Nita’s retro ranch “mini martini” house exterior design dilemma

mini martini ranch before and after

In this week’s Retro Design Dilemma, reader Nita tells us that she must add exterior insulation to her 1952 flat-roof ranch house in Alaska — and she wants ideas from us for siding. What to suggest? And as usual this week, Pam and I hosted a Live Google Hangout to reveal ideas for Nita’s room. Continue on for Nita’s story and our ideas –>

mid-century-modest-house-alaskaNita writes:

First, a little about me. My name is Nita, and I live in Alaska. My house was built in 1952 and is concrete block construction. It has survived temperatures as low as -70 and as high as 100, and even a big flood. While our average temperatures aren’t quite that extreme we do regularly see temps ranging from 45 below to 85 above. For me, this means that when I renovate parts of my house it has to be efficient and functional as well as beautiful and vintage-inspired, which is why I need some help.

Second, some history:
In 2010, I went on a mission to find a house. The recession was finally starting to hit us up here in Alaska and the local housing market was getting peppered with foreclosures and inexpensive properties. Being the frugal person that I am, I went about trying to find the perfect house while getting the most bang for my buck. In August 2010, my search ended when I stumbled across a foreclosed 1952 fixer-upper in the middle of the perfect residential neighborhood.

retro-ranch-exterior-alaskaSure, the front yard was tiny and the last owners appear to have half-bleeped every repair they attempted, but it felt like home. I knew it was right for me as soon as I stepped inside for the first time. Original hardwood floors, brick fireplace with quirky concrete base, plaster walls, arched (swoon) doorway into the hall, cedar lined closets….. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the gist.

Since buying it I have put in countless hours repairing and restoring it. The basement has transformed from the scene of a bad slasher movie to a usable living room with an attached guest bed and bath. I have repainted every single wall in the house. I’ve repiped the entire Hydronic heating system. Currently, I’m working on stripping and refinishing my Homart steel cabinets and planning on renovating the main floor bathroom.

cinder-block-ranch-exteriorThe biggest change I’ve made (aside from the basement) has been the windows. With temperatures in interior Alaska reaching lows of -50 and highs of 90, the original single paned, wood frame windows couldn’t stay. As you’ll see in the pictures I’ve had them replaced with new, high efficiency windows with interior grilles that mimic the look of the originals. I cannot tell you how much these have saved me in heating costs so far this winter.

On to my plea for help…
Anyway, my next big project is going to be the exterior, which is what I’m writing you guys about today. You see, I just can’t seem to decide on a suitable option when it comes to siding. I want something that gives the look and feel of being midcentury while also being functional at extreme temperatures. So I’m asking for advice and suggestions from everyone in the Retro Renovation community.

Here are the things I want the siding to accent:
-The flat roof. I have the only flat roof house on the block and I want something that will complement that shape.
-The brick porch. I love my brick porch and have plans to build a second tier of brick planters that will hide the concrete block portion of the porch.
-The brick accents below the windows.
-The red walkway. The original owners stained the concrete walkway to match the red bricks and I love it.

I’ve included pictures taken today (at -35 degrees) and a picture from when I first bought it in the fall of 2010. Now, some people may be wondering about the visible insulation around that front window… The concrete block construction, while being extremely sturdy and virtually impenetrable, isn’t a very good insulator. Before I put up siding I will be firring out all of the exterior walls in order to add 2” of rigid insulation.

Finally, thank you so much for even taking the time to go over this. I’m at a loss as to how to proceed and appreciate any help you guys and the readers can suggest.


exterior mid century ranchReaders, what do you suggest for new siding for this house, after Nita adds more insulation?

When Nita wrote and asked for our help to choose a siding for her house, Pam and I reminded her that we are not experts in insulation or exterior siding/materials in any climate — especially in one so diverse as Alaska. As always, we suggest that Nita check with properly licensed professionals to determine which siding will work best with the insulation that she is adding in her climate.

exterior mid century ranch

When it came to the “exterior decorating” portion of Nita’s questions, Pam and I felt more able to help. To begin the transformation of Nita’s exterior, Pam recommended that Nita continue the brick knee wall from the porch planter all the way along the front of the house. This interesting detail will help make the house feel grounded and continue the horizontal line from the flat roof along the base of the house. It looks as though Nita’s brick may be roman brick, which may be hard to match since it is out of production to my knowledge. In that case, she may want to replace all the brick with a similarly colored standard brick.

