Let’s help Jordan add curb appeal to her 1955 Houston suburban ranch home

houston suburban ranch houseReaders, put on your thinking caps and ready your fingers for your keyboards: Today we’re looking for reader suggestions to help Jordan add curb appeal to her 1955 suburban ranch home in Houston, Texas. Jordan writes:

I love your website and have combed through almost every article! I’m having a problem with our 1955 built ranch house. We live in a small neighborhood in Houston, TX and most of the houses were built in the 50’s and 60’s with a few odd new builds in the mix. My husband and I love the house and really want to be here for quite a long time, but I just can’t stand the exterior of our house. I bought the house because the floor plan was great, the price was good and a fair amount of updates had already been done… but I knew I didn’t like the exterior.

She continues:

My main bone of contention are the glass blocks in the front of the house. They are there to cover up a old wood burning stove (fireplace) but they are so ugly… also, the bay window on the left is in the dining room and that looks a little off to me as well. We are planning to re-pave the driveway and walk way this upcoming spring and want to tackle the rest of the exterior at the same time.

I have racked my brain and don’t have any good ideas yet… if you have some suggestions, I would LOVE to hear them… thanks for your help!!


NOTE: The interior photos above are from the real estate listing — not Jordan’s furniture.

Jordan – your house looks lovely, but I have to agree with you, those floor-to-ceiling windows all along the front of the house are new to me. Yes, readers, look closely — those are floor-to-ceiling window / nooks to the right and left of the fireplace, which has the floor-to-ceiling glass block behind it. And in the dining room, that’s a bumped out bay with floor-to-ceiling glass. Someone sure wanted to add light!

What do you think, readers? Let’s assume Jordan says we can get rid of the wood-burning fireplace. I’ll let you run with this one, and my pipe in at some point after noodling the question myself….


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  1. Mark says

    My 2 cents,
    The stove and pipe has to go, it’s breaking up the look of the house and not in a good way.
    The bay window is doing the same thing, so it has to go.
    The hedge on the right is either too tall or it also needs to come out, I’ll leave that up to you. If it stays cut it down to only be about a foot or so taller than the hedge on the left.
    The planting beds in front of the hedge are screaming for some color, even solid white bed of flowers would look good, or a mix of colors and heights. Definitely fill those beds with flowers of some kind

  2. Marc says

    Explore Houston Mod’s web site http://www.houstonmod.org and attend their “mod of the month” events to learn more about “soft contemporary” styled ranches that were popular in Houston in the 50’s and 60’s. The Glenbrook Valley area is full of them.

  3. Gavin Hastings says

    Could that entire window area have been a covered walkway -“bumped out”?
    It would explain the structural cubbyholes. Call your Assessor’s Office- in my city, all new homes have been photographed since 1938.

    I am beginning to think that your home has had some “work” done. : )

  4. Anna G says

    Looking at your furniture, the exterior does not fit in with your warm and comfortable, earthy style.
    I would suggest looking into how your house can be painted a warmer ivory color and adding some minor old Spanish or Mediterranean details. A terra cotta tiled roof might look wonderful. This can turn your ranch from a modernist 50’s look, into something more traditional and romantic.
    Looking at the landscaping, it would look fantastic. I agree that the right hedges are too tall and overpower the symmetry.

  5. Judi says

    If you want to do something this weekend that will make a big difference, get rid of that palm tree thing, and replace those formal urns with some that have sleeker lines that go better with the sleek lines of the house. If the front door was a lighter color, perhaps it would be more of a focal point, so that you wouldn’t notice the windows as much.

    When it comes to big changes, such as to the windows, it sure would be nice if you could get some professional advice from an architect. You want to make sure that whatever you do on the outside is going to be pleasing to you on the inside as well.

  6. says

    … I have to echo removing the fireplace/stove thing. First off, it’s Houston. When is it really cold enough to use it? 3 days out of the year? You won’t miss it. The metal flue chimney visible from the front and the whole concept of the country stove just isn’t an asset for this house.

    I also think the boxed out window in the dining area doesn’t benefit the house either. It looks like what it probably is. Something tacked on later without much thought to the overall design of the house. Sorry if that sounds a little harsh, but It just sticks out like a sore thumb to me. I would replace it with something flush with the house. Lastly, I concur the glass block/front window set up is not working. Many of the big ranches I see have a solid plate glass window in the middle flanked by casement or double hung windows of some sort. I don’t know if that is the best response. Maybe a row of plate glass windows. That is the part that stumps me a bit. I know the current set up doesn’t work, but I am not sure what the best look as a replacement is. I also think the suggestions of redoing the landscaping would help. I can’t see the front door but of course Crestview has lots of options if that needs help. If you need help with a local Houston architect, I would try Kathy Heard over on Richmond.

