Grand Plans for the Outside of the House

Brandon and I are starting to think about what we want to do to the house once the weather warms up. Of course, the arrival of spring will also mean the arrival of our baby, so maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves!

Our house was originally built in 1910 as a little bungalow with two bedrooms and one bath. At some point (probably around 1970), the attic was expanded with dormers to add three bedrooms and another bath. The stairs leading up cut into one of the original bedrooms (now Brandon’s office), making our home a 1400 sq. ft., 4 bed, 2 bath house. Great! Except that they didn’t bother to blend the addition.

This is what the house looked like when we bought it (and pretty much what it still looks like):

possible house #3 - WINNER!

Even if we do nothing else, we at least need to paint the trim. It’s something that we knew needed to be done when we bought the house, and two years later it’s just looking worse and worse. Of course, I want to do much more than that…

  • paint & repair the trim
  • paint the front porch and the back deck
  • replace the railings for the front porch with a style more appropriate for the house
  • cover the sides of the front stairs (lattice?)
  • build a gate to hide the storage area under our back deck (lattice?)
  • replace our ugly white screen doors with simple, unobtrusive ones
  • install gutters with covers that supposedly don’t need to be cleaned
  • remove the aluminum siding on the addition and stucco it to match the rest of the house
  • change the house color
  • paint the garage to match
  • put up cute new house numbers
  • maybe change the mailbox?
  • Add an outlet out front and in back (there are none outside)
  • add another metal sculpture in front of the house (we already have one)
  • put in some foundation plants/shrubs
  • plant a small tree (pagoda dogwood?) out front

I would love to change the color of the house. The stucco has been visibly repaired in a few places, and there are probably a few more spots that need some attention. It would be nice to blend those repairs and freshen things up a bit. Plus our house is an exact match with the house on the right, so it would be nice to have ours stand out a little. I like these three color combinations from Behr, though right now I’m leaning toward the first:
exterior paint colors

I’m not sure how much we’ll be able to do this year, but it’s certainly fun to think about. Last summer, I worked on a mockup of the front (and several readers contributed!). I think I’ll have to continue playing around with ideas… at least I get to see what the house could look like. You know, given an endless budget and time. ;)

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  • Amy
    February 13, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    Love your blog! We just installed leaf guard gutters on both of our houses, and they have never needed cleaning. I would highly recommend them!



  • Kim
    February 13, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    I love the first color combo and your home is so cute. Our home was also a small bungalow built in the early 1920s with added dormers later (who knows when?).

    We ended up ripping off the three layers of siding and slate and replacing it with new vinyl siding instead of painting. It’s green and I adore it! My favorite part is that no one else on the block has a green house… gotta be different! =) I smile every time I look at “before” photos.

    Now, I just need to work on the details to pull it all together.

  • michelle
    February 13, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    oh, i love the third color combo.

    that’s one heck of a list, though looking at your mock up you can see that the house looks a heck of a lot better with the dormers stuccoed.

    second vote for the leaf guards. my mother had them, definitely don’t need cleaning once they’re installed.

  • juliette
    February 13, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    i like the 3rd combo, a lot. And then i thought about the first combo and, while i like it, was thinking it wouldn’t show up as distinct as the 3rd combo. I just think the 3rd combo is a little more clear cut and less fade-away looking. I like how there’s some hint of pink on the 3rd big block and think any pink blooming trees/flowers will totally pick up on that, but not in a froo-froo way. Can’t wait to see how things progress!

  • Denise Smith
    February 13, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    Oh wonderful of you to match the outside to the inside! I think people really overlook this design concept. It is all about creating flow, which you obviously excel at!

    But from getting to know you by reading Making It Lovely, I imagine you will not be satisfied with anything other than Exterior Combo #3. You will then have perfect interior and exterior harmony. Regarding your house at least. (I only say that because I know you have a baby coming…you can kiss harmony goodbye for a while!)

  • amanda
    February 13, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    We also have open space under our stairs I would like to cover up, but don’t love lattice or even anything along the lines of beadboard. I’m curious to see what you do.