exterior mid century ranchPam suggested that Nita use stucco for the rest of the house’s siding — of course she’ll need to check with a professional to make sure this is a viable option first. I would then paint the stucco a deep olive green (such as Sherwin Williams Houseplant), which will work well with the brick and provide color in the snowy winter months in Alaska. To warm up the white trim, Nita could paint the rooflines, window frames, door frame and carport supports a warm cream (such as Sherwin Williams Morning Sun). Then to add some pizazz to the entry, a new door from Crestview Doors — the Delwood — would reinforce the mid century style. Painting the door a deep red (such as Sherwin Williams Red Tomato) will help the entry door be the showcase of the front of the house.

exterior mid century ranchDepending on what hardiness zone Nita lives in, she may be able to plant several of these Red Twig Dogwood shrubs from Fast Growing Trees — that are leafy and green in the summer and in winter, the stems turn a bright red — which contrasts nicely with the snow, compliments the house color and coordinates with the red door. Having a few shrubs near the corners of Nita’s house will also help anchor the house, provide winter color and hide the utility box that is on the front corner of the house near the carport.

exterior mid century ranchSince Nita lives in a snowy climate, she may want to look into adding a railing to her front steps. Of course she would need to check local building codes to see if railings are recommended and what specifications they would have to meet. If Nita does decide to add a railing, we suggest a black iron railing that would be placed on the right side of the stairs — so as not to obstruct access to the planter under the front window.

exterior of retro ranch house with board and batten sidingWe also discussed board and batten siding — as an alternative to stucco — which would add vertical lines to contrast the horizontals of the roofline and brick knee wall. Either the board and batten siding or the stucco would look lovely on Nita’s mid century “mini martini” house.

Want to watch our complete Google hangout — we know it’s long but we really discuss the topic in full:

Come back soon — and we’ll have an edited version.

Hopefully we’ve given you a few good ideas Nita — best of luck with your exterior remodel — please let us know how it turns out.


Get our retrolicious free newsletter.



  1. Chad D says

    I see a lot of houses the same style and age as yours that are sided in stucco, probably over concrete block, in the Philadelphia suburbs. (Some are stone and brick, too, so I think any type of masonry would be authentic although I don’t see a lot of wooden houses from that time around here.) Stucco would barely change the outside appearance and be cheaper than anything else, so I think it’s the way to go.

    Also, when you’re having it re-sided, it might thicken up the walls enough to come beyond the brick window sills, so think about modifying or recreating them over the new siding. All 1950’s stucco houses around here have brick or flagstone windowsills, and I think it makes them look more substantial than newer ones.

    • Jay says

      Yes, I second that. My house in suburban Phila. is indeed block construction clad in brick and stucco but I have a steep pitched roof with a roomy attic. My understanding is the exterior cladding material provides the insulation which block alone does not provide. Frankly I was startled to see that this flat top was in Alaska and that it was exposed concrete block. The stucco will complement your brick and red stained walk way. Best of luck to you, you have done a lot of work.

    • Chad D says

      I agree that board and batten siding would also look good, but keeping brick window sills in that case won’t look right.

  2. MikeD says

    My comment is not really related to the siding, but is related to the desire to compliment the flat roof.

    First thing that jumped out to me was the car port competing with the flat roof. Maybe it is the slightly lower elevation of the carport roof, I am not sure, but it visually takes away from the flat roof look.

    without a garage, I imagine the carport is a necessity in Alaska, but maybe the carport roof could be incorporated into roof of the house or at least put at the same height? I say this without knowing how big a deal and cost that might be

    I have always liked the cinder block houses of this era, in my town we have a small little neighborhood made up of just cinder block houses, one of the coolest areas.

    • says

      The house actually used to have a garage plus the carport. But there was a problem with the original fuel tank, which was buried under the driveway. The last owners bought a new fuel tank and stuck it under the carport, above-ground, rather than digging up and replacing the old one. Unfortunately, this made it impossible to get into the garage with even the smallest car, so they walled up the overhead door and installed an exterior door to use instead. So I no longer have a garage, which is sad, but I do have a large laundry/shop/exercise room.