  7. Denise Cross says

    Those windows …. are the only light. My back side of house is like that and I’ve created a wonderful scene with spectacular viewing. Keep your windows, build a private courtyard in the front and obliterate your street view from the inside with terrerium, stone walkway, small patio seating, water feature, etc. It will be marvelous looking out to the serenity you’ve created. And yes, lose the wood burning stove. If you are replacing glass?… an alternate clear and opaque reed adds nice geo texture? But, if the glass blocks are staying (which actually are used a lot in Palm Springs and were here and used in the 50’s Atomic Ranch) … add one more glass block wall, so that one doesn’t look so all alone.

  8. Kate McKinnon says

    I’m with Denise in addressing the problem of the dull front with landscaping. Does the house have historic status that would prohibit masking any of the facade? That’s important. My property taxes are 50% off in Tucson, in exchange for me not hiding or changing the front of my house.

    If you aren’t bound by those types of restrictions, I’d say that the ideal situation would be a garden that featured interesting plants and a wall; you could create an amazing space to wander through.

    Ripping up houses is a big deal. Putting in a garden wall and planting some trees and tall things to mask the boring front is easy.

    Glass block is really one of the least inspiring things man has ever added to architecture, isn’t it?

  9. CindyD says

    I believe your home’s original front must have been similar to ours. Our 1955 ranch living room is set back 4+ feet from the edge of the two rooms adjacent to it, creating a shallow front porch. Your front door is in the shadows. I would paint it a brighter color to draw attention to it.

    I’m certain the previous homeowner wanted as much light as possible with a little privacy, so they opted for glass block. Since you can’t put window treatments (fabric or shutters) behind a wood stove for obvious reasons, glass block serves both purposes. I’m not as offended by it as some, but you have a lot of it. Our front window consists of 9 awning-style windows (stacked 3 high). Our home faces West, so we get afternoon sun, but that 4+ foot overhang certainly doesn’t help much with the light. Maybe that was intentional.

    Don’t know much about Houston plant material, but I would love to see a gorgeous Japanese Maple or a Smoke Bush (limbed-up like a tree) in front of the glass block window. I think the soft purple of the leaves would look beautiful underplanted with some low-mounding chartreuse ground cover. Those colors would look nice from the inside, too (could just be my screen, but your walls appear soft green to me). I would play with leaf color and texture more than flower color. I, too, think the shrubs on the right need to go. I think I’d replace them with low-growing evergreens (mix it up, not all the same) with clusters of one flower color every so ofter. Using plant material to guide your eyes away from that which you find objectionable will give you time to think about what to do with the facade.

  10. Mark & Beth says

    Your house is very nice but the nooks are odd from the inside. I agree with some others that perhaps your porch was enclosed at some point. How long will you live there? Could you make a investment in the house?
    Our ranch used to have a shallow covered front porch with a shed style roof that drained lots of water toward the front of the house. I never liked the look of the front exterior due to the strong horizontal line and the water was a concern for the foundation. We’ve been here 10 years.

    So when the three pillars began to rot and the porch ceiling was cracked out and needed replaced I took pics of some other front porches in our area that had a small triangular peak roof. We had our old porch roof removed and built a new triangular roof with two pillars on the existing porch and it looks GREAT. We also added beadboard to the ceiling of the porch. Best of all it looks like it’s always been there and creates some VERTICAL interest and curb appeal. Although costly we plan to live here a long time. It’s nice that you don’t have any steps to your front door for the sake of future accessibility for elderly guests. Whatever you decide, best of luck with it.

  11. Jeff says

    Jordan, If you don’t object to the look of the block from the inside, I could recommend a decorative concrete block on the outside in front of the glass block, freestanding out far enought to get access to it to clean it from the outside, of course.

    Or, you could remove the block altogether and replace it with a thermopane single sheet of glass and still use the decorative block on the outside as a screening material.

    A-1 concrete block or other companies have it many midcentury modern motifs.

    Also, removing the stack for the wood stove when the stove goes will clean up the lines of the roof as well.

    The landscaping from what I see looks good, perhaps some color added would be nice.

  12. Tami says

    Wow, what great ideas, except for most of the plant choices. If you’re in Houston, you definitely should NOT be planting things that come from the Appalachian forests like azaleas and dogwoods. Also exotics like Japanese maples. The climate’s all wrong and I’m guessing the soils are too. You’re just setting yourself up for increased maintenance . . . then you’ll REALLY hate your exterior. I’ll bet you can get great inspiration and guidance from your extension service and/or the Lady Bird Johnson Center.

