Retro Design Dilemma — Paint colors for Laurie’s 1966 brick ranch house

mid-century-brick-ranch-houseDesignDilemmaReader Laurie has been hard at work fixing up her 1966 ranch house. She’s been working to get the interior painted and clean up the yard and even found new mid-century style doors at Lowe’s and had them installed. Now Laurie is ready to pick paint colors for her front door and trim. She has a few ideas, but wants our input and help to decide on a color scheme so that when painting weather rolls around this spring she can get right to it. What colors do you recommend? 



Laurie writes:

My house was built in 1966. I bought it last year and spent time painting the interior and fixing up the yard so the house didn’t look abandoned. I need some help choosing proper paint colors for the exterior. I bought new doors at Lowe’s that were just installed a couple weeks ago and the weather is such I can paint the doors soon. The trim will have to wait until spring, though, I think.

I was leaning towards white for the trim and blue/green (not turquoise) for the door.

The shrubs in the front will grow to be three feet tall and stay green all year.

mid-century-exteriorI just painted the inside this fall. Tackling the outside next.  This house has been a lot of work for me the past year.  It’s coming together though.Thank you for your help.


retro-brick-ranch-exteriorReaders — what colors would you choose for Laurie’s mid century brick ranch exterior?

mid century brick ranch Laurie already had some ideas on how she wants to paint the trim on her house. The mock up above is my guess at how Laurie is envisioning her house will look after she paints all of the trim white and the door a “blue/green (not turquoise).” Did I get the door color right Laurie? To get a better idea of how the new paint will look in summer, the snow on the roof and yard was minimized using Photoshop and larger shrubs were added where Laurie already planted some that she says will get to be three feet tall.

mid century cheerful exterior paint

Kate’s solution: Retro cheerful

sweet-potato exterior paint

Laurie could use colors similar to the house in Pam’s post — Paint colors for a red brick and wood ranch house.

My look for Laurie’s exterior is retro, playful and full of cheer. For the trim on the soffits and most of the porch columns, an earthy peach blends nicely with the orangey brick without being too stark of a contrast. My color suggestion reminded Pam of a house color scheme she profiled back in 2009, painted with a combination of Copper Haze and Sweet Potato. The same colors would work well on Laurie’s exterior — using Sweet Potato for the trim and soffits and Copper Haze on the six squares on the porch columns. This would make the decorative squares stand out a little without screaming too loudly. For the door, a medium aqua tone really pops off the color of the brick and makes Laurie’s new door the focal point of the front of the house. Adding some fun accessories like a hot orange bullet planter from Hip Haven that could be filled with anything from flowers to decorative grasses and the retro oval metropolitan collection house numbers from Home Depot really makes it feel like 1966 again. To add even more happy to the front of the house, brightly colored flowers like Black Eyed Susans or Zinnias make the entry feel even more inviting. Once the front porch is fixed up, Laurie is going to want to sit out there more often, so finding a comfortable patio chair or  two like these vintage Homecrest rocker chairs from Etsy seller Moderninspiration should also be high on her list.

Retro ranch house exteriorPam’s solution: Front porch focus

What a lovely house you have, Laurie — and it is lucky to have found you as an owner! Looking at your house, my key idea is to really play up the front porch and particularly the front porch columns, which are keepers.

#1 — Add square-diamond trim to the front porch columns: As you can see, I suggest you add a second layer of square trim to the front of each of the three decorative squares on each column. You know those square toppers they put on wood fence posts? You might just be able to buy those and screw them on — that would sure be relatively easy and inexpensive. Something like this (I found this at Lowe’s) — but not too dinky — you may need to look at the larger ones, okay? You want to pretty much fill that square with a diamond, I think:

fence post cap#2 — Slate blue for the front door and diamond trim — As for paint colors for your new diamond trim pieces and for your new front door, Kate and I played with her Photoshop until I found a shade of slate blue that I thought I looked good with your brick. Not too neon… toned down, greyed out a bit. As you can see, I selected this color for the door and the decorative fence cap.

front porch design#3 — Above: Outline the diamonds in the roof color – See how the diamond trim has a bead on the outside edge? Kate and I even put a DIFFERENT color on that bead — to “outline” the diamonds and make them pop. Try the roof color grey-brown from the fascia trim for this color — you may need to darken it up a bit to “see” it on the diamonds from the street — you’ll need to eyeball this.

terms for house roof trim

Terms for various pieces of house trim. Image  from Wikipedia used via Creative Commons license, image created by KDS444

#4 — Color for the fascia trim — Use the roof color: For the house trim, I wanted to see what it would look like with the roof color painted onto the fascia – that’s what the trim right under roof edge is called. I think my idea here was to keep the line of your house overall long and lean and to not call excessive attention to the trim along the roof line.

#5 — Color for the frieze board and porch trim — Use the color of your concrete porch with the sunlight hitting it: Okay, so now I know that I am sounding like Mrs. Blanding choosing paint colors, but that’s how it works. For some reason, on this house, I think I would not use Super White for the trim. Because the house is relatively small and not tall, I am thinking an off white with a hint of gray-brown ala the roof color. So, I had Kate copy the color of your porch at a spot where the sunlight hit it.

#6 — Decorate the porch — I found two vintage Homecrest patio chairs on ebay that might look good on the front porch. I liked the upholstery because it played up your colors… and because it added some 1960s flair to the area. Be careful not to overdue the decorating, though, or the small front porch will start to look cluttered.

Thanks for sending us your Dilemma, Laurie! Be sure to send us “after” photos!


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  1. Laurie says

    If anyone is wondering what bushes I have in front of my house…

    The house came with the 2 oddly planted crape myrtles (a hoarder lived here once and the previous owners took out 35 crape myrtles) and I planted soft caress mahonia. They are at least 2 feet from the house, so plenty of room to grow. I also planted a Tiger Eye sumac and a gardenia (that may or may not make it through our colder than normal winter). The corner bush is a Christmas Jewel holly. I plan on filling in the bed with a few more mahonia where the house steps back and I am going to try and find some good flowers for shade. Impatiens aren’t an option for a few years as there is some fungus that is killing them here.
    I also hope to get a full yard of grass. We have had a drought and watering restrictions that make seeding difficult. I can only water one day a week…. Hopefully we will have a wet spring! I spent last summer getting rid of the millions of weeds that were in the yard.
    At some point I will be adding a bed along the walk filled with flowers and low shrubs. Nothing formal, more carefree in nature. Full of color too. The bed on the side of the yard has purple coneflower and blackeyed Susans. I am hoping that it really fills in this spring. I may need to help it out with some seeds. :)

  2. Bob Connor says

    I might recommend kind of an avocado for the roof. When it comes time to replace the windows, I would consider a dark green which is often available as a prefinish for the frames, which will save on painting. Would it be possible to move the spotlight from the house to the tree in front? Then it might be possible to find midcentury light fixtures for the porch. The brick looks fine but a power washing would really make them pop. How close are the birch trees to the house? I would worry about them causing foundation problems.

    • Laurie says

      They are not birch trees. They are crape myrtles. I don’t need to worry about foundation issues with them. I also have a pier and beam foundation… They are several feet from the wall of the house and are full grown.

      I don’t think I can move the light. It is also one of those motion sensor lights and even though it looks ugly I do like having it so the light comes on when someone comes up to the house.

  3. Pat in Pa says

    I like Pam’s the best–love the diamonds to make those front posts pop!
    And the chairs make it inviting and friendly!

  4. Laurie says

    I am getting a new roof! What color should I go with? Same color? Darker brown? Lighter, closer in line with the brick?

    I think I prefer brown, but not the color that it is.

    • Mary Elizabeth says

      Why not go with a lighter shade ofshingles, such as beige, that will reflect the sun? I think it will look good with the brick.

    • Laurie says

      I have started to think that a brown roof is a wrong color choice for my house. I have never cared for the roof/brick combination and I think a greyish brick would be better.