  3. Sarah g (roundhouse) says

    Ah my flat roofed friend…. I too have the ‘dreaded’ flat roof. I had problems with mine so I got a ‘new’ roof. I had a commercial spray foam coating installed. They spray the roof with a high density foam then coat the foam with a silicone paint. The foam acts as a leak barrier and as insulation (since I have no attic this was the only way I could reinforce my home) the white silicone coating also reflects the sun and helps with energy costs in the summer time. The silicone coating has to be redone every couple of years then it should last a lifetime (as I was told)

    My house is 50 years old, about 2500 ft2, and located 45 min from the Gulf of Mexico (aka it gets super duper hot in the summer) and my electricity bill in the summer is about $100. Drops to around $50 in December.
    I hope this helps you out. I get so much flack about having a flat roof but I look around and almost all commercial buildings have a flat roof so I figured they must be doing/knowing something I don’t. It’s always a good idea to look at commercial options and applications

    • Sarah g (roundhouse) says

      While I’m taking about foam… Is there a type of siding panel made of styrofoam?! If not I think I’m going to go grab a patent lol. Think of it! Lightweight, great insulator and can be molded into any shape, coated with any color/ texture…. I mean even the bumbers on cars are made of styrofoam…

      • Sarah g (roundhouse) says

        O o o…. I think I read somewhere about some new insulator/thermal paint. Just paint, I know it sounds crazy but technology is crazy… I’d look that up… I don’t think I invented it…

        • Kate says

          I’ve heard of that once before — though I can’t remember where I heard about it. I think it is $$$ per gallon — not cheap. Wish I could remember what it was called…

          I do think the “thermal paint” was only for interiors — like for ceilings and walls with little or no insulation.

          I’ll have to look into this….

          • pam kueber says

            I just don’t believe it. Paint has no “mass” — how can it hold any heat? Passive solar requires mass to hold heat… radiant flooring, same… I just don’t believe it.

            • Christa says

              You can also get it as an additive to add to your paint. ( makes it a lot cheaper to ship) it does add a slightly textured finish to your walls. It is made up of some kind of heat reflective ceramic balls ( same material as the exterior of the space shuttle) it is “reflective” rather than insulating ( it won’t stop wind ect.) BUT having used it in my master bedroom, that faces North east, with only one heat vent…it does work…especially when there are two bodies . We start out kind of chilly when we go to bed…but by the middle of the night, it actually gets hot. We don’t change the thermostat, nothing else changes. The brand is “Hy-Tech ThermaCels”

              • Tom says

                I’ve never heard of this, but it sure sounds intriguing. I wonder what kind of difference it might make for Nita – maybe use this instead of, or in addition to, new siding? Although, she did say she’s already repainted her interiors, so it would be double work. hmmm.

  4. Annie B. says

    Nita, yours is one adorable house. Congratulations on finding this little gem.

    I wonder what the insulation factor would be if you bricked the entire house? Brick would certainly be a mid century exterior style.

    • says

      If I remember correctly, brick doesn’t have a very high R value by itself. But most forms of siding require insulation to bring up the R value of a home.

  5. ChrisH says

    I’d look at wood planks. Planks would nail easily to your furring strips.

    You have several options for type of wood – Cedar, Pine, and a cement type product that looks like wood (not sure what it’s called)

    Planks will emphasize the horizontal, which will help make the house look bigger, and will help highlight the flat roof.

    You also have several paint/stain options, as well as many color options.

    Not sure how period correct plank siding is, but it’s easy to install.

    I notice your roof has a heavy character line in the front facia. I assume it’s where the upper trim overlaps the lower trim. I’d consider painting the lower portion a different color, again emphasizing the horizontal and drawing attention to the roof.

    • Robin, NV says

      I agree but I’d go with cement fiber siding. It’s more durable and will probably withstand all that Alaska has to throw at it better than real wood. My house has the old asbestos “wavy bottom” shingle siding. The previous owner covered the asbestos siding at the front of the house with some kind of high density foam sheeting and then covered that with vinyl siding. I can’t stand the vinyl siding but the foam really insulates the house.

      As I see it, you have two interesting options. 1) long cement fiber siding “planks” laid horizontally, which would complement the horizontal flow of the house or 2) an even better option (in my opinion) would be to go with a board and batten look with the planks installed vertically. Board and batten siding would compliment the vertical line of bricks by the front door and would give the house “texture.” The house has strong horizontal lines, why not play with that and try going vertical with the siding to make the front facade “pop” a little?

