Small Home, Big Makeovers

We gave design pros a single small home image and asked for major inspiration.

BY NICOLE BELL

Last summer, while walking our dog, my husband and I noticed a new house being built in our neighborhood. Every day we’d walk by, wondering what would be done next and how it would look when the home was completed. We tried predicting the color of the siding and if there would be masonry enhancements, only to be surprised by how different the design actually turned out from what either of us expected. It led us to realize that one structure can accommodate many design ideas.

With home improvements underway now that summer is here, we presented a single image (shown above) to local design, construction and remodeling professionals to see what sort of makeovers they might recommend.


An example of suggested shake siding and siding color.
Photo courtesy of J&J Contractors

Jason Cyborowski, co-owner of J&J Contractors 

To revive the home’s curb appeal, Cyborowski first recommends removing the bushes on the front of the house and installing a stone beltline across the front to accommodate lush landscaping. For a cleaner look, the peeling paint and wood siding could be replaced with a new siding in a “deep granite” color, replacing the front gable siding with a shake siding to offset and enhance the shape. White LP SmartSide trim around the front windows and corners of the home would add a crisp look and a feeling of finality.

Stephen Bruns, president of Bruns Architecture 

“For me, architecture should respond to a problem and provide value in addition to potentially changing the aesthetic,” Bruns says of this hypothetical project. He adds that Bruns Architecture typically undergoes six phases of study, two purely design-specific phases, two detail and documentation phases, and two construction phases — on a home before building to achieve the most functional home with the desired aesthetics. For this particular home, Bruns offers a solution based on hypothetical assumptions such as that the homeowners wanting additional privacy from the road out front and more durable materials that offer a better look.

Based on the photo, the roof and siding have both reached their life expectancy, so Bruns recommends replacing the roof with a low maintenance asphalt roof that will last decades and swapping the siding with a durable material that needs little maintenance or repainting, keeping both replacements in natural tones. To add more light into the living area, he proposes vaulting the main living area and adding skylights or roof windows for additional light.

With the primary entryway unprotected from elements, Bruns suggests reorganizing the entrance with a “new entry volume or entry canopy.” 


A rendering for design upgrades from Stephen Bruns, principal at Bruns architecture.

“Maybe the orientation of the door can also be changed to face the driveway,” he continues. “This shelters the door from the road, and creates a proper entry sequence. This gesture can also incorporate a more functional entry closet, allowing us to re-purpose the original — assuming there is one — to clean up a space inside. Extending out to the site, it might also be nice to add some vegetation to the front yard to provide a focal point while adding a privacy filter from the road.”

Nicholas Blavat, AIA, Deep River Partners

“This home has some styling elements of a classic Cape Cod, including the gabled roof with a central entry into the home. Implementing some traditional details of
the Cape Cod style could truly awaken this home into a neighborhood showstopper,” Blavat says.

Before starting a project, Blavat typically does a site discovery on the property to measure existing conditions and working with the client to discover his or her wants and needs before getting to work. For this hypothetical home update, the first thing he recommends is a new, wooden front door and a covered porch with a three-foot overhang to protect the door and provide shade and shelter to visitors and deliveries. A statement color on the door and new light fixtures help showcase the personality of the homeowners as well. 

“If the new porch has columns, we would consider an up-lighting technique to further highlight the entry, which silhouettes the new covered porch and reduces light glare. These design details can create a great first impression,” he adds. 

Fresh paint on the traditional siding would help awaken the Cape Cod style, Blavat notes, suggesting a dark grey or sunny yellow with classic white trim and copper accents on fixtures, or white paint with black frames around the windows for a more modern take. 

“The gabled roof is a classic detail worth highlighting. Placing shingles on the gable will create contrast and textural interest from the horizontal lap siding,” he suggests, adding that a circular or louvered window in the gable peak would add interest, and
the use of traditional dormer windows would add height. 

As “eyes to the soul of the home,” Blavat recommends new double-hung windows with a divided light pattern and shutters to enhance the classic Cape Cod look, as well as swapping the picture window out for a bay window with a design style to match the proposed overhang. To round out the new look, Blavat suggests removing the bushes and creating a new softscape, adding stones to separate the walkway, and lining the driveway with pavers. Finally, he says, a picket fence would complete the  “New England charm.”

For a soft touch of color, Sheila Yoder, horticultural manager         at Lammscapes!, suggests adding a “Vanilla Strawberry” hydrangea tree to the front of the home.                                         

Sheila Yoder, Horticultural Manager, LAMMSCAPES!

For fresh landscaping, Yoder recommends removing the outdated shrubs down to the roots and replacing them with new landscaping. For a symmetrical look, a small bed could be added to the left side of the door as well, with a hydrangea tree for summer blooms, and a Pencil Point Juniper in the plot on the right that still looks great throughout winter, both to “anchor for the corner bed.” 

To take advantage of color in foliage, Yoder suggests Tiny Wine Ninebark with Aronia low scape mound for white spring blooms on the left of the door, and Spilled Wine Weigela on the right. The open front lawn, she notes, could benefit from a unique tree, adding that a colorful Regal Petticoat Maple or Gladiator crabapple tree would be good options.

“Planters with annual flowers are a great pop of color for blooms all summer and into fall, plus they can be changed out with fall decor and then evergreen boughs for a winter display,” Yoder adds. “We would recommend three flowering planters for the front of this house — one to the left of the door, one on the other side of the sidewalk on the curve, and then the third on the corner by the driveway, near the Pencil Point Juniper,” she says. 

Yoder also suggests replacing the existing sidewalk with a designed brick or stone walkway from the driveway to the front door, and a decorative post light in the right corner of the front yard — a fun way to add light and an additional element to the design. 

Overall, Yoder stresses, impactful changes don’t have to be drastic or expensive.

“Even a cute awning for the front door and shutters for the right front window could bring added charm to this home,” she enthuses, adding that updates “can be done relatively simply and with a manageable budget too!” MKE

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