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Curb Appeal for Christine


Dear Christine, this is Christine from Royal Oak, MI. My husband and I are in the process of redoing our ranch-style home and purchasing new windows, new garage door, entry doors (side and front) and possibly a new roof. This is a big deal for us financially, but we are taking the plunge and going for it! We need your help! We cannot decide what we should do with the siding due to our small ranch-style home already having half brick and half siding. I am soooo unhappy with the blah look and the blah curb appeal that my home has to offer.


I'm ready for a CUTE COTTAGE look that catches the eye. Possibly cedar shake, cultured stone, some added wood trim??? I am open to ANYTHING! We have a detached garage that is fully sided (no brick), but the front of the house is the main challenge (half siding/half brick).


We thought possibly cultured stone or cedar shake in the main front, and siding for the side and garage, but I need it to all come together and flow. I want CUTE! We already have/and are again getting the crossbar windows that look cottage cute, but the color of the siding, the front "pop" idea and the flow is the issue. Please give me your honest opinion. Please know that I realize it looks awful right now, this is where I'm praying you will give me ideas and insight. I just found a way to send you pix :)
Please see the other 2 emails following this one which will include add'l views of my home. We will be forever thankful if you would be willing to take on our challenge.


Hi Christine,


How exciting to be making big changes to your home!  I would focus on three things to create a more charming cottage feel.

  1. Larger windows.
  2. Stronger entrace.
  3. Architectural detail.

  This window is all wrong: I know that sometimes I give advice when only seeing the exterior, and it might be completely impossible if I could see the inside.  For example, I would say this window is too small, too short, too awkward.  Maybe it is over an important kitchen counter and can't be any longer, but I would do my best to make it larger.


I know it gets expensive to add a covered porch, but your current roof line is so lacking in character- it's hard to make the house look truly cute and charming without changing it.  I would make your front steps about 5x wider than they are now, and add a little porch off to the left with a pediment over the entry, sidelights adding bulk to the door, and increase the window size on the far right.


I did a little cut and paste to make some changes for you. 


I hope my choppy cut and paste gives your the feel I'm hoping it does. 





Giao's Exterior

Hi Christine,
I'm really enjoy reading your Blog and hope you can give me some advice on paint colors to warm up my house. I have been looking for exterior colors for almost two months and bought over dozen paint samples, but nothing seem to work. Either the color is too beige, too dark, too light, too taupe, or too grey. I want the colors to compliment the brown roof and dark cherry red brick. I like to keep the trim white to match with vinyl windows. I also like to use Sherwin Williams paints.
Here is the picture of my house. Thank you so much for your help!

Best regards,


Hi Giao,


With your red brick, I'd go one of two ways.  Green or dark.


First- green.  Red and green are complimentary colors.  They make each other look better and truer.    

The second direction I'd consider is using a darker color.  Your brick is also dark, which is what might be making some colors look too light and disconnected.  You mentioned that some colors you considered were "too dark".  Perhaps that is just a matter of not being "used to" the darker look. 

With a house like yours, with the garage the focal point, I would consider getting fantastic garage doors. 


As your garage is now, I would not paint it two-tone, like it is currently, keep it all one color- the field color of the house. 


Rachel's Before and After

I have slowly been changing my home to follow your advice as money and time allows. I recently followed your advice in this post ( and painted my interior doors Benjamin Moore Dragon's Breath (left the wimpy moldings white). I've attached a new after photo of the doors from the same little corner of my living room you addressed in "The Offputting Offset" a few years ago so you could see the impact your advice has made. The moldings are new since the before picture, sadly wimpy was all I could afford--but better than the nonexistent moldings I started with!
The Christine-ifying the windows is on my summer project list--lining the curtains & adding a bamboo blind layer. Next year I plan to repaint the walls lighter & replace the recliner with a nice desk/chair/lamp.
Thank you for saving my home from my lack of design sense!


Thanks for writing in Rachel!  And thank you for setting those pictures staight! 


Megan from Nebraska

I have been looking for exterior paint colors for almost 4 months and bought so many samples and am so lost. Our painter doesn’t give much advice, and we have switched to different painters and they aren’t any help either. I am not great with style and coordination of colors. We live in Nebraska and we have lived in our current home about 2 years. I hate the current color!!
I’m not a fan of the siding or trim either but we are unable to change that financially right now. We are looking for a tan/grey--not too grey but not too tan. I like more grey than tan. Our painter doesn’t think white trim is a good idea as it would be too choppy.
Our current trim board is so thick and pinkish. We are replacing the windows which will be white. That weird design above the window is no longer there.  We will be replacing the front door, site light, and storm door (to be white) and garage door.  I need recommendations for paint color, trim color, and front door color. We have a small amount of red brick on our home, and a grey colored roof. Here is a picture of our home. We have tried posting on houzz and different forums for months but no one gives any ideas.
A few colors for exterior I like:  Benjamin Moore Briarwood
Sherwin Williams fawn brindle and Sherwin Williams Intellectual grey
The only trim color that I have been able to come up with is maybe revere pewter with briarwood? What do you think? please help!!