      As far as colors go, that’s really a personal decision and I don’t have a good idea of what is appropriate for the age of the house. Personally, I’d go with a soft white (not bright white) for the siding and a nice medium red for the trim. The white would help show off the brick under the windows and the red would compliment it. I’d imagine that Alaska can be a little dreary in the winter so why not have fun with a nice bright color that makes you smile?

  6. mary Tatum says

    There are stucco siding products that have an insulating effect as well. I’d definitely find that to beef up the efficiency of the home. It’s adorable. How does your flat roof do in heavy snow? Do you have to get up there and shovel it off?

    • says

      Normally my roof does fine with the snowfall up here, in fact, the snow actually acts as an insulating layer, helping your house hold in heat. But a few years ago we got struck with a freak snowstorm and for the first time in my life I saw local schools and businesses closing for “Snow Days”. I think the final accumulation in just two days was well over 17″ on top of what we already had and what would continue to fall throughout the year. At that point I did have to go up and shovel everything off, just to be on the safe side. Aside from that, in the spring I go up and squeegee my roof to get the last of the ice and water and that’s about all the regular clearing I have to do. :)

  7. Kathleen Andrews says

    I salute her for seeing the possibilities in this quirky little house. The idea of a flat roof in Alaska seems highly counter-intuitive, but this must be a pretty solid little building. I hope she keeps us posted on her progress.

    • says

      I will most definitely be keeping everyone posted on the progress of the house. In fact, I’m considering starting up a blog just for my house stuff. If I do or don’t, either way I’ll be sending stuff to Pam and Kate and posting pictures to their facebook as the house progresses.

  8. lynda says

    Usually I am not for faux products, but this product looked interesting at Lowes. I wonder if you could put a sheathing on with an R value and then cover with a faux stone or a stucco? I don’t know how this would work in your climate. Maybe the best choice would be to use the stucco with the r value on the outside and then figure out how to insulate the walls better on the inside. Aslo, seems like the overall look would improve by somehow disguising the electrical box and beefing up the porch supports. I think a new retro type door would look nice and I agree that painting the facia boards along the roof would add interest. Maybe if you added faux stone to the house, the supports could also be done in stone.

  9. Christa says

    you could maybe do a rigid foam board type insulation with a vertical plank. A brand like Hardee Board ( which is like a concrete, fiberglass blend) has both Vertical board and batten, as well as color impregnated. Since it’s concrete, bugs don’t mess with it, it doesn’t rot, and think they might even have an insulated version. Good luck! Super cute house!

  10. Aletha says

    I know nothing about what you should do with the exterior of your home, but I do know that it is adorable! Congrats on the great find in Alaska(!) and have fun making it your own!

  11. Jackie says

    I second Christa. Hardie Plank is an awesome product. Most of the new builds where I live have this as siding. It looks great and should last a long time, if not forever.

  12. says

    Hello there! Just piping in for the stucco crowd! My 59 ranch is pink stucco. I live in Central Ohio which of course can not compare to Alaska winters, however, my stucco is 54 years old and still going strong. Winters can get wet, snowy and cold here, and I have relatively few issues. And as near as I can tell the stucco has never been painted (Something I myself am looking into!) There is a small patch near the base taht has come off and needs repaired and a few cracks in teh back that have been repaired, but over all, my stucco has had no maintenance in all its 54 years. So it could definitely give you the look you want as well as HOPEFULLY being pretty low maintenance for the extreme weather conditions you live in! Good luck! I love your house! (I have a car port too which I absolutely ADORE!!!)

    • kelly brickey says

      Congrats Nita, on a great house and all the hard work you’ve put in already. I own a small flat roof commercial building converted to live/work space and totally believe in the spray on foam roof. It helped so much I didn’t need to insulate the block walls. That said, It isn’t in Alaska, and I don’t know how the foam holds up under a huge snow load.
      About the carport… I love that it isn’t the same height as the roof line of the main house. Frank Lloyd Wright loved to vary the overhang heights and depths to increase visual interest. Maybe you could build up the profile of that overhang so it would match the thickness of the band around the house roof line? Then you could bring the brick element from the porch over and encase the steel carport support poles to unify everything.