    Good luck – you’ve got a great house there!

  13. Ali says

    I agree that someone must have enclosed a porch, but if you’re not interested in un-enclosing it ($$$), I think that replacing the DR window and getting rid of the tall hedge and that funky tree in front of the glass blocks will work wonders. As for what kind of window to replace the DR with — depends on whether you also want to get rid of the other floor-to-ceiling windows. If you do, replace them all with size and style appropriate to the period. If you DON’T want to replace them all, I think you have to match the DR window with the others. I also agree that adding landscaping with lots-o color would be groovy.

  14. patrick says

    front bed:
    I’m guessing the 3 windows to the right are in a bedroom, which would be nice to keep some privacy for – even if they aren’t, i have the same idea.

    Pull out those shrubs and plant a new line of shrubs further out into the lawn, maybe 10-15 feet out from the house. You could follow the curve of the bed on the left and and make a giant “S”. Then, plant a secret garden back there just for you to see from those windows and from the front door – guests could even see it as they approach the front door. You might even give it a path into the garden from the front door area.

    In the end, you get some privacy from the street for those windows, a beautiful garden to see from indoors, and a better shaped landscape. And, I’m guessing ripping up 10 feet of lawn isn’t going to hinder too much football in the frontyard.

    glass blocks:
    Can you paint the grout between the windows? – leaving just 1 or 2 vertical white lines so from the street it looks like 2 or 3 tall windows instead of the black and white grid.

    • patrick says

      garden bed – you could plant the new shrubs without pulling out the old and let them grow a year or 2 – then pull out the old

  15. melanie thompson says

    renovating my 1960’s ranch and looking for advise on exterior paint color. adding a wrap-around deck with screen porch off the back, and a very asian landscape with lots of Japanese Maples and bamboo with 2 levels of decks (eventually)! trying to decide which way to go. Have a tan brick now with brown shutters and brown roof. getting new roof with addition and also have to paint the unmatchable brick. looking forward to reading through your website!


  16. Gaffers Sattler says

    I think it needs a double front door with an accent color (brunt orange) if the inside can tolerate a wall blown out. The door is almost not visible.
    Also nuke the narrow walkway and put in a cascade of large rectangular cement pads. Bring in some soil and add some mounds to give a little 3D. Then add a Japanese black pine or Japanese maple and lava rock circular island inside the lawn.
    You don’t need to rip the hedges out just trim and thin them out so there is more bonsai going on than topiary madness with the electric hedge trimmer.

  17. says

    I am getting in on this conversation two years late. The curb appeal has probably already been improved. The home looks very neat and well kept. I think the landscaping needs improvement. Looking at the home, I would remove the hedges on the right and increase the flower bed on the left to fill in the the complete area between the walk and the driveway using ornamental trees and lower shrubs. On the right, I would also pull the flowerbeds out along the side of the walkway and use lower growing plant varieties but again would use ornamental trees. It would be helpful to either put a color on the door and dress up the hardware and use decorative potted plants. Large lanterns beside the door on each side might work as well. Its not going to be symetrical but not balanced can work and be very interesting. It could use some warmth…maybe painting the brick (I know..no one likes to paint brick) but it might add warmth which is needed.

  18. yvonne says

    HI – Have you been in touch to find out what, if anything, they ended up doing? We are building a 1960’s style ranch next year so I’ve been browsing for exterior pics and came across this…. Would love to see what they did.

  19. Amy Ortega says

    To do this right you’ll need to spend some money to undo previous renovations. First restore the front porch. Use big window(s) in the new LR wall. Get that pipe off your roof and patch the shingles. Replace the dining room window getting the new one tucked back under the eves. Again use mid century style windows. You might want to consider a narrow rectangular window near the ceiling that mimics the windows on the right side of the house (if those are high narrow windows on the right). That may make your dining room too dark if it doesn’t have a window on the other outside wall.
    Get ride of that walkway. It would look very nice with varying sizes of rectangular concrete pavers set about 3 inches apart to allow grass to grow between the pavers. Set them in a generous pattern that make a left 90° angle to the driveway.
    Dig out the hedge on the right and put in a deep bed to balance the house. MCM houses used a lot of bushes. See what your choices are in your area. Balance evergreen with varieties if deciduous bushes that provide leaf/flowering color. Don’t get bushes that grow 15 – 20 feet tall.
    Personally I’d lose the palm and go with a more delicate little tree. Anchor the front yard with a larger tree to the right of, and in the middle of, the front yard if it doesn’t have one already.
    Your house has some great bones and you could have a great time researching mid century landscaping and curb appeal. Spend the time to know how to restore your pretty home and you’ll love where you go with it. Good luck and best wishes!

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