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!


  1. Cristina says:

    I’ve been trying for over a month to figure out where I could buy decorative metal 1950s-60s columns (heck, I’m not even sure what they’re called? I don’t think they’re structural…) like the ones on this porch. My small (10’x5′) front porch. Right now it just has an anemic-looking simple square column (4″x4″) on one corner. Any ideas? I live in a 1956 home in Miami, FL….and I’m on a budget (but am willing to pay more for quality materials).
    Thank you!

      1. Cristina Favretto says:

        Thank you, Pam! I’ve given them a call and am now speaking with my handyman regarding whether it’s “doable” for my porch. If so, I’ll send before and after pics!

  2. Catalina says:

    Has anyone else noticed the pinwheel designs in the brick?? It is so subtle, but an amazing detail you don’t see on houses these days.

  3. Lynn says:

    Laurie, your home looks wonderful! What a transformation! I think you’ve made excellent choices with your colors. And all that hard work you’ve invested in your home really shows. Painting the garage to match the house pulls everything together. Way to go!!!

    1. Lauire says:

      Thank you. The neighbours and I are amazed at the difference. Pam, Kate and everyone else did a great job helping me out. 🙂

  4. Laurie says:

    I’m finished!!

    A friend made my diamonds so they took a bit longer to get, but you can’t beat free so I waited patiently. 🙂 I just got them installed today. I had to wait for the help on that also.
    I love how they look!


    Thank you so much for the great idea. 🙂

    I’m getting some sod next weekend and then things will really look better around here.

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