    • says

      Within days after I took the photos the temperature dropped to a frigid -50. It was one of the coldest Novembers on record up here. Luckily, it’s been warmer ever since Christmas. And by warmer, I mean actually above zero. The weather is bizarre here. One day it could be 35 above and two days later it drops 80 degrees to -45.
      But the summers…. The summers are the reason anybody stays up here. They make every -45 day worth it.

      • Kate says

        We’ve been getting wild temperature swings here as well for about the last two years. The first four years I lived in Wisconsin, the temp didn’t get above zero for the whole month of Jan and half of February. Today it is 40, tomorrow is supposed to be 52, then Saturday is supposed to be 28 for the high. This fall we had days where it was in the upper 70s in the morning and 40 by afternoon. wacky weather for sure.

  13. says

    My first thought was to follow the horizontal lines with overlapped wood planks – in Alaska you guy should have plently of wood for this. Wood is also a pretty good insulator, and should handle the weather up there well. Alternatively Hardi board could be a great option if you want a more indistructable (concrete but “woodlike” or smooth) product.

  14. Larry says

    I’m not the biggest fan of stucco. I keep thinking that the stucco with the brick would make for too much cold masonry together. I really LOVE the look of board and batton and think maybe the vertical lines of board and batton might compliment the horizontal lines you have going on with the roof line and brick. I know wood might not be so conducive with your weather, but perhaps they can do the look with fiber cement.

    • Robin, NV says

      Thank you Larry for saying “no” to stucco. In my opinon, stucco has its place and it’s not Alaska. I think it would look out of place there. But to each his own I guess. Nita should do whatever she wants.

      And yes, fiber cement (Hardy board) can mimic wood if that’s the look you’re going for. Personally, I’d stick with plain Hardy board with a horizontal placement or faux wood Hardy board for a board and batten placement.

  15. says

    Super cute house! I love the mock-up in the video with the red and green. I also think that the board and batten would be perfect. The utility box definitely needs to be hidden somehow but keep in mind that if a meter reader has to come by and read it, it can’t be completely hidden. If we hide ours here in Nashville, the meter reader “estimates” what to charge…and you seriously don’t want them estimating. : )

    • says

      I’ve been thinking of ways to hide it, and I think maybe some sort of decorative box that matches the color of the house would work, but I’ll be sure to check with the electric company about their policies for hidden boxes before I do anything.

  16. TappanTrailerTami says

    Hmmm….very cute house! I think if it were me, I’d do the rigid insulation and then for siding, Hardie Plank or similar board and batten to lend a vertical element.

    I might also paint the roof trim/overhang the same color as the siding on the lower portion, and trim color on the upper half – there seems to be a dividing line to do that. The trim color would also go on the front door and I’d add narrow trim to the windows, same trim color.

    No matter what you do, your house will retain its cute factor and be easier to heat!

    I’m cold just thinking of anything below 25 degrees!

  17. BK31 says

    EIFS / Dryvit usually uses a rigid foam insulation as a substrate with a stucco look. While its not a true mid-century material it can give you some great flexibility and allow for some interesting horizontal reveal lines or profiles to be added.

    I’d keep any patterning, battens, lap siding etc. horizontal especially with how narrow the front of your house is. I’d let the brick to the right of the door be your main vertical element and let it stand out. You could do a hardiboard sheet product to cover furred out insulation and add horizontal batten strips at panel joints and evey 16″ or 24″ (roughly every 2 or 3 courses of block that you have now) and have the battens wrap the corners instead of hit a vertical member. Kind of like some of Wrights Usonian houses that he did later in his career. They could be painted all the same and let the shadow line subtly play up the horizontal nature, a tone or two darker than the base panels for a decent amount of drama, or match the deep red of the brick over a cream base for a look similar to Wright’s Duncan house which was built int the 50’s.


    • says

      I spoke with my dad, who has been in construction for years, after the Hangout and mentioned the stucco idea to him. I asked if stucco fares well up here. He said the better option was exactly what you mentioned, using something like Dryvit. He said that it insulates better and lasts longer in the harsher climate than stucco.

  18. says

    On the topic of windows treatments that insulate:
    In contrast to the Window Quilt, a seasonal option that is cheap and pretty commonly used up here is the plastic film option:
    It seals off your window without blocking the light and views. Another option is tacking up something like a moving blanket.

