Dear Homework, We recently purchased a ranch home built in 1959. We’ve cleared much of the larger trees and plants from the front of the house and plan to remove the smaller bushes when it warms up. We would love some input on how to give our home a face-lift. We want to bring the front of the house back to life and make it more current. Can you help?

−Long Way to Go

Dear Long Way to Go,
When the façade of a home is as long as this one, it needs some vertical counterpoints to add balance and interest. While the front-facing gable helps a little, it leaves out the entry and ultimately fails to give the accent needed.

We need to do some major work at the center of the composition. There are two logical style directions for these updates. The first gives the house a European country look, which would require changing things all along the façade. The second continues the Colonial feel that it already has, which probably would be less expensive.

1. European
For this version, you will notice new, hipped roof elements that extend far above the existing gutter line, featuring big, bold window openings. A new chimney breast carries the eye up even farther. To the right of the new entry, two new French doors with Juliet balconies and arched transoms change the original Colonial look. To the left of the dining room, a lowered  element adds charm to the garage section. A new slate-look roof and whitewashing the brick underscore the European theme.

For this rendering, I have removed the central tree to show the new composition. I also show a new, curved, brick retaining wall and a new shade tree to the left of the dining room.

2. Colonial
For this scheme, you will see that I have raised the height of the living room ceiling and added a chimney between the windows. To the right of this, a raised brick entry porch with a wide ‘spill’ of stairs and bold wing wall draws new attention to the entry door. New brick planter walls at the living and dining rooms add additional height to the composition.

The new circle drive further enforces the prominence of the center of the composition, which is aided by a new brick retaining wall at the curb. All of these changes result in a much more balanced presentation.

Because houses like yours occupy such large lots, they often are targets for being torn down. These two designs give new life to this style of home.


Homework is penned by Paul Doerner, founding partner of The Lawrence Group. If you would like your home critiqued, contact us at