17 ideas to add curb appeal to your 40s, 50s or 60s house


Midcentury homes come in all styles and sizes – generally with either “ranch style” or “colonial style” elements. The house above: A real mix of the two, and the exterior touches really give it…stature, even despite its small size – just 1,000 s.f. There is so much you can do to add great curb appeal to your postwar ranch, cape, colonial, bungalow, or split. Read on for 17 illustrated ideas… In our first house, notice:

1. The cupola above the garage. I really like cupola’s for the visual interest that they provide. Check out the Brosco catalog for a number of styles – get a hard copy, their website is not helpful.

2. The tree at the left, and that shrub at the left corner are “higher” than other greenery. Feng shui says that looking at a house, the left side is the “dragon” side that protects the house – trees and shrubs should be higher here. The right side is the “phoenix” side – lower to the ground here, please. I kind of also works in the west because we read left to right. I use this dragon/phoenix principle in decorating on the inside, too.

3. Not exactly shown here, but one other principle for exterior landscaping that I picked up when I did my house two summers ago and was doing extensive research: If you can (and it makes sense visually for your house), bring the beds along the house out the full height of your facade. That is, if the facade of your house (not including the roof) is 9′ high…bring your beds out 9′. This “grounds” the house within the landscaping quite nicely. The beds don’t seem “dinky.”

4. Let your windows breathe. Don’t have shrubbery covering them and if you do, trim it back.

5. Notice how the window treatments contribute to curb appeal. There are horizontal blinds with tape at each window. The draperies are all a light yellow. Harmony in repetition can make a big impact.

6. If you have a house like this, stay with the wide clapboards. The scale is so nice.

7. And of course, that structure at the front door is so welcoming, and the brick planter makes a nice addition.


Thoughtful exterior touches elevate this house, which otherwise could have been a forgettable ranch box:

8. Add shutters: Match them to your roof color. Note how they are sized vertically to also encompass the trim underneath the window. The rule of thumb for width is to take half the window width – as if the shutters actually could be used.

9. Garage door: Matched to the shutter trim color.

10. And notice how the stone trim under the bay also is that nice warm sandy brown. Your eye dances right along this house horizontally because all these colors are linked.

11. Consider using the front gable to introduce another trim color and another material. And while this may really seem obsessive – this illustrator has imagined that the linings on all the draperies are lined in the same fabric and orange-y color, complementing the gable. Nice!

12. Hard to see, but there is dentil molding along the cornice of the bay window. Hey – the bay is a nice touch, don’t you think? Edged in that stone below.

13. Finally here, note the use of the fence at the left – the trellis at the door – and the trellis at the far right. These are nice hardscape touches that add interest to this exterior (and the others shown).


My goodness, I’ve seen this house everywhere across the country! Ideas:

14. Mix the materials used on your exterior. Looking left to right, notice how the bedroom window is edged and “sectioned off” from the shingle siding….see that little bathroom glass-block window with three horizontal trim pieces?…at the entry way, they’ve used vertical siding… and of course the stone makes a nice horizontal statement then rising to create a flower box.

15. In fact, it’s important to pause and underscore the use of materials that running horizontally along ranch-style homes. Ranch homes are long and low to the ground…they have a horizontal profile. Adding “footwalls” or “kneewalls” of brick or stone are a great way to emphasize the horizontal profile. In addition, you often see siding that runs half-way up the sides of a ranch home – this also can split it in two horizontally. In addition, these techniques add visual interest by introducing another material to differentiate a ranch-box. I will add, though, in thinking about doing these kinds of changes, scale becomes very important – and is a while ‘nother discussion altogether.

16. Of course, the entry way structure itself makes a welcoming statement. Notice how it’s roofline extends around the right-hand side of the house, almost like an awning.

17. Finally, I like how the chimney is painted white like the siding of the house. Nice!


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  1. says

    Fantastic post! I really need some ideas right now. My 12 year old home just isn’t doing it for me, and I’m trying to think of ways to reto-fiy it instead of moving. I don’t know if I am wasting my time and should just look for another house or not. Perhaps I could send you some pics for ideas?