    As for everything else:
    I cannot thank everyone enough for their comments and suggestions! I have quickly read through them and will be reading through them more carefully after I get off work. I think it is possible for stucco to work up here, as there is another midcentury house in the area with all stucco siding. My only concern would be how dry it gets here in the winter and whether or not that would cause the stucco to crack. I love the colors that Kate picked out! I’ve been going through a lot of green paint swatches from Home Depot and Lowes, so it seems that great minds think alike because that’s the direction I was headed.
    It hadn’t even occurred to me to extend the brick out to create a grounding effect with a knee wall, but that is brilliant and really ties the house together in a way that was completely escaping me. That is most definitely going on my to-do list. I wonder, now that it’s been mentioned, if I can’t find any Roman brick whether or not something like the AirStone (mentioned previously) can be done in that style.
    All in all, I think I have a lot of options to consider and luckily, I have a couple months to do that before I need to begin ordering materials. (Shipping takes a while, as you can imagine)

    On a final note, I think I’m going to have to do a driving tour around my neighborhood to show you guys some of the other midcentury houses and buildings in the area. I think you’ll be surprised by the variety and I know there are a few in particular that you will covet as much as I do.

    Thank you again!!

    • Kate says

      Wow — great minds to think alike Nita! I can’t believe we both picked green! I think it really would look great on your house. I have the same roman brick (different color though) on my house and wonder what I would do if ever I needed to replace or rebuild anything. I haven’t been able to find a source for Roman Brick so if you do find one, please share with us here.

      I’m glad we were able to help — you have an adorable “mini martini” ranch house! :)

      • Ted says

        You’re right, Roman brick will take some searching (and of course depends on where in the country you live & how far you’re willing to pay to have shipped from afar). Even where I am in the Southeast with our famously red-clay soil (thus many brick foundries), the only place my search uncovered is Belden Brick out of Canton, OH:

        But worth asking all the local brickyards anyway. And be aware when matching: there isn’t necessarily just one “roman brick dimension”.

  19. Sara says

    I grew up in a concrete block ranch house built in the late 40’s. When my parents bought the house in the early 80’s, it had the original single-pane metal frame windows and the walls, just like yours, had no insulation. This was in the mountains in Northern CA and we froze…I can’t even imagine how cold you must be in Alaska! Once those blocks get cold, it’s super hard to warm the place up. And in summer, we’d sometimes have temps in the 90’s and those blocks would get warm…we cooked! My dad firred out the exterior walls and added rigid foam insulation which sounds like what you’re going to do. We also replaced the windows. I like the hardie plank idea. My dad used horizontal rough sawn redwood siding, about 6″ wide, but I would imagine that would be hard to find in Alaska, plus it doesn’t really fit the era. But the horizonal planks did looks nice and complimented the lines and angles of the house. Are your interior walls block too? Ours were, and my mom was forever fighting those walls when she wanted to hang pictures. Good luck with your project…your house is adorable!

    • says

      My interior walls are plaster, actually. They still put up quite the fight when hanging pictures or anything, but I love the texture of them. I even had my contractor use a hand-texture on the basement walls (which were done in drywall when I renovated) so that the texture matches everything else.

  20. Ted says

    Don’t have time to watch entire video, but glad you proposed the vertical board & batten in your video, Pam & Kate! That was first thing that occurred to me as best aesthetic. The play & tension btwn. absolutely-vertical & absolutely-horizontal elements is a dynamic approach to MCM design; look at Richard Neutra’s various projects, partic. from 1950-on, as the best of any examples.

    B&B look goes back to early Calif. ranches (I mean, like back to late-1800s mission days) as very simple & practical solution to keep out weather, and has been reinterpreted thruout MCM and ranch house design vocabulary ever since. (And make no mistake, this IS an MCM house, modest though it may be. I think 1st rule is: decide what style your house is telling you it wants to be, then stay true to that.) Plus, this’d be great way to attach to furring strips which’ll encase insul’n. I normally dislike Hardiplank (concrete siding) b/c its thin profile lacks the rich shadowline of true 1x wood siding, but used as B&B (I think you can get the right Hardi dims’n. for the battens, like 1x2s) it’d be perfect; more $ than wood but prob. better choice in that harsh varying climate. BTW I hafta respectfully disagree w/ owner about showing off those brick stools below windows; they really don’t go w/ the look, so if it were me I’d simply hide ’em under the new siding.

