Need help on curb appeal for California Ranch

SDRBNSeptember 5, 2012

I am a long time lurker to the GW forums, but this is my first post. My husband and I bought a somewhat run-down foreclosure a few years ago and are now facing possibly having to sell it because of a job transfer. We have fixed the house up to a style that suited us, but we are not sure if it is a universally appealing style. We are located in southern California in a neighborhood made up of primarily 1960's ranch homes and a few houses that have had second stories added. I am looking for suggestions on adding curb appeal. We repainted the house last year - pretty bold colors and we are considering repainting the body of the house to be a more neutral color, but keeping the trim the same color. We have also replaced the windows and added trim around them and replaced the front door. I would like to put plantings in the garden box under the left window and wonder if I should put in palms or similar plantings or stick to flowers.

Let me know if you have any suggestions on colors or other ways we could boost our curb appeal.


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By the way this is what our house looked like when we bought it, purple and white paint and in bad shape.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 6:04PM
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It is a little bold, but possibly not if it's in a beach community or close to one. If that's not the case, and the neighbors are all much more conservative, then I'd take the easy way out here and just roll on a brown exterior glaze on top of the green to tone it down. I'd also get rid of the hedge. It hides the home. Put a small tree of some variety there like a crepe myrtle and some plants under it. I'd also see about putting a trellis of some kind on the garage end, as it's kind of naked without a window. Maybe a bougainvillea or mandevilla on the trellis. Maybe investigate using a concrete stain on the vast expanse of concrete that the drive presents. It's the single largest "landscape" feature of the home and it needs to be softened down from it's current starkness.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 7:33PM
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I would want to see some foundation shrubs under the two front windows. Do you have soil there, or is it bricked in? It just needs to be softened with some lush, low shrubs. In fact, the green paint might not particularly show up all that much with lots of shrubs there.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 7:39PM
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Paint the garage door the same color as the body of the house. The white door stands out and looks like it just has primer on it.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 7:43PM
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I agree with the other posts to paint the garage door, enhance the cement, and replant with updated plantings.
The green color is bright, but it looks updated.

What city are you in? I'd spend my time and money on landscaping, I think it will give you the appeal.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 11:57PM
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Thank you everybody for your help! Many of these suggestions resonate with what we have been thinking and it's really nice to get the encouragement to make the changes!

We are located in San Diego. I had been thinking of painting the garage door to match the window trim color - but will now reconsider the main body color of the house. I also had thought of a trellis with bougainvillea on the garage. I am going to look for small shrubs to put in the planters below the windows in the front - they have brick edges and can have plants put in them. We are unsure about removing the hedge because while it is kind of outdated it is really well established and healthy and because it's made up of 21 thick stumped privet bushes would cost over $1000 to remove, which I think would be money better spent elsewhere. I am definitely going to look into staining the driveway. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   September 6, 2012 at 10:17AM
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I would leave the hedge - lots of work and frankly it does provide some privacy to the house and blocks the street view of the garage some.

Although the color is bold I like it and works well with what you've done. I can't think of anything that would make it look better than what you've done.

I agree on all that concrete and like somebody suggested staining might be an option, but I'm not sure it would be something I would want to undertake as some people will like it and others won't. They'll see it as a maintenance thing.

I think plantings to draw the eye away from the driveway to the house would be a better investment. A combination of bushes and flowers of varying heights would be my choice. Maybe something to add some height and anchor the house on the left side.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2012 at 10:44AM
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I'm not sure that the changes I'd make would be appropriate for your type of house and area.

Are you in an area where you need to conserve water? Is xeroscaping with rocks and low maintenance plants common? I could see that as an alternative to some of the green space.

The hedge boxes you in. Maybe that is something you want, but I'd remove it. It looks harsh because of the holly or whatever type of bush that is. I'd take it out and get some grass growing there or some attractive rocks or gravel. To add interest, I'd plant something against the garage like the trellis and flowers mentioned above. I might flank it with some taller grasses on both sides. The before pictures show some spaces for trees to be planted in the bricks. If you still have those spots, I'd plant something similar to a dessert willow which is a really pretty willow looking tree with flowers during the summer.

