Brick House Design

October 1st, 2010

Eric and Katie are in the process of fixing up an adorable little brick house and wanted to get some input on how to address the exterior. After a recent need to replace the front door, they decided on ordering something a bit more modern from Crestview Doors outfitted with minimal stainless door hardware. We all have experienced that moment of change – you upgrade one thing and all of a sudden everything starts to look a little shabby in comparison.

They are on a budget and able to parcel out small projects over time, thereby not taking on too much expense all at once. I wanted to give them an overview of possible changes they can do over time and create smaller projects they can tackle themselves.

Lets take a gander at a few images Eric sent of what they are working with.

Those are some giant trees! And a really unfortunately placed utility pole. They’ve been doing some checking and it appears that the pole is more of a support and not a full-on useful utility pole. They are working with the city in hopes of having it removed or relocated since it’s the only one in the neighborhood in such an an inconvenient spot.

Both landscaping and hardscape need to be addressed. They really enjoy grasses, shrubs and non-flowering plants with a bit of a Japanese garden vibe. Something clean, modern and layered – not too fussy, but a tad organic.

Also of note, they are not going to paint the brick but will take down the shutters and restore the fascia and window trim with a new coat of paint.

The main area they would like addressed is the front entrance and porch. They want it modernized and made a little more functional. The big trick was designing a way to keep their dogs secured on the porch and stalemate their tendency to run off chasing after little free roaming furry creatures.

So, cute little house with plenty of opportunity to snazzy it up. Here are some of my ideas (on the “Design Board” – please don’t make me say mood) to enhance what they are working with while staying budget friendly.


1 | Horizontal slat gate for the side yard entrance
2 | Horizontal slat staircase/storage area
3 | Sliding patio gate on casters (to keep the dogs in)
4 | Cable railing system
5 | Large round aluminum bulkhead exterior sconce
6 | 18” x 24” concrete pavers (two side by side) or custom poured concrete steps
7 | Crestview “Langston” front door
8 | Nuetra house numbers / Weston address numbers / Home Depot modern house numbers
9 | Flagstone pathway
10 | Stainless Steel door hardware
11 | Postino wall-mount mailbox
12 | Benjamin Moore Gray 2121-10 (for trim)

First, they were not loving the white trim, so it has to go and be replaced with a much darker shade of charcoaly gray. I gave them a few options and they liked Benjamin Moore’s “Gray” which is easy enough to remember. I think that by removing the shutters and going with a moodier (and more grounded) dark trim, the brick feels sophisticated and modernized.

The other large paint issue was the dormer on the roof. The wood siding has some damage and the paint is in rough shape and it either needs to be replaced or restored. The original unpainted beadboard ceiling on the porch looks amazing and I wanted to pull that detail up to the dormer. The white siding would be replaced with a good clear cedar stained to match the rest of the wood details.

One solution to fancy up the porch was to remove the current wrought iron railing and crumbling cement steps. The steps would be replaced by a wider and simplified wooden stair and the railings would be reconfigured to include wooden supports with a simple cable railing system. You can buy all the necessary parts for cable railings at the local Home Depot and DIY or go for a sleeker look with readily available cable railing systems.

The big custom feature to keep the dogs at bay is a rolling gate that closes access to the stairs. A similar idea / design can be seen at John & Juli’s cottage.

For the entrance, everything needs a good coat of BM “Gray” including the porch cement. Ditching the maroon and going monochromatic is a surefire way to make the disparate architecture cohesive. The Crestview door will be complemented with a minimal door lever as well as a new wall-mounted mail box, new address numbers and an additional bulkhead porch light. I love the round ball lamp they have already and by throwing down a pair of fun patio chairs they are set for lounging on the porch, keeping an eye on the neighborhood.

For the side entrance the stairs would mimic the design from the front entrance with the addition of a little slat enclosure under the platform. The back side would be hinged and would create an area for storage under the stairs for tools or charcoal or whatever your heart desires.

The beat up chain-link gate would be replaced with a simple slat gate with an aluminum pull. A flagstone walkway edged with either hot rolled steel or composite edging, would have a base of decomposed granite to make it easier to roll those garbage cans out to the street.

Since they both typically arrive home and park by the garage, they wanted a little meandering path to get from the driveway to the front entrance. An organic path of flagstones set into the grass would give them a quick and dry footing to the front door.

The wider walkway from the street would be inset with pea gravel and have either custom concrete poured in horizontal slabs or go the more cost effective route of combing 18″ x 24″ concrete pavers to create the series of horizontal steps.

There is my rundown of solutions for all those vexing design decisions and conundrums Eric & Katie were running up against. They are working with a landscape architect who is going to hash out all the planting details and figure out the best choices for their climate. I want to just throw Papyrus everywhere, and Horse Tail Reeds and Japanese Maples, which must be the most go-to contemporary landscape plants ever.

Thanks guys! Can’t wait to see how it comes together.


If you have a space, big or small, and need design consultation please email me at to discuss solutions for all your decor dilemmas. Depending on your budget and the scope of your project, a quote for services ranging from 3-D rendering, mood boarding, product sourcing, or actual physical shopping can be arranged.

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  1. Tonia on 10/01/2010:

    Incredile plan, It looks fabulous. I love the color scheme and the use of wood.

  2. Benita on 10/01/2010:

    You said it! Moooooooood boarding 🙂

  3. ModFruGal on 10/01/2010:

    GO BHD!

  4. Mrs. Potts on 10/01/2010:

    Great ideas! I’d also suggest that they rent a power washer and give the brick a good cleaning.

  5. Suzy8track on 10/01/2010:

    All are terrific ideas! How do you do it?

  6. Erin on 10/01/2010:

    Thanks for sharing.
    Thanks for the links

  7. Nikko Moy on 10/01/2010:

    Love this. My house next please!

  8. jen on 10/01/2010:

    How do you order the doors through Crestview? I had thought the window inserts are from a kit? I’m looking for a front door also and liked Crestview as well

  9. Nichol Ruth Alexander on 10/01/2010:

    Absolutely stunning! What a transformation and good designer; I especially love how the landscaping was addressed!

  10. manon on 10/01/2010:

    i just Love your Blog. and your style and all your ideas.

  11. Bob Borson on 10/01/2010:

    I have an image you might like for the address letter. That brick has a lot of character and color – let me know what you think, I’ll send it to you via email.

  12. amy h on 10/01/2010:

    Nice work! And I think I want to steal that little side deck for my side-entrance crumbling deck.

  13. Marget on 10/01/2010:

    Hello, I have been a regular reader of your blog for quite a while and love to look at your vintage finds. However, in regards to your design and architectural solutions, I cant help but think of all the fads and phases that style goes through and the destruction to good design that these trends can have. All the surface stuff is no biggie when it can just be changed back. But some of the quality architectural features from the past a shame to loose. Ditching some of those original front doors of an older house is really a pity. I don’t mean to be harsh, but your solutions are extremely predictable. In L.A. all the house flippers put up a horizontal slat fence and some modern numbers. This narrow range of style is so ubiquitous that when I see yet another restraunt, store open with orange and brown and stainless and horizontal slats etc, it looks foolish. I wonder if in a few years you will tire of this this look and wish you had kept some of the more ecclectic elements. Good design should sustain the decades of changing fads.

  14. Cait @ Hernando House on 10/01/2010:

    I was just telling my husband last night that we need that mailbox! And I really want to do a fence/screen like that on one side of our backyard. Also I think that this doorbell would be a vast improvement on the crappy one we have now (and maybe would be a nice mate for that mailbox?):

  15. Robyn on 10/01/2010:

    Great design! Love your umm… board. Can’t wait to see the final outcome.

  16. Dan on 10/01/2010:

    This is great! I love the cable railing system/rolling gate for the dogs. Super smart.

  17. Tyler (plastolux) on 10/01/2010:

    Your sketch up skills are sick, in a good way

  18. caol on 10/01/2010:

    this looks fantastic. I would love to see the post pictures of how this place gets turned around. you’re a great source of inspiration!

  19. carol on 10/01/2010:

    I goofed and misspelled my own name.

  20. THE BRICK HOUSE on 10/01/2010:

    Marget, you are lucky that you live in LA where good design is ubiquitous. Imagine most of the rest of the country – this stuff is not trendy, people don’t see it everyday, my neighbors thought I was crazy when I put up modern house numbers.

    Also, please read the post on why certain choices are made. I did not choose the front door – their original door was destroyed and they already bought the Crestview. I’m always trying to work with what people have and love and solve their current problems while being considerate of their budget.

    I still like horizontal slats. Anything would be nicer than the broken down chain-link gate. I designed something they could build themselves, would give privacy, relate to the front porch, and source easily at the local Home Depot.

    These folks are on a budget and aren’t replacing any quality architectural features – just making small changes to get the look they want.

  21. Lauren @ chezerbey on 10/01/2010:

    I think these are great solutions! I’m a big fan of taking an old house and doing well-thought out, subtle modern details to reflect the owner’s style and 21st century needs. I know people can get defensive about tampering with old homes, but let’s face it – there are good things about old houses and bad things about old houses. The key is to keep the good, replace the bad, and know the difference between the two!

  22. Brick and Brack on 10/01/2010:

    that’s freakin’ fantastic! I still can’t get over how much you rock at Sketch Up.

  23. Shlim on 10/01/2010:

    Don’t get rid of the pine trees in front! Trim them high up so they don’t block the view of the house. I think triming up would give it more of an edgey look without killing the trees or wasting money to do so…

  24. Ryan on 10/01/2010:

    I love this design. I own a 1920s brick house and feel the pull between keeping the original integrity of the house, and adding the modern design touches that I love. Despite Marget’s dispair that you are destroying to original architecture for the sake of trendy choices I agree with your rebuttal and would add that your suggestions work with the house and all the changes could be altered easily in the future if desired. I recently purchased similar house numbers for my house to replace the 1960 rough cedar numbers put up over the aluminum siding on the trim. I don’t have the “original” house numbers or porch light because they were removed by the previous owners (also the original owners) but even if they remained they might not work with the house now–I need bigger numbers on my house (as suggested by the fire department).

    I’m excited to see that you suggested a darker trim color on the house. Why does everyone seem to think brick houses should have white trim! I have tentatively selected MS Sharkey grey (home depot line) for the trim to complement the combination of tan and red bricks. Now when to find the time to scrape and paint.

    And those trees: so unfortunate. I’m sure that 45 years ago someone thought it would be so cute to flank the walk way with matching pine trees. Even if the trees are trimmed they are much too close together and too close to the walk way to feel balanced. And I would worry about the top of the tree snapping in a wind or ice storm (i’m from up north obviously).

  25. lisa on 10/01/2010:

    Am I the only one who hates the brick? I know they said they don’t want to paint it, but if they want clean and modern, I feel like they have to make the plunge and paint it. All the design elements you suggested would look so much better!

  26. Tami on 10/01/2010:

    Love the dark paint, and even the horizontal slats. (They are getting to be a bit ubiquitous on the west coast, I agree) I’d also incorporate the horizontal slats into the steps to tie it all together as well as to hide the supports.

    I don’t get why you insist on straight paths to doors from the street. They seem to draw and quarter the yard needlessly, and they’re bad feng shui to boot. And foundation plantings are so not done anymore. My professors refer to them as ‘parsley surrounding the thanksgiving turkey.’

    As a protective doggy mamma, I looooove the elegant gate, but wonder why the owners didn’t want to devote a portion of their obviously unused lawn to their pooches. I’d enclose the yard to the left of that straight-on path with your groovy fence fronted with your horsetail reeds. That way, they’d have an in/out through the back door, keeping them from charging the front door visitors. BTW, horsetail reeds work great in a rain garden, but can be invasive if they’re not contained in a barrier.

    One last thing: those aren’t pines. They’re spruce. And they gotta go.

  27. Anne on 10/01/2010:

    @Tami, wouldn’t a dog area in the front yard create bald spots and general mess (including poo)? It doesn’t seem like a front-of-the-house kind of thing, to me.

    I love this design. Good job. I’m a fan of the straight path, personally. Meandering paths to me say “cutesy.”

  28. jeannette on 10/02/2010:

    this is just awesome. the porch ceiling for the dormer just knocks me out. plus, the hot cable/slat treatment of all those suburban amenities. go, you. you are something else.

  29. jeannette on 10/02/2010:

    as for painting brick, my understanding is that its bad for the brick, keeps it from releasing moisture.

  30. Tami on 10/02/2010:

    A dog area would be behind that terrific slatted fence, hiding poo and toys, letting the mutts peek out at the critters thru the slats. And who called for ‘meandering?’

    I guess I meant to highlight the importance of sticking to the client’s program: they asked for an outdoor space for escape artist dogs and a path to the driveway. The design is great when it sticks to the program. But when it veers away, for example, by perpetuating an unused and distracting front path, it doesn’t work as well. I’d like to see those geometric slabs set in grass to the driveway (gravel encourages too many weeds).

  31. Lisa on 10/02/2010:

    Thanks Morgan for sharing this! It’s creative and inspiring and thought-provoking. I do have to add to Miss Marget. Just because you live in L.A. and have seen slat fences before doesn’t mean you should feel entitled to be pointlessly critical. Those are not credentials. Either suggest some viable alternatives or just keep that pissy mouth of yours shut. Sheesh.

  32. Cassandra Kennedy Beauty on 10/02/2010:

    As a friend of Eric and Katie, I am amazed at how “them” your designs are. Seriously.

  33. Emma on 10/03/2010:

    I think your suggestions are right on the money! You’ve also prompted me to update my SketchUP skills. I use to use this program all the time but haven’t lately. It really works well – and gets your ideas across clearly!

  34. @Hillybar on 10/03/2010:

    Looks great. Love your style. Its hard in Vancouver to stick to the under 100$ rule though. Nothings cheap!! Just a suggestion on your sketch-up – If you go to view then edge style then un-click display edges when your exporting to your jpeg, it makes your image look a lot more realistic.

  35. jen on 10/03/2010:

    Can I paint my front door yellow and make my “door-lites” look like the Triforce?

  36. Eric on 10/03/2010:

    Just a public shout out to Morgan for all her effort and hard work. Her first proposal was more or less as it is now, with a few tweaks here and there. To be so spot-on the first time around was pretty amazing and we are very happy with her designs and input. Now we just need to find the time to scrape and paint all those bloody windows!

    The trees are going to go at some stage, but will probably be one of the last things we do. They are in rough shape and not what one would call specimen trees. Not even close! If they were more attractive adn had been better maintained I’d be more amenable to keeping them, but they really do look like crap right now.

    I’m really anxious to start cranking on the front porch, as that makes the most substantial improvement IMO.

    Thanks also to everyone who has posted comments…both positive and negative. We consider this food for thought…so keep them coming please! I’ll send pictures to Morgan as we update things to show the progress. First thing is the new solid core, flush door, with the Crestview “Langston” lite kit. Finding a door of this type took AGES! Who knew it would be so hard to find a solid, flush, wooden door?

  37. Julie on 10/04/2010:

    While I do like some of the suggestions (like the dark gray trim and painting over the awful maroon porch), I feel like the design is fighting with the architecture. It is a very traditional house and I think by enforcing a lot of hard, modern elements, it would feel off-kilter and lose a lot of its charm. I actually have the opposite problem at my house – it’s a ’70s ranch house with a curlicue front gate and ornate iron exterior lights. It just looks weird.

    Also, I don’t know how practical this would be, but if just one of the pine/spruce trees were removed, the other would probably improve since it wouldn’t be competing for sun and root space. It would be a shame to lose the shade provided by a large, established tree. Oh, and Horse Tail Reeds are very invasive and toxic, so keep that in mind with dogs.

    Of course, this is all just my opinion and it is obviously up to the homeowners. They know Morgan’s style and that is what they asked for, which she delivered in spades. The design does remind me of the Blake Dollahite house, so it could be incredible.

    I hope I’m not told to keep my “pissy mouth” shut (as some other commenter wrote) for stating my opinion. There is no reason to use the anonymity of the internet to be needlessly vicious.

  38. Lisa on 10/04/2010:

    I have to agree, I liked the old front door better, and would have painted it glossy black. But if it’s gone, it’s gone. I would like to suggest a more Japanese treatment for the fence to the left (like alternating wide and narrow rails, not just one width) and maybe a similar treatment to the fencing on the porch, although I think your sliding gate on the porch is very clever. I think dogs could easily get out from those wires. (I once saw my German Shepherd go through a missing pane of glass in a window.)

  39. Jason | These Roving Eyes on 10/05/2010:

    Love the ideas.
    And you said mood bored there in the end bit.

  40. Jason | These Roving Eyes on 10/05/2010:

    Board. Damnit.

  41. The brick house on 10/05/2010:

    Yeah. I’m just stuck with that term. Trying to figure out a new word for blog next, which will also fail.

  42. jeannette on 10/08/2010:

    you’re a bad woman. you’ll be happy to know i just spent the grocery money on the postino mail box. right priorities, i say.

  43. ben smithson on 10/14/2010:

    I’m definitely putting that sweet mail box on our list. (We are slowly pimpin’ a remodeled Cliff May rancho in Dallas, TX.) Great inspiration for our landscaping planning too!

  44. Eric on 12/02/2010:

    @Julie – Thank you for your comments…and you’re right. Too often people use the anonymity of the Interweb to be unkind. Keep your comments coming!

    I don’t know that the house will eventually turn out as “hard” as it looks in the renderings. All of the plans are just ideas at the moment…and will be modified as we move along.

    The door I actually did not mind so much…but it was beyond repair so it had to go. I think you’ll all like the new one once we get the Crestview lite kit installed. At the moment we’re trying to decide whether to paint the door the BM “Grey” like the rest of the windows, etc, or just stain it a dark color. The wood has some interesting character that may look cool. We’ll probably just stain it and if it doesn’t work out paint over it.

    This is the wrong time of year to be pulling doors and windows out of their frames…but c’est la vie. I’ll be sending Morgan new photos of the door soon so you’ll be able to see it in situ with the new stainless hardware (which I LOVE). Major props to the people at Their customer service is amazing!

  45. Eric on 12/02/2010:

    …oh, and if you had to pick ONE tree to go which would it be?

  46. Robyn on 03/16/2011:

    My previous house was an old 1920’s bungalow. It had the same tree dilemma. People don’t realize how tall the little evergreen trees in 1 or 5 gal pots will eventually get. I cut them down, against all my neighbors advice, and people actually stopped their cars to tell me how great the house looked when they came down. Be bold, go big!

  47. jeannette on 08/31/2011:

    thank you for the inspiration. i thought this would amuse you.

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