      I am now looking at cobblestone grey, driftwood and weathered wood. I’d like to go lighter since I live in Texas, but lighter may not look as good.

      • Mary Elizabeth says


        I definitely like the cobblestone gray, especially with your blue door and blue accents. Blue/gray/rusty orange will be a very pleasing color combination. The brick is a warm color, and the blue and gray are cool complements.

        It is so hard to pick a roof color, isn’t it? Just be thankful you didn’t have to pick the house color as well. It kind of picked you. :-)

  5. Valerie says

    There are some great ideas here, for a very cute house! Just based on historic usage, I will add my two cents. My grandparents built a ranch house in 1968 that had just about this color of brick. All of the trim – door, soffets, etc. – was painted a very pale, soft green. This blended beautifully with the brick, for a very subtle color scheme. Just enough contrast to highlight the trim, but not stark against the orange. The color was similar to Sherwin Williams’ Plymouth Green, but a shade or two lighter.

      • Mary Elizabeth says

        Yes, it is a beautiful grayish color and will look great. Then after all your agony, the roofer has to delay the work. Hope for her sake (and yours!) the surgery goes well and she heals quickly. Whew! Another hurdle gotten over.

  6. Courtney J says

    Your house is coming along well, and I love the front door you found. We live in a 1956 ranch that has a very similar shade of orange brick. While the trim is currently chocolate brown (yikes! And has been since the 60′s), we are leaning toward a grayish taupe, because it coordinates with the brick and mortar color. Don’t discount the color of mortar used, since it’s there between each brick. :) We also went with the Caribbean blue for our front door, but I toned it down by glazing it. Good Luck!

  7. Laurie says

    My roofer’s wife is having emergency surgery tomorrow so my roof is getting put off for a bit.

    I have a question on the diamonds. I was at HD today and they did not have what I need, but was able to see what Pam is talking about. I will go to Lowe’s soon… My squares on the porch trim are about 10 inches square. Will the 6×6 cap work, or do I need to go larger – as in make my own?

    • pam kueber says

      buy one and tack it up there and take a look to see if it works / see how it looks
      you might also be able to add extra molding around it to expand its size
      be creative!

  8. Laurie says

    I’ll need to get out tomorrow and take a photo with everything cleaned up. I wasn’t able to get one today. The garage looks better now too. I’m going to paint it to match the brick. I can have them color match my brick. I found one in the yard from when the house was built. Forty-six years after the house was built I found a left over brick. What are the odds?

    I went to Lowe’s to pick up the squares and found out that I have to order them in the 6×6 inch size.

  9. Laurie says

    I have not forgotten about this. What a crazy winter we had! Thought spring would never get here, but it finally has. :)

    I plan to start painting in a few weeks. I think Easter weekend…..

  10. Laurie says

    I was way off in my thinking of how long exterior painting would take. Way off!!! I am still working on the house and have the garage almost done. I went with a paint very close to the brick colour for the garage and am doing the same color scheme as the house for the trim and doors. It is looking so much better! Everyone loves it.

    You can see here how it ties into the house now (for the first time ever).
    The west wall is finished except for the door. I think I will paint it the same as the house doors, but not sure. The north wall needs one more coat of the terra cotta colour. One more wall (east side) to do.
    It is amazing at how much warmer and inviting the yard feels now. The blue grey colour was very cold and didn’t go with anything!

  11. Laurie says

    I am finally painting the house! The prep work took forever. I’m doing two sides completely then will finish the other two sides. I need to see some progress with the paint or I go nuts!

    Here is what I got done today. Those posts took forever!
    I still need to to the diamonds, but I want to finish painting everything else first.

    The lighting wasn’t the best when I got to this point. I’ll post a better one when I have the entire front done.

    I got my flag up for a bit today too. :)

    Thanks so much for all the help. :)

  12. Diane says


    The last two photos did not show on photo bucket. I was so hoping to see them. We are in a similar dilemmna with our 1950′s ranch that we are trying to brighten up.

    Thank you,


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