Beautifying window exteriors on a bland basic house

melle_sactoApril 22, 2014

Since I asked about green paint for the exterior and got some excellent feedback (and am planning to pick up and test samples tomorrow), I'd also like to ask about windows.

Our windows have mitered board trim around them, and the front window that faces the street has faux white plastic shutters in addition to the trim. We are painting, and that's probably a good time to address these windows. I wondered if we could do anything to enhance/beautify the windows you can see from the street (we're on a corner).

This window faces North and I can't imagine why we would need real functioning shutters where we live. The shutters were in place when we bought the house, and were taken down once when we had new windows installed. I think they look better than the houses that do not have shutters, but I'm not sure I would agree they look "good":

The house is pretty plain and small. I like "transitional" decor but nothing too fancy. If we keep the shutters, can the plastic be painted something other than white? And if we keep/paint, should we add a second set of faux shutters to the other window that can be seen from the street?

Sometimes it's embarrassing to post these pics, but the whole point is to help it look nicer, right? ;-)

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

A vote to remove the shutters for a more modern look -- and work on the adjoining landscaping and greenery ... maybe add some long window boxes (just simple box style) with greenery and colorful plants .....

Perhaps add some taller bushes?

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 4:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I had thought about window boxes...but I'm not sure about how well I'd maintain them :-( I love the look of them, and maybe they would look nice with succulents or some small shrubs or something, but I'm not that great about taking care of annuals.

Would it look silly to have them and not grow anything in them?

I agree, the landscaping isn't that great. What I imagine in my MIND and then how it translates to reality...not coming along very well. The front area, under the window with faux shutters, is supposed to be a natural-looking gardenia hedge. But one of the gardenias kicked the bucket last year and the others are growing at a snail pace.

The backyard, though, is what it is. That's the gardening/kids area. My boys are almost-5 and 9 so I really just try to keep adequate wood chips to keep weeds down.

For taking down the shutters and having a "modern" I struggle because I don't really feel like the house has a modern just looks...bland. Seriously, it's like the house an 8 yo would draw except not as colorful LOL!

Here are some examples of houses in my neighborhood if that maybe helps give a "feel" for the area:

This one looks almost just like ours, but I think the front window room protrudes more because it has a 4th bedroom. Also their window trim is a little different in the way they placed it around the window.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 5:10PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yes, you can paint plastic shutters..we have done it many times.

Can you post a pic of your house so we can see the windows in context?

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 6:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I would paint the trim around the windows the same color as the house. Then you could have a different color on the shutters.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 6:23PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Okay, this is what I could capture of the front. There is nothing else beyond the garage. It's hard to take a picture that shows everything due to trees on the corner (I was standing under them) and my car.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 6:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

And here's the link to the thread where I was asking about home colors. Going for a neutral yellowish-green, slightly lighter for the trim, and purple door. Hope that's not too much color for a boring house ;-)

Here is a link that might be useful: exterior green

This post was edited by melle_sacto on Tue, Apr 22, 14 at 18:59

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 6:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I like shutters but think urs are a little short. Mine are the same size as my windows and so are my neighbors. Seems like a small thing but was first thing my eye went to.

Try putting some wide white masking tape at top and bottom to imitate longer shutters then stand back to and see if it looks better. Or snap another pic, same angle, and compare. Just a thought.

If ur on budget and u have Habitat for Humanity store (ReStore Store)...they sell shutters cheap, all sizes.


    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 7:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think the shutters look too small for the window, so I would ditch them.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 9:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'd be happy to ditch them if most of you think they are silly. I can't say that I'm a big fan myself, but I don't want the house to look even MORE boring than it already is.

I am going to think some more about a window box suggestion! Maybe I could put potted plants in it, and treat it sort of like a plant shelf rather than a planter. I was imagining that the box itself would have to be filled with dirt and watered. Maybe that is not how they work ;-)

Does the window box run the length of the window, or is it supposed to be longer or shorter?