    • Ed says

      Obviously an old post, but I like this idea. Using the new crop of reproduction and retro themed appliances/fixtures/etc, you could even make it appear that some forward thinking home builder was reviving MCM when the house was built, about ’97 in your case. An option if your home has fundamental features that don’t lend themselves to pulling off a true mid century transformation.

  2. MidCent Keith says

    These houses remind me of the 1951 home I saw last weekend for an estate sale – it was so cozy and homey – had the original bathroom fixtures, even the 1951 Westinghouse stove and steel cabinets in the kitchen .. with some love and money this place could be great again. I have a picture of it on Flickr:
    I just love this house style.

    • pam kueber says

      Thanks, Keith for the link to your flickr photostream – I am lovin’ that house and a bunch of your other images. Keep up the retro recon!

  3. sablemable says

    TY for posting, Pam! I have those hedge type shrubs along the front of the house and along the back. They really add interest to the house-all they need is a good trimming.

  4. Elvis (aka) Jane says

    Great post, Pam. I was interested to read #3 about bed depth relative to house height. That just makes sense and makes me think we should try that with our house. We live on a corner with lots of pedestrian traffic so we’re working to “move” the house further away from the sidewalk. We don’t want to cover the windows with shrubs, of course, so bed depth could add a helpful dimension.

  5. says

    I *just* did a retro recon of exactly these types of exterior details in my neighborhood! I’m planning to get the photos up on Flickr and on my blog. I’ll let you know when I do, and maybe you can use some real-life examples!

  6. says

    Great stuff, just as we’re continuing our landscaping…That 9′ rule must mean I can add more garden space bed, darn!

    Those shutters on the second house are neat: From the very top to the very bottom of the window structure. Very nice.

    Though we can’t do the dragon/phoenix…our house is ‘backwards’ for doing that. LOL Oh well!

    (Actually, though, we have a gigantic, gorgeous, glorious oak tree in the back yard on the right side of the house…does that count?)

  7. pam kueber says

    Tikimama – Your Flickr pool is amazingly fabulous! I love all the Cinderella ranches in particular. I have bombarded you with requests to add your images to the Retro Renovation, and Storybook Ranch, groups. Will contact you separately regarding doing a slide show on the blog. Many thanks – gosh, you’re inspiring me to start more retro recon walking tours up in my neighboring Pittsfield, which is full of postwar gems, especially now that the weather is turning pleasant. Many thanks!!!!

  8. says

    Thank you Pam! *blushing* I have fun doing photo walks, and will be doing more. We’ve got lovely spring weather here, and I’ve been walking for exercise, too. I responded to you via Flickr re the slide show – hope you can do it – I’ll be so honored! 🙂

  9. Errick Bjorklund says

    These houses are absolutely stunning, there really is no equal to midcentury design. It pains me that my parents renovated the majority of our household, It really was something.

  10. tulsatammy says

    Pam, my 1957 ranch doesn’t have shutters, and I would like to add them, but my roof color is almost exactly the color of my brick. The brick is an orange-terra cotta color and the roof is a shade darker, more terra cotta. The eaves and underhang are white vinyl siding and the trim is white – all color choices were by the previous owner(s).

  11. Christy says

    I need some serious help with my 1967 red brick/used brick home. How do I send a photo? I am replacing the roof (need color ideas),windows (adding grids), and shutters by professionals, everything else will be by me. My climate is semi-arid and I have to irrigate everything in the landscaping and it is hot and windy 8 months out of the year. I despise modern and probably lean more towards traditional/country plus i need to add fencing for horses. Please, please send me any ideas or recommendations for color palates, easy architecural add-ons and landscaping, etc… Thanks!!!! Please let me know how to send a photo. Christy

  12. Becca says

    Hi, Pam – I’m coming late to this thread, but I’ve been digging deep in your website to try to find an image similar to my home (1951, 1080 sqft) and the first one here is almost exact in the main body. We have only a single window for the kitchen (right-most window) and a more recent deck where the covered porch is on the left (design inspiration!) and a big honking garage (new, but there was never one there before) instead of the cute one with breezeway.

    Do you remember where this first image came from? I’d like to see if there are any plans or more info.


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