    Is stucco high maintenance in this climate? I know a lot of houses in this area have it, but am grateful ours is covered with vinyl siding, even though I have environmental & safety concerns with vinyl. I look out on a neighbor’s decaying stucco.

    Also need to round out our front garden with better foundation planting. Cannot wait to see what you pull together as I’m always surprised how quickly you do these ambitious projects.

  • ashley morgan
    February 13, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    Ooohhh…I love combo #1. It’s just so soothing. Any of them would be beautiful, though.

  • Caitlin
    February 13, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    Whatever you end up doing – it will turn out great, it always does!!

    I definitely like color combo #1 alot. I think the tree will look beautiful. It seems like your house might be in the shade sometimes . . . a few well placed landscaping lights might make it even cozier.

    Good luck, can’t wait to see the updates!!

  • dwellings and decor
    February 13, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    I like the first green and gray scheme!

  • Bethany
    February 13, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    I would consider painting the door with a pop of color: red for luck, yellow because it rules, light blue because it is so pretty, or even a shocking pink to go with your flowers! I also think a pumpkin colored door would look really nice with the exterior paints you chose.

  • Fiona
    February 13, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    I like the first the best, although I’m sure all would look lovely, since you have great taste!

  • Modern Ink Studio
    February 13, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    3rd combo, without a doubt. that is my “professional” interior design opinion. I really am a professional interior designer/architect, for whatever it’s worth! I love the last combo!! :)

  • Sarah
    February 13, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    Hi! I stumbled across your website while looking at house tours on apartmenttherapy. We live in Oak Park, too, and there is a house near The Buzz that has a color combo similar to #3. It has cream colored siding and a brownish/grey front door and I’ve always thought it looked great. It’s fun to see the color combos that look nice on some of the older houses around here.

  • puck
    February 13, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    Coming from a historic preservationist… getting rid of the siding is a great idea. Instead of stucco, you might also consider doing shingle. Not the decoration fishscale type that you see on Victorians, but more of a shake shingle. It would give some definition to the dormers, but keeping them the same color still makes it cohesive.

  • Aliya
    February 13, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    Hey there! Just delurking to comment on the gutter guard issue. We just had a couple of estimate on our roof and asked about this, because my husband REALLY wants these! We live in Wisconsin and were told that, in freezing winters, water can turn to ice inside the gutters, expand and pop/break the guards…OR get into your roof. We were also told that debris will build up after a few years and there’s no easy way to clean them. JUST an FYI — I would have a professional give you their opinion first b/c those suckers are expensive!

  • Becky
    February 14, 2009 at 7:17 am

    I like the first set of paint colors too. Curb Appeal on HGTV gives great makeovers. It’s amazing what fresh paint, some new house numbers and cute lighting can do. Good luck, especially with baby on the way.

  • Lisa
    February 14, 2009 at 8:31 am

    Cute home,
    hopefully when the baby comes you will have a bit of time to do some of the things you have thought of. I really like the middle option. Good luck.

    Take care,

  • beth
    February 14, 2009 at 8:41 am

    I like the first and third, but the third best. I agree with those who mentioned the third option has some pink in it, and I think you’d be happiest matching the inside and outside, even if it’s subtle.

    You’ve inspired me to go pink in my house. Not pink like you do it – mine will just be an accent, but I’ve been trying and trying to figure out what accent color to add to my rooms to tie them all together, and pink will definitely work – even in my flame orange bathroom! Can’t believe I never thought of it before.

  • A Merry Mishap
    February 14, 2009 at 9:45 am

    I really like the first color combo!

  • Lisa
    February 14, 2009 at 9:48 am

    For your gutters, you might think about the kind that disperse the water out and allow your plants to be watered. I can’t find an example right now, but basically, they look like the mesh you would add on your gutter but sturdier and don’t require the gutter. I had gutter covers and some of them worked but some of them, not quite so much. One section continually popped off and it was in a very scary high up location. If you want real gutters, think about a rain barrel. I haven’t ever had one, but where I use to live, a neighbor did and loved them.

