A Dramatic Ranch House Renovation
Katie Bee and Seton Marshall first called on local architect Anna Evans to help them update their 1950s ranch-style home in Mountain Brook, Alabama, when Katie Bee found out she was pregnant with their second child. They were looking for some additional space and also realized they needed a more welcoming space to watch over their growing family as they played in the front yard with all of their neighborhood friends. So the Marshalls asked Evans for not only a "leaner, taller, and cleaner" look but also an easier connection to the outdoors. In thinking about tackling a ranch that had not been touched with much more than a paintbrush since the 1950s, Evans decided to work with—not against—its design. Fairly simple exterior updates like a new paint job; expanded entry; wide front terrace; and tall, light-filled doors out back changed how the Marshalls lived in their house, which is now brighter with a more natural flow to the outdoors. "The new front is like a magnet in the neighborhood," says Katie Bee. "It's perfect for sitting with neighbors, having a glass of wine, and watching the kids play on the lawn."
The Front Steps Create Balance
The 19-foot-wide stairs run all the way to the edge of the house. This design trick fills the void beneath the wide window on the right and creates the feeling of a traditional front porch without altering the ranch's straight roofline.
The Double Doors Warm Up The Entrance
The narrow single door to the entry before was hardly inviting. These new pecky cypress French doors create a more centered, visible, and welcoming first impression.
The Front Terrace Works Overtime as a Wide Front Porch
Evans wanted to add functional, livable space for the growing family wherever she could. She designed the top of the stairs to work as a 10- by 12-foot terrace with enough room for a proper outdoor seating arrangement (a love seat, two chairs, and a coffee table), which Evans says is a must in the area. "When you live in a community as social as this one, your neighborhood is your yard. You're going to want to be outside."
The Paint Job Disguises Mismatched Materials
Evans decided to paint the entire exterior Timid White by Benjamin Moore, not only to brighten and modernize the house but also to unify the three different exterior materials: brick on the front, shingles on the side, and siding on the back. "Painting everything one color does wonders to clean up and bring together surfaces and spaces," Evans says.
The Landscaping Gives Privacy and Order
Thoughtfully selected and placed hedges complement the home's new and refined spirit. Neatly manicured boxwoods fill in the big gap between the ground and the two left windows on the front and also help define the patio in the backyard.
The Shutters Put the Windows in Proportion
Before, all three of the Marshalls' front windows were flanked by too-small shutters. "Improperly sized shutters are a common ailment on this style house," says Evans. Correctly sized shutters should be large enough to cover the window completely. Evans removed shutters from the right two windows. If sized properly, they would have seemed large on this small house. She did replace the shutters on the far left with an operable pair to visually enlarge the window.
The Patio Doors Open Up the Exterior
"Ranches tend to have 8-foot ceilings and not a lot of natural light, making them feel cramped," Evans notes. Three new sets of 7-foot-tall French doors significantly brighten up the interior rooms surrounding the patio and allow people to move indoors and outdoors much more easily.