Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Sixties Colonial Comes into Twenty-first Century

My son and daughter-in-law bought a home last year, not because they were thrilled with the exterior, but because they liked the flow of the home, the large family room with windows on three sides, and the playroom right off the kitchen. Because the home is located in a lovely old neighborhood, it could easily accommodate an investment in the exterior.  Here is how the house looked in its original 1960's glory.
Undeterred by the dated appearance, my son had a vision.  He pictured the exterior transformed by  giving some dimension to the flat exterior with a portico, unifying the two-toned colonial with paint, and restoring some historicity with authentic shutter-hardware and lighting.

The first step in the metamorphosis was to hire a carpenter to build a front portico. Like the nose on your face, this gives the front elevation depth. 

Next, the young home-owners had the first-floor brick and the second-floor siding painted the same color.  Unifying the surfaces changed the disjointed segments into a pleasing whole. The paint is Benjamin Moore Stone Harbor Gray. The light-colored, warm, soft gray makes the home feel larger. In addition, the crisp white and shiny black accents provide pleasing contrasts.

Lastly, even a seemingly small detail, like historically-correct mounting of the shutters, gave the home more curb appeal. My son ordered "New York style" hardware from  The site gives directions on how to calculate the throw of the shutters to get the correct size of s-shaped tie-backs, shutter dogs, and hinges.
He advises using this money-saving tip: On the sides of the house where the hardware isn't noticeable, add a one-inch wood block or dowel behind the shutter on the window side of the shutter. This angles the shutter, and the s-shaped tie-backs can be mounted on the outer lower edge. The shadow created by the angle fools the eye, and you barely miss the pivot point on the interior side of the shutter. Best of all, eliminating the hinges reduces the price by nearly three-quarters!
 For a tutorial on historically accurate shutters go to: What a difference angled, hinged, and properly mounted shutters make over contractor-mounted flat shutters!

Two final touches completed the duckling-to-swan transformation. A tiny out-of-date and out-of-proportion post light was replaced by an appropriately-sized, historically-accurate lantern.
A matching lantern was hung in the portico. 

Before the big reveal, remember the before:

And now the after, "ta-da".

The house has stepped from 1964 into 2010 in style! Wouldn't you agree?


  1. Wow, that is amazing!!! There home looks awesome. Love, love, love the color grey, the shutters that are historically acurate, the lantern and lamp post and the portico. I can't get over the transformation!

  2. Wow what a beautiful transformation!! I found your blog on the Relevant page. Looking forward to seeing you there!

  3. I found this page after much searching on updating a 70's colonial. THANK YOU, this is an awesome transformation! I have a question about the shutter hardware. You stated that your son ordered new york style hardware, but I see that they are for inset shutters, where the shutters are flush with the window casing when closed. What did he use on the upstairs windows that are not inset? thank you!

  4. Hi, THANK YOU for posting this transformation! I have a question about the shutter hardware. The New York style hinges appear to be made for inset shutters, which is what you have on the brick part. The upstairs windows by contrast appear to be flush mount with the casing, so that the shutters are overlay- what hardware did you use for that, and are the hinges mounted flat (on top of the front surface) of the window casing. On the brick part, the pictures shows mounting to the side of the casing. Thank you for your help!

  5. Also, can I ask the approx cost of the front porch addition? Did your son design it himself, might be be able to share his plans? I photoshopped his addition onto my house and it looks great. If you email me, I can send you the photo! I am very excited to implement these changes in my own home.

  6. @ncyue - I'm glad you liked the transformation! :) We used New York style hinges with a smaller offset -- 1 1/4", instead of 2" like the ones we used on the bottom. We would have used even less of an offset for the upper windows -- as little as 1/2" would have looked great -- but they didn't have them at the time we needed them.

    Here are the shutter hinges I would probably use if the reader's windows are flush -- These are New York Style with 1/2" offset. On our house, they are mounted on the window casing.

    Also, just as a side note, because we have storm windows, although the shutters on the front look fully operable, they actually do not close the whole way (they would if we removed the storm windows).

    We got three estimates on the portico and they varied dramatically. The highest was $12K, and we ended up going with the lowest, which was $3K. The lowest estimate was actually from a builder, rather than a contractor. The builder was slow right now because of the economy, and was able to put it up in just a couple of days and was able to get a much better deal on the materials than the smaller contractors who bid on the project.

    We also saved money by using the existing front stoop as a base for the portico (it would have been a little more had the builder had to pour a foundation).

    With respect to the plans, the builder had plans from a previous house he had built that he was able to modify to use on our house, so I unfortunately don't have those plans; otherwise I would have been glad to share them.

    I'd love to see the photoshopped photo you put together for your home, too - we were very pleased with how everything turned out and have gotten many complements from neighbors and friends! You can e-mail it to my mom and she can forward it on to me.

    Good luck with the transformation of your place!

  7. House looks great. I own a "before" house is Bucks County, PA and would love to make a similar transformation. Not sure if you are anywhere Bucks County but if so can you share the builders name?

    1. Unfortunately, my son and family live out of state. We have had a number of builders over our years in Lancaster County. The best--by far and away--is Ebersole Brothers out of Mt. Joy. I don't know if that will help you, but it is certainly worth a try. They are amazing, exceeding any and all expectations!

  8. This is a great transformation. We are looking at buying a house that looks just like this. The inside is open and updated but the outside is so blah. This gives me some confidence that we can make the house look more modern.

  9. This transformation is fabulous! I love the gray, how updated, fresh, and large the house looks and how cohesive everything is. Fantastic job! How is the painted brick holding up after four years? Is the house in a varied climate? Been looking for ideas for our 'before', very similar to yours. Thanks for posting this!

  10. The painted brick has held up beautifully. From my perspective, even when painted brick flakes, it looks lovely and aged. But, so far--nary a flake.

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