This post was edited by melle_sacto on Tue, Apr 22, 14 at 22:24

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 10:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Shutters that are not sized to actually cover (shutter) the windows when "shut" are just stupid in my opinion. I am glad to read that you plan to ditch them. If you want to put some plants in the the window, reuse those shutters and make shelves and put some painted pots on them. Wah Lah ! Not boring and changeable when you get bored. I think your house is nice.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 10:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You will have to to care for windowbox every day and unless have some sort of evergreen, it will be empty in winter.

Now that I see the front pic, I would ditch shutters too. I like the framing in pic u said was almost just like urs. If hubby's handy with wood, u culd do something like that, only wider wood.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 10:31PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

sasafras -- thank you! :-) I'm actually excited at the prospect of not having the shutters. I always thought they seemed tacky -- non-functional and plastic?! But I wasn't sure what else to do so up they remained.

I bet there are a ton of ideas for re-purposing shutters on Pinterest, but I wonder if fake plastic shutters would be equally as re-purposable.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 10:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

brit5467 -- didn't see your message when I posted earlier.

Yes my DH could cut new trim, but it would be challenging to get him to do it on the decor principle alone -- he is definitely a function FAR over form kinda guy. The wood is in good shape.

Is there some way to add additional trim pieces, to maybe make the trim look more substantial but also intentional?

Hmmm...daily windowbox care? I do take care of a few potted plants that do okay, but we're talking greenery.

BUT I adore nasturtiums, the box might be just the spot. They are the ONE annual I will happily grow from seed every year :-)

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 10:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The existing shutters look like stuck-ons because they are the wrong size and plain. For their location they are small, weak, and have nothing in common with the windows, trim, siding, and so on.

That rather rude comment aside, I think shutters are great in general for most houses, and your house could look much more substantial with much more substantial purpose-built shutters.

You have big fat window panes individually and a strong sideways rectangular form to the windows you show, and the existing little vertical shutters clash mercilessly with that. You might think the vertical siding would ameliorate that, but it doesn't seem to.

If I had to do this to my own home without ANY guidance from anyone, I would first consider trying to match the massivity (made that word up!) and the height of the R/S(?) window trim. I'd also try to widen the shutters so they wouldn't look so toy-like adjacent to those hefty sliding panes. Then to break it up a bit, just a little bit of mildly-contrasting hinge/fastening hardware to get some distance from the stuck-on look that many many shutters tend to get.

Have you gone to Google images and just browsed through the gazillion or more pics of shutters? It can be amazing.

BTW: Window boxes? Excellent idea!

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 10:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I vote to ditch the shutters. Your "plain" windows are appropriate for the style of your house (which I like very much, btw). The shutters look out of place.

You could paint the window trim in a coordinating color. I think your green & plum color scheme will be really pretty on your house -- maybe paint the window trim in a lighter or darker green than the siding?

The light brown house that is similar to yours has nice window casing that's still appropriate to the house style. Subtle, but very nice.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 8:57AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My vote would be to remove the shutters, leave the window trim as is, and focus on the landscaping.

Of the neighborhood examples, the fifth one in your post at 17:10, the sort-of orange house has some lovely landscaping in front of the window. Notice that the planting bed is large and there is some height and some color in there.

Flower boxes are lovely, but the maintenance is a lot of work. And there also can be an issue of moisture gathering between the box and the face of your house.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 9:18AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Another vote to remove the shutters.

I think the window trim and garage door trim should be the same color. Not quite sure what to do with the trim around the front door and its window (so everything is consistent), though....

To make the downspouts less noticeable, paint them the same color as the siding.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 9:33AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I know these are the old colors, but this is just to show once you coordinate the trim color, paint the downspouts & the garage door the same color as the siding, and add plants, you now emphasize the entry, which is more welcoming. When you change the colors to your pretty choices, it'll all look great.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 10:41AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you everyone -- I greatly appreciate the time you've taken to advise me on what to do :-)

I talked to my DH about the window box idea, he sounded skeptical but willing to give it a shot if I wanted. I would put pots into the box, treating it like a secondary container. We talked about making sure the box was not touching the house (I saw some tutorials where they installed it with brackets that held it off the house) and also drainage toward the front.

