shade or two lighter. If one does not have much experience with paint colors, it's pretty common for them to purchase an exterior color that is too light. (And conversely, an interior color that is too dark.) It's better to work with small, inexpensive samples before spending money on the actual paint. Start with some color chips from the paint store and look at them in the environment of the paint job. Of the possible choices, select the DARKEST one (or even one shade darker) and purchase a sample. (At Lowe's these are only $2 or $3.) Purchase a sample of white, too, if there isn't any lying about the house. With those two samples, you can mix several sample shades that are lighter than the darkest sample and it's a pretty sure bet that one of them will be the color that works out for you ... or will get you close. Paint large enough samples on the house that you can appraise them from a distance (like across the street.) Also paint (heavy) a sample on a piece of scrap cardboard or piece of wood so you have something to take back to the store and match up to a color chip or have it computer color matched.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 7:41PM
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Thanks again Yardvaark. I'm having the gutters, trim (facia/frieze) and window trim done in all new aluminum (vinyl soffits), so I won't be painting anything.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 7:53AM
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Then I am not sure what you are asking in your Oct. 28 question. ...color choice of a manufactured item?

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 8:55AM
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Yes, the installer has provided me with color samples to choose from prior to them doing the install. I'm soliciting ideas from the experts here for what trim/gutter color to go with since now is the time to change it.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 9:08AM
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Then you would need to show what the color choices are. Is there one that looks like "putty"?

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 11:25AM
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Here are some that appealed to me. My gutter guy believes the guy across the street has "clay", but I'm not 100% sure.

There are about 5-10 more that fit that color family that I can provide if needed.


    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 12:37PM
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Maybe in one of the samples not yet shown, there is a color that is halfway between heather and herringbone. Clay is light enough to basically read as white. All the others are pretty much the same darkness value. Heather is a little lighter but not enough. Of the 6 colors shown, I would consider the 5 darker ones to be body colors and Herringbone to be the one possible trim color. (Presuming a conventional paint scheme with darker body and lighter trim ... as you will have due to the brick color.)

(After homing in on one, you'll still need to see a decent sized sample of it on site.)

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 2:40PM
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Here are the others that I see fit between Heather and Herringbone. I threw those two in also for reference. They are less grey, more tan, but the shade is between the two I believe.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 2:54PM
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Sandcastle looks like a possible trim color that is not white. Look at others in succession of their darkness. I would avoid tans and beiges (anything yellowish or brownish) but even though those words are in some of the names, they may not apply. Desert Tan looks pretty good and not very tan.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 5:44PM
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I see what you're getting at. I like Sandcastle and actually Wicker. Thanks for the help!

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 6:03PM
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You're welcome. I hope it's help instead of misleading. You be the judge. I'd even give Herringbone a 2nd look as things matter how they are in real life, not on a computer screen, which is how I'm seeing them.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 9:14PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

Nice house, just adding 2 cents here- I wouldn't trim up the spruce at all since you would lose any sense of enclosure and privacy in the front. If you like the open look have the whole thing removed.
I would get rid of all the taller foundation shrubs. They're too close up to the house and IMO don't add anything to the front appeal of the house. Plus they block the brick and limestone accents that I suspect are also on your house just as on your neighbors. You don't have a foundation to hide so it's up to you as to having any plantings up against the house. I would follow your neighbors lead and stick to perennials knee high and shorter since your lower style house doesn't need anything to scale down the front. I would put a large planting bed around the spruce.
Careful about going dark on the trim . I think your neighbor matched the trim color to the limestone. If you do the same your houses will look identical and I don't think that would go over well. A good thing is that anything will look better than white, my house is brick with white and well..... the less said the better

    Bookmark   November 3, 2013 at 3:12PM
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"I wouldn't trim up the spruce at all since you would lose any sense of enclosure and privacy in the front." In most cases, in the front yard, aren't homeowners trying to display the home to its optimum level, as opposed to creating privacy and a sense of enclosure? If they opt for privacy and enclosure, aren't there better, more purposeful ways to create it than with low-hanging tree branches? To my thinking, using that method strongly risks appearing like plain old neglect.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2013 at 8:32PM
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I'm leaning towards Wicker...I think it picks up the tones in the mortar, but is light enough to not be mistaken as my neighbors house.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2013 at 6:30PM
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Double post

This post was edited by DetroitNate on Mon, Nov 4, 13 at 18:57

    Bookmark   November 4, 2013 at 6:56PM
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While the color you've homed in on might be exactly the right one (and seems like it could be) a 3" square of it seems not large enough to view and be certain that it is the one. I'd spend the 2 or 3 $ on a small sample of paint that was color matched, apply it on something that will be removed later -- could even be pieces of cardboard or masking tape, or covered over -- and appraise the overall scheme from a distance. Then you could be certain you like the "look" and that it does everything you expect.

When selecting color, I am usually not concerned with "picking up tones of" other elements that are in the picture, such as brick, mortar, etc., though this method usually gets one in the "ball park." I just go with what I think looks compatible and best.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2013 at 9:37AM
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It's time to bring this thread back from the depths of winter...I had the gutters and trim done in November/December and now it's time to put focus back on the landscaping. I will attempt to trim up the shrub immediately next to the porch and I'm considering removing the 2 sad looking shrubs right under the planter beneath the window...

Any ideas on what to place there?

Also, does anyone have a recommendation on what ground cover to use around the evergreen, it's usually shaded and dry there.

This post was edited by DetroitNate on Thu, May 1, 14 at 13:59

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 1:40PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

A classic bed planting scheme is three layers--tall(ish) plants at the back, medium ones in the middle, and short accents right in front. This gives a lot of visual interest.

To achieve this, the planting bed needs to be wide enough. Most planting beds you see were put in by the builder. Sod is cheap to plant, and shrubs are expensive. So builders make planting beds really narrow and put in lots of grass, and we end up with neighborhoods that don't look as good as they can, because homeowners never realize the builder made the planting beds too proportionally narrow to flatter the home.

All that background is a suggestion to make your planting bed quite a bit wider than it is--10 feet would not be too wide. Select some shrubs for a background that at mature size won't block your windows or grow above your eves or get too wide. For the middle, select some plants that add foliage color or are long blooming. For the low front, have fun with bulbs and other small accents. And less lawn to mow. Be patient on the size of the plants. They may look tiny when you plant them, but plants grow. That evergreen may have been a six inch tall seedling in a little pot when it was planted.

You have a beautiful home there--make the most of it.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 2:06PM
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