  • RoseCampion
    February 14, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    I like the first one and also the third. As an Oak Parker who spends a lot of time on foot and bike, I think the stucco houses that look best long-term are the ones that are kind of gray, not too dark, not too light. Lighter colored stucco ends up looking really kind of dirty and unappealing after even a short while. The light brown with dark brown trim that your house is painted now does okay too, but it’s so common a combo as to be almost an Oak Park cliche.

  • jacqueline
    February 14, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Square shingles on the addition. Definitely. You can use a Hardi shingle product that is very low maintenance (and quick to install).
    Also, maybe think about a five color combination; 2 trims (one slightly darker than the other to highlight your crown from your soffit), 2 fields (one slightly darker than the other, for addition and below porch), and one accent (for door and window sashes).

  • The Other Tiffany
    February 15, 2009 at 8:19 am

    I like combos 1 and 3.

    As far as getting to your list, having been a new Mom myself not long ago I’ll tell you that you’ll be pretty occupied for a few months after she makes her debut. Your home is beautiful so take your time, handle one task at a time and enjoy your baby girl when she gets here.

  • Elissa
    February 15, 2009 at 10:37 am

    I like the first color combo the best, for your house anyway. I like #3, but it’s too victorian. Those colors seem to belong on a house with lots of gingerbread. There is a book called Bungalow Colors that has a lot of suggestions for historically appropriate color schemes. I bought the book for myself when we bought our new/old bungalow. As an architect and preservationist I have to say this, please don’t put vinyl over the stucco! It can trap moisture inside the structure and cause rot. Old houses are meant to “breathe” to certain extent, wrapping them in plastic isn’t good for them.


  • mary
    February 15, 2009 at 10:45 am

    I love the first color combo, too. And your patience is so admirable — yeah, budget may dictate that, but I know that when we bought our house, I was all guns-a-blazin’ trying to get everything “done” immediately. Now, 2 1/2 years later, I’m redoing things. There’s definitely something to be said for restraint and letting a house dictate what works for it.

  • Violet
    February 15, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Well, of course I LOVE the last palette… I can’t wait to see what you choose.. How’s the pregnancy going? Exactly one year ago today I found out I had a bun in the oven.. now I have a 3 month old sweetie pie!

  • Gillian
    February 15, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    The first palette would be the most versatile at every light level.

  • Amanda
    February 15, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    I vote for Exterior #1!!

  • dawn
    February 15, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    hiya! i say, get the pagoda dogwood! it’s such a gorgeous tree and one that you don’t see in everyone’s yard. my dad gave us one, and it’s so cool to see it grow into the different layers. your site is an inspiration and you have such great style~ thanks for sharing it all with us:)

  • Laura
    February 15, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    I grew up in a house not too different from this one, and my parents spent the first twelve years or so that we lived there renovating. An extended, occasionally frustrating process, but they still live there because they made it into the perfect house for them. Here’s hoping your outcome is as good!

  • mrs boo radley
    February 16, 2009 at 12:35 am

    I’m kinda liking color combo no. 3.

    The only time I ever lived in stucco’d quarters was in the desert…and the stucco was peach.

    Can’t wait to check back and see what you’ve done with the place. I’m really looking forward to seeing cute house numbers.

  • Janine
    February 16, 2009 at 8:51 am

    Hi Nicole! I’ve heard (from Benjamin Moore) that it’s wise to choose strong colours for your exterior, because they fade in the sun over time. I think your three colour palettes might be a bit too mild!

    On the subject of refinishing your exterior — choose something really tough and long lasting. Be aware that some options (like a wood exterior) might require yearly maintenance. Vinyl siding, on the other hand, is considered by some people to be environmentally toxic. (Both in production, disposal, AND as a siding on your house.) I’m Canadian so my options for what I put on the outside of my house are more limited (because they have to be very hard wearing) but you’re a little freer in what you choose.