You definitely need some plants up against the main part of the house. I'd put something tall tht grows straight like maybe arborvitae flanking the door. I'd plant some lower growing shrubs and a mix of flowers on either side of that.

The garage door does need to be painted. The trim color might be the best choice. Your actual house color may be acceptable. It depends on your local culture.

The concrete staining would look nice and would help camoflauge the cracks in the driveway.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2012 at 10:47AM
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Since there are buyers seeking midcentury modern homes that retain their original character, you might get specific advice or just get inspiration by browsing on a website, in their forum "Mid Century Modern Houses and Homes."

More generally, you can google "midcentury homes/images" and "midcentury landscaping/images" for color, trim and landscape ideas.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2012 at 11:02AM
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Why stain your driveway? It's common for us CA folks to see a huge swath of concrete with our houses. It tells us there's extra parking for parties, if nothing else. What appeals to our local markets is very different than what sells in other states.

I do think the hedge would look better shorter, as it shows in your "old" picture. I'm not in love with the house color myself, it seems more an Arts & Craft color than MCM. Nonetheless, it is new and not worth doing over.

As a gardener who appreciates low-water landscaping - and since Southern CA folks use our water, LOL - I would never suggest lawn ANYWHERE. The hedge adds a big swath of green that is obviously low maintenance/low water, almost as valuable as a mature tree.

No flower box. Plant along the house on both sides of the door, instead. Easier to keep alive and tons more impact. A colorful assortment of mini-shrubs for both bloom color and foliage interest (the latter a lot more important than flowers which will fade in a month's time). Some dark reddish-brown and silver-grey mini-shrubs mixed with flowers will give impact, complement the house color, and draw the eye to the front door to look welcoming.

Be generous with the number of plants. We are talking mostly quart-size container plants, maybe a couple of 1-gallon mini-shrubs for instant impact. You want a quick sale, so there isn't time to grow the plants. It should look 'filled in' as soon as you pat down the last trowelful of soil. Some inexpensive edging will keep the dirt off the concrete to make it easier to keep things tidy.

The windows are small, proportion-wise. Keep the plantings at 2' high max. Balance is "the name of the game" for a house of your design (not symmetry, which is matchy-matchy).

    Bookmark   September 6, 2012 at 4:11PM
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I grew up in San Diego in a neighborhood with houses just like this. They're not MCM by any stretch of the imagination, they're tract houses, so I wouldn't worry about going with a MCM look, because it's probably not that inside.

I don't particularly care for the exterior color, so I'd consider repainting it. Is the exterior stucco or T1-11 siding (in green photo, side of garage has vertical lines)?

I'd also leave the bush if it's healthy and well-groomed. I also don't see a need to hide the concrete or garage door, because that's what's common in the neighborhood. Just make sure they're not dingy.

I'd put something (bush?) with height (no taller than the "chair rail") on either side of the left window and fill in with something of half-height (day lillies?) in between. And something similar on the right. You can fill in with annuals and put lots of mulch around everything. I like the pots on either side of the door too.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2012 at 5:52PM
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I believe privet are pretty forgiving and can be pruned quite drastically. I think I'd try to get them into a more rounded natural shape as opposed to that squared off look. So they looked more like individual shrubs. Then maybe you could underplant with some colorful annuals.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 2:00PM
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Privet hedge plants are expensive too. Keep them and perhaps trim them a little more.

Why is the middle window longer (or the trim is longer) than the other windows? It would be great if they were all the same length.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 6:12PM
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I understand you don't want to dig up the entire hedge, but you might consider taking out just the portion that is at right angles to the street, that runs along the driveway. You've got that nice weathered brick there, and you could do a small flower bed, or put in a tree, which would help to soften all the straight lines and right angles you have on the front of the house.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 2:36PM
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oh, I want to add, love that purple, can't imagine why you'd paint that?? LOL

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 8:02PM
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