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Design Dilemma
Design Dilemma

Need help turning this 70s box into a traditional classic.

korriemOctober 11, 2012
My husband and I bought this home last year, built in 1970. We liked the general layout and lot, and love the neighborhood. We desperately need some ideas to help update this 70s looker into a more traditional colonial or Cape Cod style house. Would love any thoughts.
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Christa Stephens
This house has great bones. Love it.
I think what you want to do is modify the roof line slightly - add a peak or two along that broad horizontal to add visual interest. Both of your preferred architectural styles tend to have varied roof lines. Surprisingly, it's not as costly of construction as you might think. The hardest part is matching your shingles - if your roof needs replaced anyway, this would be a great time to have the roofline altered.
Then I'd definitely suggest painting the exterior - bring in some drama with lots of contrast. White siding with black shutters is very traditional and always an elegant choice.
Would love to see what you end up going with!
4 Likes    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 2:42PM
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For a traditional look, replacing the windows would be the first thing (double hung with grids). This is, however, an expensive upgrade. The next and far less costly change would be paint. I would paint both the siding and the brick but, if the brick is not an option, a pretty tan/taupe that blends with the brick would lighten it up. White trim. I can't see your front door but, you can't go wrong with a nice red.
Shutters on the garage windows. One set. Treat as if the two windows were one. And shutters on the large first floor window (black).
Nice house. Have fun.
1 Like    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 2:57PM
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I agree with Christa on the Gables! If you added Gables/2 pitched roof points to the upstairs (to match the left lower lever), changed the siding to Hardi Cedar-type shingles and gave it larger windows it would look like an entirely different house. Also consider adding a front porch with columns. This house could be amazing!
3 Likes    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 3:16PM
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Put two huge aluminum crosses on the roof, and sell the house & lot like a church and get a new house with the money…
2 Likes    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 3:16PM
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Susan Shaffer
I think you might be able to make this look like a prairie home. Change the roof.
2 Likes    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 3:36PM
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Why so nasty Rafael?
    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 3:45PM
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Some new paint colors are in order.I'd go with a warm ochre( butterscotch) on the wood & garage doors.The front door would look great in a warm dk orange rust brown color.
The long rectangle shape of the house needs to be broken up with some larger landscaping pieces. Depending on what landscaping zone of the country that you live in, some suggestions would be a Japanese maple further out on the front lawn with some smaller round shaped bushes planted around it. Add other rounded shaped bushes under the window on the right and maybe a triangular shaped tall cypress tree to the right of the doorway where there is a square shaped blank wall.
Further upgrades could be ground lighting near the front garden areas and then down the left side of the driveway. Other areas that need new lightening are on both sides of the garage doors and an area light under the eve of the garage roof line that's facing the road.For that same area you could also do a couple of ground lights that are angled up towards the roof line instead & they'd light the wall there.New white colonial styled windows with window panes would give the home a warmer more traditional feel. Good luck!
1 Like    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 3:47PM
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David Stallworth
Rather simple actually considering you're going for either a Cape Cod or Colonial exterior. 1-Add clapboard siding which shall impart the look you're in search of. 2-Change your exterior windows to colonial windows http://www.cchonline.com/The-Window-and-Door-Package-c4.html 3-Change your front door to something more Federal in architecture and have it painted an Oxblood red or Dark green. 4-Change your side door to a Farm house door. 5-Paint your house a pale grey with white trim, and add shutters to your windows in either a dark green or oxblood 6-Add two column casings (one over the existing column and another directly opposite it in either a Doric or Ionic style) 7-Add window boxes under the windows of the front of the house. 8-trim your driveway in brick 9-Change your garage doors to resemble carriage house doors 10-Add a small farmhouse faux coup at the edge of your garage with trim mimicking the trim placed at the front entry and add a weathervane. 11-Also add a simple bench at your front entry with a shiny brass door knocker and door handle for the front. Cheers and happy remodelling.
2 Likes    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 3:53PM
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Get It Together Inc.