    Definitely do a lot of research and look for the inside story on what works for your region!

    Good Luck!!

  • pamela
    February 16, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    wow, does your hubby welcome these lists? lol, sorry but i just created a two page list this weekend for us (still not finished with things to add) and mine is like, when are we going to get the time for all this.

    i LOVE your blog, your ideas and the inspiration you give here. Your mockup is totally cute. we have hanging baskets on the front of our home and i am thrilled each spring/summer when I get to fill them. They add a lovely touch to the home. I’m unsure on the pink’ish bush things in your mockup, did not notice what those were. I completely agree with you on the rhododendron. We tore ours out when we moved into our home (in CT). Oh, I now saw your other photo of the tall green evergreen things behind the pink’ish bush/plant; liking that. I do like boxwoods, we added quite a few of those on our front property when we re-did things. Unsure how your tree would do so close to the home, as they need room for the roots, more than I expected as I think they are beautiful, but feel it’s better to allow the tree to grow as it needs. I also like your first paint color selection. Hmm, looking @ all your photos in the mockup- i do like your last one, but think you could do either the hanging baskets or the plant boxes, you might have played around with that to see ’em both already. I would not do the topiary things, we did those on either side of our stairway and we’re tearing them out this spring/summer. I HATE them. Have fun and looking forward to seeing what comes of this project. Don’t overdo it though with a wee one.

  • brooke
    February 16, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    I drive myself crazy mentally renovating my house (and my neighbors)!

    In addition to your great landscape ideas, stuccoing the top floor to match the bottom, and painting… This is a really big fantasy suggestion: the window in the peak is too large and heavy and takes the focal point. I would replace it with a small one that matches the cute craftsman one on the right of the door.

  • amber
    February 16, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    I like the 3rd colour combo, and agree with your ideas. Plants are good too. Do be careful with all the ambitions however. I’ve been off for a year with our baby and had huge plans for renovations and cleanup as well. I have managed to get a few things done (in nap times) but no where near everything I would have imagined. That said, spending the time with baby ends up being way more satisfying!

  • Brittany
    February 17, 2009 at 10:24 am

    I lurk your blog regularly, today i was compelled to leave you a little note.

    I just want to give you a little snippet of caution, the fern you are considering to plant… DON’T! When I was growing up we had a couple of those lining the walk up to the family house, and every single year that fern would sprout randomly in the lawn. It would grow so wildly and take over EVERYTHING! Yearly my mother and I would dig half way to China trying to pull that stupid thing out, and it would come back, EVEYTIME!

    So unless you want that to be your personal gardening battle for the rest of your like, I would opt against it.


  • Kristin B
    February 17, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    Hi there…random question. What font is that that you wrote “exterior colors” in on your post? I love it and I’ve been looking for a simple handwriting type font just like that.

  • My First Kitchen
    February 24, 2009 at 8:08 am

    I’ve been reading your blog for awhile now but just had to comment on this. Your color sensibility is slammin’. For real. The way you put colors together is a skill I’d like to steal, please.

  • meg duerksen
    March 1, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    funny…i saw the picture of your home and my first thought “looks like chicago!”
    and then i looked where you live. :)
    you will have lots of fun making that house not your own.
    this is my first time to your site….love it! and you style. hope you have a wonderful night.

  • Ali
    March 3, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    Hi Nicole! I’m an Oak Parker too and would love to hear your plans for the railings. Ours are the same goofy iron ones and I’m at a loss. I’ve looked and looked but can’t find any great examples for what to do with them.

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  • Tracy Foltz
    July 26, 2020 at 11:51 am

    Good morning. I have been searching for our house color scheme for a couple of months and came across your blog and it has 3 color collections on the website but doesn’t list the colors. I think my house (that we first painted in 2008) is the last block of colors. We can not find out the color of the main exterior. The name is faded off our bucket. Home Depot tried to match but this morning when my husband opened up the new matched bucket…it is looking to have more yellow in it. We know that trim in Ranch Acres but do you know what the main color is called?