MCM curb appeal needed
November 5, 2012 in Design Dilemma
My wife and I just purchased a mid century modern ranch in Rochester, NY and would really appreciate any suggestions to help improve the curb appeal.

Ideas we've discussed include painting the trim a darker color, changing the front door (and tossing the storm door), adding some landscaping and adding some brick or stone veneer. That said, we are open to other ideas.

Note that the house backs on to a ravine, so there is no room for our two young kids to play in the backyard. Eventually we would like to add some short fencing (32 inches max per the town) and/or hedges to box in most of the large front yard...kind of like cattle fencing, but for kids!

Anyway, any help would greatly appreciated.

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Here are some vintage wild ideas for the garage--treat it as pop art! I think the place definately could use a jolt of color(s) to rescue it from the sea of taupe. Color blocking is another possibility. Love the clerestory windows!

I would go for something modern for a fence, and more landscaping. It is looking quite bare. I believe there are ways to mold and stamp asphalt too, to make it more like a patio. Perhaps a carport with some screening on the side woucl be a multi-purpose space with a gate in front. A black metal fence might look nice. Can you put a deck in the back?
November 6, 2012 at 1:30am     
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One Specialty Landscape Design, Pools & Hardscape
Love this Mid-Century Modern property! There are so many opportunities to improve the curb appeal - if you want to really modernize the project and are open to changing some of the hardscaping, consider changing the walkway to concrete step pads with dwarf mondo grass to separate them. Any landscaping that has an Asian feel (ex: Japanese maple) will also help to modernize your landscaping. I think that fencing in the front yard is a great idea - it would be great if you could find wrought iron fencing in a modern style. Also, definitely go with a darker color trim - it will leave the house looking less washed-out.
November 6, 2012 at 6:32am     
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I just got an update, on the first true mid-century modern home in Washington State to be added to the list of Historic Properties. I am sure you could plug in something to pull this up. AND the family had young children at this time. The yard was sectioned into different areas - which included a play area for the kids. I wish I had saved it. The above idea is also great - don't want anyone falling in that ravine. House is stunning - LOVE the look and it looks so pristine.

Suggest calling a PROFESSIONAL landscape architect? They can also help you with house colors and other little things which will blend in the home with the landscaping?

Please let us know - it is wonderful!
November 6, 2012 at 6:37am   
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Here's the solution - separate the garage structurally from the house. Then the house will not be destroyed by the ugly garage. Next, add some appropriate lighting to the gagage - no carriage lights. Then, turn the front door into something important looking, not something hidden. Run a sidewalk to the door that is NOT right along the house. Next, hire a landscape architect to draw up a landscaping plan for you. That's just about all you can do, but it will work for you.
November 6, 2012 at 6:53am   
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Thank you for the suggestions!

The size of the home is VERY deceiving from the road. The right side of the house with the vaulted ceiling and clerestory windows is the dining room and large living room, with a double sided fireplace separating the two areas. There is a good sized deck at the back off of this section and a huge family room in the basement below with a walkout under the deck.

The middle section of the home is a separate wing. It's about the same size as the right side of the home, but the roof is not as vaulted. From the road you wouldn't know that this section of the home exists. The kitchen is at the front and there are three bedrooms and a large bathroom down a long hallway that runs to the back of the house. Because of this section, the idea of separating the garage structurally from the house will not work. We agree that something needs to be done with the garage though. Perhaps adding some brick or stone to the front of the garage may create a similar visual effect.

We will start with the less expensive projects like paint, a nice MCM front door that adds a pop of color, different lights, etc. But we feel it's very important to get a sense of direction from the start.

The more comments & suggestions the better! Thanks again.
November 6, 2012 at 10:38am   
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November 6, 2012 at 10:58am     
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Hi there,
I did a bit of searching for you and I think you should check out
I like the picture of the house they have in their logo. Check out the White, brown and red details.
They also have the color patterns that match your type of house.

Good luck... Eva
November 6, 2012 at 11:03am     
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That is a great website! I like too! Here's some more garage pictures from then (some are a bit much, but a tone-done version could look great). Just adding a row of simple ribbon window inserts would help a lot. An I really like the idea of more modern light fixtures (not carriage lamps!) Apartment Therapy has quite a few stories about mid-century modern and mixing styles in interiors.
November 6, 2012 at 11:23am   
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Is there a free software like PhotoShop that I can download and use to help visualize some of the suggestions?
November 6, 2012 at 11:55am   
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Robert A. McGraw Architect
Dear Jason. We have a company to help you with your curb appeal issues. It is called Home-Curb Appeal and you can find our website at We are a small architecture firm in Southern California and we deal with mid-century homes very frequently. The firm is Robert A. McGraw, Architect (website Home Curb Appeal is a side project of ours tailor-made for your situation. We request the home owner to take three pics of his home from the front (your two pics will work perfectly) and we will send you three 3D renderings of a facelift which should add enjoyment and value to your property. Please visit our website for a more complete description of our program. I am attaching photos of a project of ours starting with the "before" front of the house, the 3D rendering and the house as finished by our client. We would love to work with you.
November 6, 2012 at 12:20pm   
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Eva, thank you for the link to the Eichler website. It has a lot of really good ideas. Sometimes it helps to see things in person, but there are so few MCM homes in our area that we are relying on internet resources such as this.

Style wise, we are looking for a nice blend of styles...modern (not ultra modern) with some retro MCM accents. Also, Rochester NY is known for cold winters and we get a fair amount of snow, so anything we do also has to be suitable for the climate.

Lastly, housing prices here are about 80% lower than the bay area and home values don't appreciate (or depreciate) very much. So it doesn't make good financial sense to pour a TON of money into a home.

November 7, 2012 at 10:39am   
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Hi Jason,
I think your home is beautiful--what part of town are you in? We also have an MCM home in Rochester, NY (Panorama area of Penfield). It's really hard to find professionals here who are familiar with the style. We end up doing a lot of research on our own to try to keep things period appropriate. We bought our home 2 years ago from the original owners who never updated anything from when they built the house in 1965. Good luck!
November 7, 2012 at 6:44pm   
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Thanks for the compliment. It sounds like we are in a similar situation. Our home is located off Empire Blvd near Irondequoit Bay. It too was built in 1965 and the seller is the original owner. We don't close on the purchase until January, so we won't be doing any outside work until spring...lots of time to plan.

Just curious, was your home designed by Don Hershey? That's what we were looking for, but ours is not one of his designs.
November 7, 2012 at 7:51pm   
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They did a real nice job on this house and yard, maybe it will inspire you.

November 7, 2012 at 8:13pm     
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There are quite a few blogs out there by people who own mid-century modern homes, but I think yours tends more toward contemporary, so yeah, modern with a touch of mid-century would be perfect. One source to try is ModFruGal. Try googling mid-century modern on a budge. I find that IKEA (of course) and World Market have a pretty good inventory of reasonably-priced modern and mid-century tinged stuff.

Could be a variation of the Shed style, but with stucco. It reminds me of a lot of houses in Germany--rather plain stucco on the outside, but surprisingly big on the inside. They do a lot of color to pick out details, like that little indent between the garage and the house under the window, and maybe around the inset door area. They also are masters of making the most out of small front yards, so if you google that, maybe you will find something to inspire you.

Sometimes I use Google translater for my key phrases to find stuff from other countries.Searching for stuff in Germany in German gets way better results.

One thing you might think about is to use a commercial contractor--they are a lot more familiar with modern styles and the kind of fittings that work well on modern buildings, like glass panel and cable railings with stainless steel, glass canopies, powder coated metal with some dimension to it and so forth, and have contacts with supplier networks.

i can relate to the problem with not getting what you put into a place. Real estate is so slow around here (rural upper Midwest) that we will be lucky to recoup even 10% of what we put into the house, and it has mainly been practical stuff, nothing fancy. The sale signs go up here but don't come down. I tried to convince my husband that we would be better off in a more expensive house that needed less work because nothing is selling, but my husband couldn't see having a bigger mortgage and we fell in love with this house. Got a good price but already put in a lot. Oh well, live and learn..
November 7, 2012 at 11:29pm   
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Hi Jason,
Your location sounds like it must be beautiful--you must be so excited! I don't think our house is a Don Hershey. The original owner is in his 80's and I was fortunate to have had a couple of conversations with him before we closed on the house. He mentioned that the architect was David Bishop--but I want to verify that sometime. Our house was very much inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright so I think it has a lot of Don Hershey attributes. Funny story--I took a walk over the summer and a very friendly older man working in his front yard on Panorama Trail started chatting with me. I complimented his home and he said that his Dad designed it--his Dad was Don Hershey. He told me all about the history of the home and some of the neighborhoods around Panorama. It was such a fun conversation. I just googled Don Hershey and noticed that someone started a website honoring him and his homes.

There are actually some very interesting MCM homes in the Panorama area. My next-door neighbor's home was designed by James Johnson, who designed the Mushroom House. He also still lives in the area on Mountain Road. My neighbors have completely modernized their home over the last 20 years (while staying pretty true to MCM) and it's really stunning. It's prairie style--nothing like the mushroom house!

My husband and I have done a lot of work to our home in the last two years--but mostly around fixing deferred maintenance, unfortunately. I've attached a couple of pictures of our home's exterior. I also started a blog about our renovations but haven't updated it in awhile. I really need to post some updates because it is very behind! If you're interested, it's at There is actually a nice tour of the house from before we moved in --link is on the right hand side.

There are a few MCM enthusiasts around Rochester--I think we need to band together and form a group or something! BTW...even my friends who live in McMansions think our MCM home is the greatest house so I think it says a lot for the timelessness of the architecture.
November 8, 2012 at 9:17am     
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Nice website Tricia. Wow, I can't believe you did all that in 9 days all by yourself. It looks fabulous. It has taken me almost that long just to scrape, prime, paint and caulk my first floor windows, but I am a terrible caulker and a bit of a perfectionist :) More enthusiasm than skill I'm afraid and my husband is worse.

Mid-century modern homes and neighborhoods are getting on the national register of historic places these days and their are a number of neighborhood associations that have walking tours of these neighborhoods and document architects, developers and floor plans. You did such a loving job on the exterior I bet you could qualify.

Love the name--Modchester--very clever!
November 8, 2012 at 11:08am   
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I like how this house is using the three colors. Dark for the door and the light blue/gray for the trim (which accentuates it, but doesn't go overboard0 and the crisp white body of the house.
November 8, 2012 at 11:32am     
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Rehder Construction, Inc.

I would recommend a stone wainscot halfway up the house all the way around the home. To give the garage more height make stone vertical columns on either side of it. A trellis over the garage door is an economical way to add dimension and take away from the boxy look.

A little short shed roof over the courtyard entrance door would offer protection and add interest. Painting the garage door and courtyard entrance door a different color from the rest of the home would also improve the curb appeal to this home.

Best wishes on your project!

Steve Rehder
November 9, 2012 at 10:57am   
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Tom Borsellino
I live in an Eichler neighborhood and dark colored houses look a lot better than light ones. Here's a link to an Eichler color story:
November 9, 2012 at 11:04am   
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Tom Borsellino
Also, your home reminds me of some of those designed by Charles Goodwin in Hollin Hills, VA. There are also some Ralph Rapson homes in this style. Both might provide some inspiration.
November 9, 2012 at 11:05am   
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Over the weekend had an idea on how to break up the "sea of beige." The garage door, as with the rest of the home, is made of cedar. It's very heavy and great condition, so I don't want to replace it. But perhaps I can strip the paint off, sand it down and apply a nice transparent stain. It seems like a big DIY job, but it might not be too bad with the right tools. The warm wood color would add a nice contrast. Anyone have experience with this time of project?

The same approach could be used on other small areas of the home, such as the area (or part of) between the garage and front door.
November 12, 2012 at 7:37am     
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I really like what you've done with your home (and your website). The house has some great features and looks to have a beautiful setting. I keep following your progress.

November 12, 2012 at 7:41am   
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Found some more pictures of my idea here on houzz.

[houzz=Redwood House 1]

[houzz=Redwood House 2]

[houzz=Redwood House 3]
November 12, 2012 at 7:48am     
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