Seeing the last pic, with matching trim and no shutters, actually does look better...even though it's plain and the old colors. Our house has always had the shutters so I've always assumed they were an improvement -- even though I wasn't sure I personally liked them.

The suggestion to paint the downspouts to match the house siding - BRILLIANT! I hadn't thought of that but will make a big big difference too.

Part of the issue with landscaping is that things need to fill in. However, after the painting is finished I'll try to take a fresh eye to the yard and see what could be done. You can't see it in my photos, but the majority of the landscape is actually away from the house, and we don't really have "foundation plantings". Here are a couple shots, further from the house. The front of the house has a north-west exposure, so as the day progresses the plants sitting in full shade are treated to full sun:

Street view (we sit on a bit of a hill):

Looking into the yard from the start of the walkway -- you're looking at woodchips, groundcover, a couple citrus trees, strawberry bed flanked by two daylilies, and the teeny gardenias behind:

The area under the window is actually an attempt to throw some symmetry near the house; my DH prefers symmetry.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 12:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If you do a window box, you could do one that looks like this, line it with the coir liner, and just set pots inside, anything seasonal, and change them out as needed. In winter, you could replace plants with evergreen branches, and add decorations like pine cones or colored berries on sticks, you know, the kind of thing you find at Michael's.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 12:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I like your idea of revisiting the landscaping up by the house when the painting is done. That area more than anyother should have a wow factor too it for the entire year. You might consider some easy upkeep hardscaping there.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 1:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

bpathome -- I love the idea of adding seasonal interest to the box in the winter. It's so much more prominent than our porch, yet the porch is what I generally decorate. Time to think outside the porch ;-)

madeyna -- I agree. I'm just not really sure what to do there, a patio or hardscaping is pretty much out of our budget because we have other higher priority projects. We've never had a desire to go sit out there, either, as it's the front yard. Not really sure what could give a "wow factor" because my DH doesn't want anything large to grow by the house.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 1:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If your do it yourselvers ( i think i made up a word;)) it would be fairly simple and inexpensive to make a rock garden with washed river rock up there going out from the corner of the fence if the fence has a gate . The corner of the house if not. Add stepping stones along the sidewalk to widen it. A water feature for the wow factor ( something like a large bubble rock )and you know have a all season easy upkeep area . I would remove the plants between the house and the sidewalk fill the area with rock then maybe do something with that blank wall. A trellis maybe or a bench or a large peice of outside artwork. I have also seen succent/rock collectins worked into narrow spaces between homes and sidewalks that look great.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 2:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm updating this thread with a picture of the color scheme I'm considering, and I also found a way to paint out the shutters ;-)

With the more exciting colors, I am liking the way things look w/o shutters.

However, is the color combo TOO exciting? I thought it actually worked with the rather plain house architecture, but ours would be the ONLY house in our neighborhood, that I'm aware of, with the entry alcove painted a different color than the main part of the house.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 1:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I wanted to add that with the color idea I posted above, I agree that the shutters would not look good -- which makes me think maybe these colors DO work with the house style :-)

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 2:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

my neighbor has window boxes with nothing in them. Totally different style of house, but shows the concept can work:

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 2:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Not bad. If it doesn't look good in real life, you can easily repaint that section yourself. The entry is in shadow, so that will tone down some of the brightness of the entry colors.

I think you should treat the garage facade as one plane with one color to keep it unified, though, instead of breaking it up into multicolored door/siding/triangle on top.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 2:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

hoovb -- thanks! Those are pretty boxes :-)

awm03 -- great mock-up, cleaner than what I was able to do with the BM virtual painter. Do you really think the alcove color will be so much darker? I actually liked how high the contrast was, although I was not expecting to like it.

Also, I feel like painting the garage all the same color, with trim, makes it feel blocky and heavy. I know having a contrasting garage is generally not preferred, but I guess I prefer it over the way it seems to dominate in the rendering you posted. What if the garage door was the same color as the alcove by the front door, would that help?