    Would also look @ ways to pull facade out w/ rectilinear built-in planters, or courtyard-like privacy screen, both of various hts. to echo stepped-down hts. of house & carport roofs. To go further, altho’ I dunno what’s going on inside house, might want to at least consider modest changes to window proportions / orientation / placement. (I know those are new; just sayin’, while you have the chance before adding siding….and windows’ll hafta be addressed in some way anyhow as they’ll now be too recessed in new siding.)

    • says

      However much I’d love to change the dimensions of some of the windows, that would be extremely difficult. When the new windows were put in I spoke with the installer about how the old ones were done. Apparently, on houses like this they would build up the concrete block and leave an opening for the windows. Then, before they went any higher with the block they would slide in the windows and pour concrete around them to hold them in place, after which they would continue upwards with the block.
      This block is a pain to cut through on its own, as I discovered when I had a cutter come in to make a hole for a new egress window in the back. If you add in the steel mesh/lath and the inch or more of plaster over that, resizing windows would require a whole team of professionals. I had considered it before I put in the new windows, because the last owners put in that large picture window you see in the front, but decided that the time and money required for that was beyond my budget at that point.
      As it is, the new windows appear larger than the original because without the old wood frames they are able to utilize more space for glass and thus let in more natural light, which can be a precious commodity in the winter. I do, however, appreciate the suggestion, especially since I had thought something similar before they went in. I considered waiting until the new siding was done before I did the windows, that way they wouldn’t be recessed, but the old ones had cracks in the glass that were expanding and the wood was dry-rotting, so I had no choice but to replace them when I did.

      • Ted says

        Thx Nita for all the thorough responses……sometimes the effort involved, when you know all the nitty-gritty of the underlying construction, forces some real compromises! Even changing the grid (mullion) patterns by addition or subtraction looks like it’d be a real challenge, if at all possible in fact, w/ your double-glazed windows.

  21. Olga says

    Adorable home! After reading all through the posts now i want to see a blog to follow the progress. Its like finding a good book and i need to know what happens! So link here when you get that up and going! My experience has only been with redoing a Victorian home in VA. But i love the Frank L Wright – ness of your home and the small horizontal bricks are divine. I think vertical lines would expand the look of it and add to the whole line-gorgeousness of your home. Whatever you do i am sure you will have thought it out!

  22. Suzy says

    My mid-mod house in the PNW was “panabode” construction, basically cedar planks placed vertically, with a steel ribbon holding them together. We added insulation to the outside by installing 4×8 sheeted foam insulation (looks like particle board plywood, and has a 1/2 layer of foam inside) covered by Hardie siding in full sheets, which looks like smooth stucco, but won’t crack as easily in an earthquake. We trimmed it with aluminum. Hard to imagine, I know. But a beautiful nod to mid-mod with a 21st century edge.

  23. MbS says

    Nita, I encourage you to think about color! I grew up in Montana, and during the grey days, well, color is so cheerful and hopeful against the white of snow and charcoal greige of dirty snow days. Lots of options and you have great lines for color contrast, based on the existing red….happy for you. :)

  24. Libbyontheprairie says

    Can we see pictures of the inside of your house! I’m particularly interested in the Sears Homart cabinets! Thanks!

  25. Todd A says

    If you re-side this home make sure to box in that electrical pipe and panel, just have a round opening so the electric meter can be read, Hinge the area around the panel so repairs can be done. This was taken out in the “new” picture but is a major distraction that is curable.

    This home screams for mid century wood decorative panels on the carport sides, and to the right of the front door to give added depth and grounding to the large roof overhang. A design like the one on the bottom right side of this page would be era correct :

  26. Stacia says

    Hardie board is a wonderful product. If you get it in one of their standard colors, and there are many to choose from, you don’t have to paint it and it is guaranteed for like 25 years.

  27. tammyCA says

    Nita’s house is older than the state!
    I guess I never thought about older houses in Alaska before…maybe, I thought everyone lived in a cabin…the flat roof did surprise me, too.
    I can’t contribute anything about siding…I live in a ’54 wood structure/stucco exterior with some brick & vertical wood siding house in desert climate…our AC bill is terrible in summer. Almost all the houses here are made of the same (brick buildings are deadly in earthquake country).
    I do like the mood board with the vertical batten board & color to the house. And, definitely adding some bushes/plants would brighten it up.
    Looking forward to seeing what Nita does & maybe some interior photos, too.

