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emily_marie3248

mid century exterior design

Brass and Birch
May 15, 2019
We’ve been working on our 1949 fixer upper for a few years and are feeling stuck at this point, it’s definitely an improvement but feels unfinished. We haven’t started on the garage area yet. Looking for more landscape ideas (we wanted it to be minimal and modern but I think it needs more) the boxwoods keep dying, and the magnolia might be taken out....should we paint the door, new soffits and trim? Add evergreens or grasses? We are in zone 5. The budget is also minimal :) THANKS

Comments (18)

  • partim

    You've made some big improvements!

    I'd remove the magnolia. I had one for several years and it finally succumbed to scale disease. But I found it looked beautiful for about 10 days a year, and was unimpressive the rest of the time. And I've never had boxwoods but see them half-dead often where I live. They're neither hardy nor beautiful.

    I think some grasses would be beautiful. Make your beds a good size, at least 5 feet wide. Square shapes are more MCM than curves. Think of color-blocking, but with plants.

    How does this bed face? And does it get shade from that big tree I see to the left?

    A small thing, but paint your downspouts to match the walls.

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    "And I've never had boxwoods but see them half-dead often where I live. They're neither hardy nor beautiful."

    Completely a matter of opinion and cultivar selection :-) And I would much prefer to see some sort of evergreen shrubs to compliment an entry planting than ornamental grasses that can look dead and very messy in winter. Provided you select appropriately, evergreen shrubs will look tidy and well-groomed year round and are well-suited to a minimalist landscape.

  • decoenthusiaste

    Try some tall pots with thriller-spiller-filler plantings by the door. Dwarf, low-maintenance shrubs under the windows.


  • chloebud

    Nicely done! One small thing is to paint the downspouts to blend with the siding since you don't want to highlight them. Regarding boxwood, I'm a big fan of the bright green color. It's been an easy shrub for us here in Southern CA.

  • partim

    To clarify, I'm not recommending ONLY grasses (I did say "some grasses"). I think they can look good in winter since some of them keep their seed heads and structure quite well. Nor am I against evergreens shrubs. But if boxwoods die for the OP in that location, there are other evergreens that can substitute.

    My sister has a pair of pyramidal clipped boxwoods which she is is looking to replace since hers died (again!). Maybe clipped pyramidal euonymus? And has anyone had had success with anti-dessicant sprays for broad leafed evergreens?

  • PRO
    Yardvaark

    To be sure, the magnolia is ill placed. I small tree would look better to the side, off of the corner.

    Presently, it appears as 3 separate windows and a door set in a wall of siding. Using trim, I'd knit all of that together as a unified bank of windows and door set in the wall. (There would not be any room for siding above, however. Trim would extend into more trim to the soffit. The sliding door gives it a back-of-house look. Consider a front door with sidelights for a dressier look.

    Going into the yard, there is a need for a more expansive landing, which would extend to a wider walk. The yard could benefit from a reconfiguration of the bed line and the creation of a broad, circular bed around the tree.


  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    Evergreen euonymus won't be winter hardy in that zone. But boxwood is one broadleaved evergreen shrub that can be grown in as cold a climate as zone 4 MN....provided the right boxwood is selected. Other possibilities are dwarf conifers.

  • NHBabs z4b-5a NH

    Yardvaark, I think the second photo is the new appearance.

    I would begin by getting rid of the current plants, gravel, and stepping stones. Have you considered not having foundation plantings but just lawn between the door and the right side?

    I wouldn’t want to be clearing snow with your current walkway or having to walk it in poor lighting or heals. IMO that type of walkway should be used in situations where a visitor has the choice about using it, not as a main walk to the entrance because anyone with mobility issues will find it dangerous regardless of how attractive it looks. Rock rolls, edges are trip hazards, and I can easily see sprained ankles or falls. Perhaps it’s my age and having lived with folks with mobility issues. To keep the budget reasonable use the current pavers in a double wide setting. If you want more interest, set rock mortared in place or brick between and framing the pavers.

    I love the new door and siding and how well they complement the brick. I would paint the new door a bright color such as orange or lime which I think would look great and be in keeping with the feel of your home. I would likely plant a large shrub limbed up or a small tree off the right side of the house as Yardvaark has illustrated, but just have a bed of mulch with a single kind of groundcover under it in the inset corner. I might put a large modern pot with a simple planting on either side of the front door, but I honestly don’t think that the house needs a foundation planting across the front.

  • PRO
    Brass and Birch
    Thanks for all the suggestions! We do have a paved sidewalk up to the door. Landscape is a combo of bark and stone, which we are happy with and could modify but don’t want to completely redo. I’ve been thinking a structured looking pine on the right would be nice. Painting the drop spout seems like a must now and I hadn’t thought of it before (we couldn’t avoid putting it there).
  • PRO
    Yardvaark

    "Yardvaark, I think the second photo is the new appearance." Well, then ... that was kind of like me asking a lady with a large mid-section "When is the baby due??" Nevertheless, it is the direction I'd go which, I'm sure now, is not welcome advice. :-( This should be a lesson to other s not to post "before and after" photos together without specifying which is which!

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    Oh lordy!! The magnolia as been butchered!! You might as well just get rid of it now......magnolias do not take kindly to that sort of severe pruning.

  • PRO
    Brass and Birch
    It had to be hacked because it was messing with the roof, we weren’t sure if it would come back or not so we gave it some time but it’s apparent that we need to finish the job
  • tony jelly

    The door is all wrong.

    But I think this problem illustrates how we get to a disjointed image because there was no master plan in the beginning. I know this is difficult to do on your own especially with plants that can grow big.

    Having a whole property designed by a professional is a bit like accepting dictatorship, but the alternative is to suck it and see, do this: it doesn't work, so try again, but if you enjoy this process it is all good.

  • PRO
    Brass and Birch
    It’s not perfect, but the porch was an addition the original owners added, the actual front door is inside the porch and they built the porch around it. It’s a weird entry, and we didn’t want to spend 10-15k reconfiguring it. So we made the best out of what we had. The outside was an afterthought because the inside had to be gutted and took up the whole budget (and then some).
  • partim

    Large MCM house numbers, placed vertically, between the door and windows would look good.

  • groveraxle

    You've done a nice job, Brass. The two things I noticed immediately were the downspouts and what looks like a mailbox. Make both of them disappear by painting them the same color as the siding.


    I would replace the magnolia with one specimen plant that doesn't get too big. Maybe a sago palm.

  • samarnn

    I'm in z5 (IN) and I definitely don't recommend the ground cover euonymus. It is hardy here where it turns a quite attractive dark burnt red color in winter, but the birds seed it all over and it becomes a nuisance!

    I suspect that water may be an issue as the plantings between walk & house appear to be almost under the eaves. I've had good luck with epimedium as evergreen gc in dry shade. Also hellebores, which I think have a structural look which would go well with your house, though they do take awhile to get established.

    The really big hosta are also very structural. The chartreuse Sum & Substance or one of the huge dark blue ones would be my choice, depending on if in shade or more sun. Both want plenty of water.

  • Newenglandgardenerct

    Also in zone



    5 and box I hit or miss here. What about a Japanese Holly?

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