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 3:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I made another mock-up, this time w/a color on the garage door and the triangle above it the same shade as the rest o the siding. I found a little more exciting green for the entry ;-)

And a little more subdued:

This post was edited by melle_sacto on Fri, Apr 25, 14 at 16:31

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 4:27PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

melle_sacto, I'm just stumbling & bumbling along in Paintshop Pro -- so I probably didn't portray your entry way green very accurately. Any mock ups are just an approximation, so take them with a big grain of salt. The best way to test is to paint a big piece of poster board & tack it to the wall in your entry. Then you can really see how the light affects the color.

Welllll, I still think the garage ought to be the siding color. It balances the entry way better & keeps the entry as a focal point instead of distracting from it with a big block of disjointed color. Remember, you'll have the pattern of the garage door to add texture, and that will break up the monolithic aspect too.

I brightened the color for you because you're wanting more of a celery color, right? And hey, while we're dreaming, I threw in a different garage door. We replaced ours awhile ago, and it made such a transformation, so thought I'd play with yours just to see how it would change the house's look.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 6:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Also, erinb007 has a great thread going on contemporary exterior lighting. Many of the suggestions would look terrific with your house too.

Here is a link that might be useful: lighting for a midcentury modern house

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 6:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you for following up :-) I have been looking at the homes around, trying to decide if the garages look better w/matching paint or white. I do prefer the matching paint, and in sticking to a budget it's probably more economical to limit the number of colors.

LOVE the garage door you added -- that's not in our budget at all, the door we have is totally functional so we'll live with it.

I will look at that thread; I saw it early on, but have not been back to check out what they're discussing.

I still didn't pick up sample colors, maybe Monday morning. We got hit w/a ton of rain so no painting samples this weekend.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 6:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have been watching this thread, I like your sense of color. Before choosing the front door color, paint a piece of board that color and place it in the alcove to see how it appears. It is a dark alcove, and the purple may fade out.

also, if you can make your front garden more wide and linear, less cottage style it would go with the house better. I have a ranch and spent a year thinking about the facade, we ended up with low plantings in a very geometric layout to emphasize the walk to the front door.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 6:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

re new garage door, yes, too bad they're so expensive. But it sure looks terrific, doesn't it? I love how it works with the lines of your house. Oh well, dream, dream, dream... We were in our house for 16 years before we could replace the old, ugly, and by now very broken down garage doors.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 6:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

GREAT idea to paint the garage door -- blending it into the whole façade -- and would really let the great foyer color stand out! :)

LOVE the purple door! :)

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 7:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Still thinking about that garage facade that looks too monolithic to your eye. What if you use a taupe for the trim, a taupe that has a hint of purple in it that ties in to the door & is subtle enough so that it doesn't jar. It would add some color without going overboard.

This post was edited by awm03 on Fri, Apr 25, 14 at 20:35

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 8:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

awm03: Can you photoshop the trim in a darker color than the siding and also in the same color as the siding? I think the trim is making the garage door too prominent.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 9:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Same color (more or less)

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 9:35PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 9:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I had considered selecting trim that was only slightly lighter, but I really like how the bright trim seems to bring out the detail above the garage and the window.

What I can't figure out is the secret to balancing out that garage, or drawing the eye away. Color theory is that darker colors tend to recede, maybe the garage door should be a little darker than the siding. and paint the trim around it the same color? And the triangle trim above it the light color, to draw the eye up from the big door?

There is a house on another street with large flowers painted all over their garage door...that's one way to deal with a big blank slate ;-)

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 10:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

In this example I put dark indigo trim around the garage door and added the light color to the top. I thought maybe it would help to draw the eye up. I also tried to paint the bottom trim of the front, to draw more attention to that part of the house.

I like the light trim at the top of the garage, I think it visually "lifts" so that the garage doesn't look quite so boxy. And the dark indigo trim sort of ties in w/the door in a subtle way. I also selected a lighter purple for the door: "Lazy Afternoon"

This post was edited by melle_sacto on Fri, Apr 25, 14 at 22:51

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 10:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

How did this get so long and I never saw it!