I would add 2 stone pillars at the front ) on both sides of the front door, replace the 3 garage doors as with something more modern - the style is outdated). I also would add a front veranda so that it goes from the front door to at least the edge of the house - if not all the way around (looks like there could be room). The dark brown could be repainted with a lighter brown and then have a great red front door. I also agree with Christa on the Gables as well.
    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 4:30PM
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@ silloway That is no nasty that is been realistic, do you have a smallest idea how much money you need??? to convert that house into something really good and appealing …that is call good advice and is funny also....
    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 10:09PM
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Landscaping! I'm convinced a professtional landscaper can do wonders! A fresh paint job and landscaping and that's it! I promise. I've been a big landscape "pusher' since this summer we finally hired and had a new landscape installed. We haven't even painted the house yet and it looks great already!
1 Like    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 10:25PM
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    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 10:29PM
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Thanks everyone for the suggestions! I will keep posting on the progress. There seem to be be repeat ideas that are relatively "easy". Rafael, you have no idea what our budget is so best to not make assumptions and be so negative.
2 Likes    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 11:39AM
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Hi Korrie,
From the discussion, it looks like you are pointed in the right direction here. We came across your house photo, and I want to mention it is a perfect candidate for a modern redesign. If this is something you and your husband are considering, take a look at some of our work and give us a private email at info@burgeoningstudio.com. Cheers!
    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 11:49AM
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YOU RIGHT I don’t know your budget, but also you did not mention that…. I was not negative you interpret negativity because of your lack of “black humor”, still you need to dump over 250 grand into the property to have real +/- results...(NOT COUNTING YOUR A/ E ENGINEERING) …To show and compare pictures of houses above with your house is just dreaming????... The overall Architecture of the proposed house , doesn’t help at all….you want a REAL ADVISE , make a budget FRIST of the money you need to make it right, if money is not an object and THE NEW HOUSE is a “capriccio”… then get a super architect to RE-design the house …get yourself and old AD MAGAZINE WITH CAPE COD STYLES HOUSES AND TELL YOUR ARCHITECT TO DO IT…….(AS THE PICTURE ) AND VOILA 9 MONTHS LATER ….YOUR DREAM HOUSE WILL BE AS YOU WISH…..AND PLEASE ASK PROFESSIONALS NEXT TIME ….ONLY….
    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 2:47PM
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    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 2:58PM
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Michael Tauber Architecture
You have a challenge, and I disagree with many that converting a mid century modern home to a reasonable rendition of cape cod is not easy. First, I would strongly suggest wood siding over the brick which would mean furring strips attached to the brick, The second is to add dormers to the roof to break up the horizontality. Third, the windows are not the size or configuration associated with a cape cod type style. Typically the style is defined by smaller , vertical openings so modifying and/or adding openings is in order. You might consider adding trellis or woodsy element at the entry.
At the end of the day, it is actually a decent mid century home. Good luck with your conversion.
    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 3:13PM
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Thanks David. Those photos provided some good inspiration!
1 Like    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 11:52PM
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Rafael Davila....pretty much sounds like a smart ass....oops did I say that. yes! Quit the caps and learn how to spell. The main idea here on this site is to give people the best suggestion for remodel/renovate not how to budget money. By the way korriem beautiful home, I am wanting to suggest everything what Elise, and David were suggesting. Do change the roof, add some nice color to the siding, and lighten the front yard with landscape (adding color flowers, bushes and lava rocks) would be the way to go. Last but not least lots of modern lighting one on each side of your garage, maybe some nice solar lights, whichever lighting that would fit your budget. Hope this helps, update us with project.
Good luck!
    Bookmark   November 6, 2012 at 12:57AM
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II'm not sure it is a good candidate for a colonial remodel. Sure, you can change the windows, add clapboard and add some dormer and fill in the doorway, but you will end up with a 70s house trying to be a colonial that doesn't look quite right because the proportions are all wrong, and you'll need to replace practically every window and redo a lot of structure..