Hi Megan,
I think what is making your decision so hard is your painter's super bad advice.  White is exactly the color you should paint your trim.  With white windows, the decision is a "no-brainer".   In fact, if you don't, the white windows will stand out in a bad way.  The larger the window trim, the more rich the feel.  Another way to say that is that less expensive homes have smaller trim, nicer, more expensive homes have larger trim.  Sometimes it is a matter of older, more charming homes having the larger trim.  Either way, larger trim is undoubtedly the better look.  When you have white windows and you use white trim, it creates a "larger" trim feel.  Your painting contractor was exactly wrong.  Having white windows and NOT having white trim, gives you a whimpy, more choppy feel.   Contractors are not designers and while they have "seen a lot of jobs", and there might be some out there with good taste, I have seen many more that from a design standpoint don't know a thing, and spew very bad advice with such authority, that it's a damn shame. 
Use white trim.  Try to match your windows.  Pure White from Sherwin Williams is where I'd start.  Get a sample, and see how it looks with your windows.  We want them to blend together, and not look like two different colors. 
Your Benjamin Moore Briarwood was a great idea- It would look something like this:
Sherwin Williams Fawn Bridle will look something like this:
Sherwin Williams Intellectual Grey will look something like this: 
Here is another Intellectual Grey, which looks way more gray to me, re-inforcing the need for sample quarts. 
All of these are perfectly good selections.  If you want a stronger gray- consider Sherwin Williams Software.  It's a really nice color, and will look great with your brick, and a nice white trim.  ;-) 



David's Exterior


Hi Christine-


What Sherwin Williams exterior paint colors for base, trim and shutters would you recommend?


My wife does not like the flesh tone in the current base color (Utterly Beige) or the yellow in the trim (Woolskien). 


Roof is Certain Teed Weatherwood with various colors in it.


My wife likes Ethereal Mood (SW 7639) because it goes well with the stone and door, but there is too much green in it when we paint it elsewhere.


I would appreciate your recommendations if you have time to respond.  We are stuck and need to let the painter know soon.


We live in Georgia or I would call and hire you to come see the house and help us.


Best Regards,

- David


Hi David,


First, I will mention, that I consult with clients across the country, being local is certainly not necessary to receive my help.  If you think about it, many times designers help clients with homes that are not even built.  Being physically in the space is nice, but definitely not necessary. For those of you who would like a skype or phone consultation for paint selections, you can purchase it here. Good photos of your hard surfaces, stone, brick and roof are very helpful.

Now, on to David's house.  Ethereal Mood does have a green undertone.  Good job in not wanting to go there. Personally, I don't like stucco to look green or blue.  It's creepy.  Now, who doesn't look at that house above and think they made a mistake on their paint selections?  Green on siding or shake or board and batten, great- but nothing remotely green on stucco. It's just wrong.  I love to explain the why's of it- in this case- I'll just say it's wrong. (blue is also wrong)

(green shake- terrific!)


OK- now, for your "not green" house. 


I also have pretty strong opinions about dark colored stucco.  I'm not a fan.  Take a look at this:

I don't like it.  It's just not the natural color of stucco.  It's like when I color my kids milk green on St. Patty's day.  I won't drink it.  It's supposed to be white.  And stucco is supposed to be a shade of white or very light beige.


Now, compare that to this one: 

I like it.  Painting your exterior is not always the time to be creative and trendy.  This, to me, looks lovely. 


Here's another dark stucco: 


Is anyone else thinking- "lovely home, but bad paint selection..."?  Part of the problem is the lack of contrast with the wood, but fundamentally, the problem is simply that the stucco is dark, and would be a million times nicer in a light color.


I have another photo to show you:


Now, this (above) is what stucco is meant to look like. 


 On your home, I would use a field color like China Doll. 


I would trim it darker, in 7645 Thunder Gray.  The combination would look something like this:


Now, one more thing.  Here's the part where I give the unsolicited advice.  What is up with your curvy trim? 


I would use this opportunity, while you are painting, to replace that with a straight trim.  Please don't be too offended if you love it.  You have a lovely home, but that curvy trim just looks so strange to me. 


good luck with your project!

- Christine