One comment from way up at the top....
ALL the houses you pictured in your neighborhood had the faux shutters removed. Doesn't that tell you something? For one thing, yours are too short, and do not contribute a thing to the appearance of the house, except upkeep.

One house has a panel of some sort beneath a window. Would it be something to consider adding a high backed bench under the one north facing window?

Another home had the tall pencil slim Italian cypress, Those had to be there many years to get that tall. Consider something vertical like those plants. Very little upkeep, you sure don't have to prune them. I hate making more work for myself or my DH, so avoid anything requiring seasonal maintenance. Don't know what gardening zone you are in, but cruise the neighborhood and see what you like that looks good, and buy some.

Paint colors can be so iffy. But to avoid mistakes, continue to PhotoShop until it looks right. Don't cut it up with a lot of colors though. If you want to detail something do it on that huge garage door of yours.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 11:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I haven't read each comment so please ignore my comment if it's not relevant or helpful, but I would paint the vertical trim where the siding comes together at the corners in the same color as the siding. I would want that trim piece to disappear. I really like the colors you're considering.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 11:35PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Here's another rendition -- I made the vertical trim match the siding. So just the Window, Entry, and Triangle above garage stand out. I like this, too, I think it also draws the eye away from the garage.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 12:07AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Treating house parts similarly is always best. One color for the trim. When you start jumping around with light here, dark there, color here, different color there, then it gets disjointed looking. IMO, you're better off unifying the parts of the house: treat the garage as a whole, repeat with the bedroom wing, and focus on the middle (door) with color, nice lighting & plants. That balances the proportions well.

The garage (and all the concrete in front of it) is prominent, and you can't overcome that with paint tricks. But you can make it look like it's a part of the rest of the house, and that will balance it better. Blend in, don't highlight.

I don't find the garage side as bad looking as you do, frankly, as your house has nice lines, and you're on the right track emphasizing the entry. Landscaping will help a lot to shift focus to the right side of the house. And some day, you can put in a stylish garage door -- keep that on your wish list :)

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 7:51AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

awm03 -- thank you for the reality check ;-)

I worked on some more renditions and I'm pretty happy with how things are looking here:

Currently the garage wall runs all the way to the entry w/o interruption.

I'm thinking about having a piece of vertical trim added to the left side of the entry, to break up the long garage wall and create a logical transition for paint color. Then the light color will be on all three sides instead of just the door and right side:

I also found a picture online of a home where the recessed entry was painted with a light color, I think it has a very nice effect :-)

EDIT -- In looking more closely at the last picture, I can see it's a mock-up too! Fooled me at first glance, looks great :-)

This post was edited by melle_sacto on Sat, Apr 26, 14 at 15:10

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 3:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I really like the mock-up posted by awm03 on Fri, Apr 25, 14 at 21:36 with the trim darker. It makes the garage less eye-catching and the color of the entryway being brighter than the rest of the house makes it more apparent and welcoming. I think having lighter colors above or around the garage draw attention to the garage and away from the entryway.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 3:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

nhbabs -- I agree, that dark trim makes the garage fade away. I just worry that it makes the entire house look like a big brown rectangle. In our neighborhood, the homes I like the least are the brown with dark brown trim. They look depressing to me.

I just came across an interesting discussion about houses with protruding garages:

Here is a link that might be useful: curb appeal for a snout house

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 3:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Melle, I really love the mockup you posted last at 15.08 time. It's a far cry from the postings in the beginning of the post and, to my eye, it looks perfect. Plant greenery with a little bit of purple flowers in the window box and you're good to go. I think this thread solved your whole problem, the posts with pictures and all the hints led you to make a decision and a good one at that. Good luck with the painting, dying to see it all done.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 4:25PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Carpet only in the closet?
Would you carpet a closet when you've got hardwood...
Is Restoration Hardware bedding worth it?
I've been searching for the perfect white quilt for...
HGTV Fixer Upper show
I have been reading in blog land about HGTV's new show...
No Windows in the Dining Room
My dining room has 2 large wall with no windows and...
Help me find a powder room paint color
My painter is here fixing another problem (sheetrock,...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™