Cape Cod houses are much smaller scale and Colonials tend to be more symetrical and less horizontal. I suppose with an architect and a lot of money, it can be done, but you will practically be rebuilding the house in the process. And please don't just stick on a broken pediment and some shutters or columns and call it good. That almost never works.

However, if you embrace the houses' rambling style, you could go Shingle or Prairie, or maybe sort of 1950s colonial rambler (The kind of house Lucy and Ricky moved into) with maybe a pinch of Tudor revival. These are sort of ancestors or contemporaries to the ranch and mid-century modern .Perhaps just adding some built-in planters under the ground floor windows and terracing the hill and adding boulders, grass, cascading vnes and some ornamental trees would really help to make the house look more traditional and welcoming.

Personally, I think the lines of your house are great as they are and a bit of lighter paint to the siding and a brighter door and some landscaping would look smashing. Worth a try before doing anything too expensive or permanent.


If that is too severe for you, then the easiest fix is to go Prairie: Add a pergola stretching from the garage to over the entry would soften it a lot and not cost a huge amount of money. It could also extend over the 3-car garage supported by brackets(although space is tight), and make a shaded front porch across the front. This combined with perhaps a planter infront of the one-story portion with some creeping juniper and vines would add a Prairie touch, which could be enhanced with some stained glass accents in the entry and perhaps some glass in the garage doors (perhaps inserts rather than replacements). I would make the supports chunky if you have space to work with the scale of the house. and have some nice long benches near the entry.

Wisteria or grape vines is a nice touch. Some window boxes on the small windows upstairs and the front garage windows with trailing vines would also be a nice touch for this style.

Shingle or Colonial Rambler:

This is more of a stretch, and just changing to windows with mullions isn't going to do it (and if you do, make sure they are the kind that is chunky and on both sides of the glass). These styles really require som sort of porch or canopy and the large windows would need to be redone as strings of smaller vertical casements or double-hungs, not picture windows.

Removing or reducing the recessed entry and adding small vertical windows to the first floor that line up with the second floor would make it feel much more traditional and colonial, but would require extensive structural change and may not work with the floor plan.

Unfortunately, It looks like you don't have much space in front for a portico or anything. That would limit you to a narrow canopy or pergola of some sort either supported by brackets or suspended by chains (something that was done on commercial buildings especially), or maybe a very shallow "porch" with some clustered supporting pillars (square preferably) around the entry. A type of port-cochere might be possible, or a deep drive-through porch the width of the third garage, especially if you use it for storage or seldom used vehicles. A pergola could work with these styles too.

Both would work with shingles--smaller square cut type for Shingle and a shaggier rustic type for the rambler. Rather than painting the brick,, or covering it up with clapboard (which sounds like a potential maintenance problem, especially if it traps moisture) I would consider staining it to blend in, or maybe mortar washing with lime stucco, or a similar material designed to cover 70s brick. The stucco would keep the texture of the brick but soften it and change the color. This is apparently quite popular in the South, where moisture problems and salt and snow are less of a problem. If you use shutters, just put it on a few accent windows and scale them so they could work. Do not put them on picture windows, and operable shutters always look the best.

It could work, but, it is a harder stretch and more costly to achieve properly, and takes a skilled designer and good contractor to pull off.

I've included some pics of each type for inspiration: I can see it in my head but I'm having trouble finding the right photos. Maybe I'll work up some sketches later.
5 Likes    Bookmark   November 6, 2012 at 12:17PM
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Robert A. McGraw Architect
We are a small architectural firm in Southern California (mcgraw-architect.com) which deals with many mid-century renovations and redesigns. In the course of our recent work we have seen the need for and founded a company that we call Home Curb-Appeal (www.home-curbappeal.com) for clients like you who are interested in changing the overall look of their home to make the home more desirable in the market place or to just enhance the experience of living in the home. We ask that the homeowner provide us with three photos of the front of the home and we send back three 3d renderings of the home transformed. We give our customers a chance to see what their house might look like in the style of their choice and we give suggestions of supplies and materials along with their manufacturers which might be used in executing the facelift. We would love to work with you to make your home beautiful. Check out our websites and contact us if we can be of service to you.
1 Like    Bookmark   November 6, 2012 at 2:32PM
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Christina Brine
Lattice and pillars
    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 11:27PM
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Maybe consider an upgrade to the exterior that keeps home in a modern style. This could be fabulous and likely less pricey. Landscaping could really make a huge difference with whatever style you choose. Fake cape cods arts and crafts and colonials are everywhere. You could have a masterpiece if kept modern. This is from someone who lives in an arts and crafts home. I just think this house could be beautiful if a modern style is kept.
    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 11:25AM
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Definitely do NOT muck up the roof line with dormers, etc...the long, horizontal line is the main external feature of this awesome house, offset nicely with the garage in the other dimension...the front door / porch could use an overhang, columns, whatever to draw the eye (tie in the rough cedar beam look in front of the garage with some similar materials)...window trim/shutters/etc would modernize the look...and are cheap. A lighter color is for sure a good idea, and add a third color via slightly darker accent trim, which will make a huge difference. Garage doors with some relief/more modern style would be great but are not cheap, so painting them the trim accent color would suffice...framing accent trees at the corners of the house and garage (3 is the right number wherever you put them), and simple, crisp beds in front with low plantings. Last, find a way to draw attention to those two *awesome* chimneys...they are architected to frame the house, but don't speak loudly enough.

What a gem. Modernize it but don't try to change it or 'fix' it with major feature changes. Drive through your neighborhood and ask yourself if there's even one house with that much classy architectural appeal...answer, no!

Would love to see how it turns out.
2 Likes    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 10:56PM
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