Dear Homework,
We bought our home about five years ago in a subdivision that is approximately half original homes and half new homes. We have no intention of tearing it down like many in the neighborhood have, but after working on the interior, we are now ready to spruce up the exterior. I am in favor of painting the brick, removing the decorative black wrought iron. and shutters, and replacing the front door. My husband would be OK with most of those options but prefers not to paint the brick. Can you help get us started? We need some ideas to get us moving in the right direction and to help us fit in better with the newer homes in the neighborhood.
—not a teardown

Dear not a teardown,IMG_1979
I think you are on the right track by getting rid of the shutters and wrought iron. They don’t really complement the overall style of the house. I also would suggest removing the three trees that hide the living room windows and the important front-facing gable. Finally, I would eliminate the forlorn-looking gas lamp in the middle of the lawn.

Next, I suggest installing a new slate-colored, architect grade, asphalt roof to coordinate with a new slate green trim. Add bronze gutters and a terra cotta front door. I think all these colors work well together to transform the house without painting the brick.

A revised landscape scheme also could help. I show two clump birch trees to add vertical interest near the façade. Three urns with flowers add an architectural note at the garage. A continuous flow of foundation plantings allows the full length of the windows to be seen, helping the façade look taller. A low, informal hedge and new ‘street trees’ nicely frame the composition from the street and give the property an established feel.

You could, of course, make architectural changes that would make the house look taller (which, no doubt, the newer houses are), but I wanted to start with the most economical approach.

Hope that helps,

Homework is penned by Paul Doerner, Founding Partner of the Lawrence Group. If you would like your home critiqued, contact us at