  28. oh Holland says

    The board-and-batten treatment looks like a great solution. Unless the house is level in every direction, horizontal siding or planks might not lay parallel with the prominent roofline, in which case the effect would be wonky. And I agree with others that stucco seems out of place for Alaska, and doesn’t jive well with mini-martini-ness.

    Darling home. Please send more photos of your remodel, inside and out.

  29. says

    Kate! Can you paint the satellite dish red, too? I’d like to see that in red.

    I would also like to see what it looks like with the green and cream colors reversed.

  30. JKM says

    This is a really cute house. I amazed anyone would build a house in Alaska with a flat roof (snow!) but I like the way the heights are staggered between the main portion and carport and really like the extended portion over the front porch. I may be a little late to the game but I think siding of some type would look better than stucco. It would be more interesting and provide texture. I’ve seen houses that have both vertical and horizontal siding (one pattern under the porch and another on the main portion), which could be interesting and would set the porch portion off from the rest of the face since it’s all flat. Something that bugs me a little (just a tiny bit) is the small window floating all by itself. I’m wondering if something could be done to anchor it somehow – perhaps a siding treatment under and above it so it ends up being in a vertical “stripe”? For example, if horizontal siding was used on the main part of the house, then vertical could be used over and under the window with vertical also on the porch. Thinking outloud here! I think landscaping is probably the most logical and easiest way to screen the electric meter, too. Also, I LOVE the green/cream color scheme and tomato red door!

  31. Joe Felice says

    I was surprised to see a flat-roofed house in an area that gets so much snow. And the front overhang is even unsupported. I would solve that problem and add some interest by adding a front porch, the same size as the overhang, with supporting beams at the front corners angling back towards the house at the bottom. (This was a popular design element back then,) I like the idea of the stone knee wall, so I would wrap the bottom of the porch with that and continue it on along the entire front of the house. Is there any way that satellite dish can be relocated? Also, the meter needs to be moved around the corner, so it is not visible from the front. Rather than the red-twig dogwoods, I would plant some low-growing (spreading) evergreens along the foundation. (Evergreens were all the rage back then.) My ideas for colors would be buttercup yellow for the body, and a light aqua for the trim and roof edge. The front door would be turquoise. I know these colors are a bit bold, but I am a “color” person, and I don’t tend to like most greens.

    • says

      It’s hard to see from the angle, but there is actually a porch there the same size of the overhang. And the edges of the porch where the brick is actually have built-in planters all the way around the edges.

      The satellite dish will be coming down all together, as I down even use it. It just came with the house.

      As for the meter, I spoke with the electric company and got the guidelines for how I’m allowed to cover it up so it is still serviceable without mucking up the look of the house. I’m thinking about basically building in some sort of decorative column or box around it. That way if they need to service it, they can, but it’s covered for the most part. (most of the meters up here have been replaced with new wireless meters. All they have to do is drive by to get the reading)

  32. Anya says

    Just wanted to make sure you are aware of this awesome program in AK:

    It is paying for a new door as well as extra insulation for my home in Alaska. I am not sure if it would cover a wood door (it tends to only cover the most energy efficient options) but it does cover insulation.

    Also, you are in Alaska, so don’t rule out vinyl siding. I think it often gets a bad rap, but there are some great brands out there that look like real wood and have many styles and colors. Our house is on the coast and our cedar shingle look-a-like siding holds up perfectly in cold temps, extreme rain, and 100 mph winds.

    As another homeowner in AK with a project house, good luck and may your projects only cost twice as much as they do in the lower 48, not 3 or 4 times the amount!

    • says

      It’s nice to know that there’s another Alaskan out there in the retro renovation community with a project house. lol Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one up here.

      • Jay-Are Garcia says

        So do I. To bad my house was built in 1978. Fixing it up slowly to my desired period of time on the inside. Soon to be replacing the cheap snap together laminate wood floor in the kitchen and the carpeted adjoining dining area with some VCT and maybe redoing the fireplace with roman brick. Love this site. Glad I could help.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *