A few exterior updates turned this Birmingham cottage into a standout.
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Birmingham Colonial Cottage — Before
“It was the sort of house you might drive by without noticing,” says homeowner Caroline Little. “It had great bones but felt very outdated.” Little knew the secret to the exterior makeover’s success would be staying true to her home’s existing 1941 structure. She carefully selected a team, architect Corbett Scott and landscape architect Paul Lell, who focused on enhancing the Birmingham home’s original Colonial charm. “I wanted to make adjustments and work with what was already there, bringing out the good attributes and muting bad ones,” says Scott. The collaboration between Scott and Lell was vital. “You want the landscaping and the architecture to harmonize,” explains Lell.
2 of 7Laurey W. Glenn
Birmingham Colonial Cottage — After
The team focused on five particular challenges to create what looks like a brand new home. With upgrades that included new windows and bluestone pavers, this home received a face-lift that has all the neighbors green with envy.
3 of 7Laurey W. Glenn
Simple, Sleek Windows
Challenge #1: Stocky, busy windows Solution: Install 8-foot-tall double-hung windows with fewer, larger panes.
It was important to Scott that the windows be long enough to balance the steep roof and the rest of the house. He kept the height but lowered the bottom of the frame to the floor and opted for sleek new six-over-six windows without transoms. He then paired the windows with slender, three-banded louvered shutters, both pretty and practical. They’re less prone to warping and stronger than shutters with fewer bands.
4 of 7Laurey W. Glenn
A Distinct, Gorgeous Entryway
Challenge #2: A boring, lackluster entrance Solution: Build out a striking, one-of-a-kind front porch.
Flattening the entrance’s peaked roof and expanding it into a real porch was the key to creating a “distinct entry for the home,” says Scott. The new squared-off parapet, punctuated with 1-foot-tall finials, adds drama and depth to the exterior. French doors with a fresh Chippendale spin complement the Colonial home’s English roots.
Little favors boxwoods, and Lell was happy to oblige. He says, “We wanted to play up the house’s theme of ‘rich-in-detail but also quite simple.’” The answer? A cluster of American boxwoods in various sizes is lined up behind a low-clipped ‘Wintergreen’ boxwood hedge. The emphasis on formality and scale echoes an English garden in a manner that’s architecturally sound and doesn’t take away from the home’s facade.
6 of 7Laurey W. Glenn
Walkway Through the Grass
Challenge #4: A sloppy pea gravel driveway Solution: Create a defined front walk and parking area.
The existing parking space in the front of the home was merely a slippery and messy pea gravel aggregate. Lell and his team decided to replace it with a simple asphalt parking pad, which polishes the look of the front yard. Bluestone pavers were installed in the grass to carve a distinct path leading to the revamped front door. Fitting the pavers into the grass also softened the style of the walkway. “We didn’t want the hardscape to dominate too much,” explains Lell.
7 of 7Laurey W. Glenn
White-On-White Paint Scheme
Challenge #5: A gloomy gray-and-black paint palette Solution: Choose a fresh, perkier white-on-white scheme.
The right shade of white went a long way in brightening this house. “We worked hard on selecting the color. We started with 10 swatches and then narrowed our choices down from there,” says Little, who ultimately went with Benjamin Moore’s Swiss Coffee for the exterior. This creamy off-white paint is classic and clean without making the house look too stark in the afternoon sunlight. Scott agreed with the choice: “I like a monochromatic home, where the shutters and siding are the same. Here, it highlights the front door.” For the roof shingles, Little chose gray (rather than black) to warm and lighten the exterior.