The House That Lars Bought: Exterior inspiration

As you might have seen from last week’s post, we bought a house! It’s one that we had been eyeing for many many years. We would deliberately go out of our way to go on walks by it (it’s on a rather isolated street) and I’d imagine what I would do with it if it was ever in my hands. Not knowing exactly what the interior was like I could only imagine the exterior and now, even though we are familiar with the interior, I still mostly dream about changing up the exterior.

I thought I’d share some thoughts about it and get your ideas too because I need all the help I can get!

Colonial House Inspiration

Our house was built in 1991 or 1992 (all the records are different!) so clearly not a true Colonial (1700s-1800s). Plus, we’re in Utah so the colonial style is very much only inspiration. The House was designed very simply without too much adornment so there are a lot of directions it could go, but we plan on keeping it true to the style, but maybe just a bit more dressed up.

The first question is, where do we take it?

Here’s a reminder of what it looks like from a different angle. This was before we closed.

Inspiration #1

Because the shape is boxy and flat, a bit boring if you will, my first thought is to go all out à la Inspiration #1. We would do that by doing the following:

  • Add in dormer windows up top
  • Add some depth to the facade by adding in a portico and extending out the front door, rather than invert it
  • Widen the top middle window perhaps
  • Either paint the facade or lime wash it.
  • And, of course, LANDSCAPING, which gives me a goosebumps just thinking about it. But that’s a post for another day!
  • Adding in beautiful paned windows (ours need some help!)

Inspiration #2

Inspiration is quite similar to #1, but with the addition of shutters, which I do love, but would need to measure to see if it’s feasible for ours.

Inspiration #3-5

Inspiration #3-5 are more of a toned down version, which I also love. Here, there are no dormer windows or too much adornment. It feels like you’re more out in the countryside. I dig it! I can imagine going more in Georgian/English countryside direction with a beautiful wild garden.

Inspiration #6-7

I lived in Georgetown in Washington, DC for graduate school, which I will forever call the most magical years of my life. I walked to school and passed houses like these every day and I pretty much pinched myself every day. I spent hours examining the neighborhood. I even wrote my graduate thesis on one of the homes, which was the inspiration behind this blog. I guess it’s all coming full circle now! The houses in 6 and 7 remind me of my old neighborhood. While ours clearly isn’t as stately, I think it could be developed that way. Once again, dormer windows enhance the facade, with shutters, and keeping the brick as is.

Our Brick

The problem with our brick is that it’s manufactured brick that deliberately added in texture, or, what I like to call worms. I had to zoom in on one of our photos so it’s a bit grainy but you can see the gist. Not ideal!

My concern is that any type of paint or lime wash might create some funky town shadows. Anyone have any experience with this or suggestions on what to do with it?

Priority list

Ok, now that I’ve shared all my inspiration, I have to admit that the exterior is WAY low on our priority list. Who knows when we’ll come to this part, BUT because I’ve been thinking about it for so long it was the easiest to get excited about. And to be honest, I haven’t even begun to day dream about the interior. Because of some factors, we basically need to get our under construction interior back in business so that we can move in ASAP. So I’m not thinking of pretty things…for now.

Your help

Now, I’d LOVE your feedback! Basically, I’d love to hear what your thoughts are about the exterior. What would YOU do? And based on my thoughts above, what would you do? Looking forward to hearing them!

Photos: #1 from here, #2 from here, #3 from here, #4 from here, #5 from here, #6 from here, #7 from here


  1. I love inspo photo #4 best! Love the idea of a wild garden. But I also LOVE some symmetrical shrubs. But also add a portico for sure, and dormer windows if possible! Those would be AMAZING. Ok so basically everything you just said I agree with ha!

  2. Hello and congratulations on the new house! Someone may have already called this out, but Chip & Joanna Gaines encountered the worm brick on a house they did for Fixer Upper. They ended up using stucco over the brick; may be something to consider. It was season 4 – episode 13 if you’re interested ☺️ Good luck!

  3. Portico for sure!! And I love the idea of widening the center window, but could see that having many roadblocks. I am all about painted brick, but see where the issue is with the “worms”. I think I would leave it as is due to that, and go with the vibes of #6-7. Cannot wait to see what you do with landscaping!

  4. Is there a way to cover the exterior with a thin layer of white smooth stucco. That way you cover the brick and change the exterior color.

  5. I think with the texture of the brick a German Schmear would be helpful, possibly more intensive than painting. I love all the inspo ideas! English cottage feel is a dream!

  6. I love the simplicity in the last photos, whatever you do is going to be awesome! We spent the first summer after we got married in DC while my husband did a law school internship at the National Gallery of Art. We’d bike through Georgetown all the time and I’d practically fall off my bike because of all my gawking. I’d love to hear more of the story about how you named your blog. I’ve been a reader since you lived abroad, and love your work.

  7. Congratulations! Love your inspo pics. The DC vibe is more lush than the other homes. I wonder how you feel about letting vines grow on the brick to mask the “worms” and add more greenery. What does the entry look like – that would inform my decision to do the porch/portico.

  8. I wouod have kept the brick as is, ad shutters and some vines growing up the facade. It will look absolutely magical. 😍

    Oh, and PS: If you want to paint it, have it plastered or use natural lime paint (bricks are the ideal surface)

  9. I hate that I am saying this but on an episode of fixer upper they had the same worm brick and they did a German schmear plaster. Looked amazing.

  10. what about doing what some people call a ‘German schmear’. it’s like a plaster that smoothed over the bricks with a bit of the brick peeping through?

  11. I say paint the brick white- it seems that’s what is pulling at your heart. The ‘worms’ won’t really show, just make the brick look older and worn. The idea above about adding vines or wysteria or some sort of greenery to sort of block parts of the brick will help. Adding the portico, dormer, or shutters- whatever you end up doing- will steer the eye away from the defects of the brick.
    Idea- do videos of the reno on YOUtube so we can watch in order or whenever we want. Plus you’ll get the income from Youtube.

  12. Some folks in our area changed the look of their brick that had a heavily lined texture by shaving off a layer. It looks fantastic! I lived in Arlington VA for four years and I love colonial architecture. Your simple cream facades are lovely.

  13. I knew # 4 was “young house love” … my vote are the more paired down country feeling ones. It’s funny how taste changes … when I was living in DC and walking by row houses everyday to and from work, I loved the formality, the ornate, the stately. But now I am much more modern and clean-leaning.

    I second the German Schmeer idea but more fully covered to look more like European plaster … like Jenny Komenda’s kitchen. I dream of doing that to my parents fireplace!

  14. So, the thing is, you can’t un-paint bricks, ya know? We rented the most beautiful Victorian house in Logan, UT, but the brick was all painted white and I was sad about it. I have cringy feelings about painted bricks. Plus I just love natural material colors. I definitely love the shutters though. Adding some dormers world be just lovely. I also really like the idea of a portico. One of your pictures at the beginning of the post has almost a faux portico that just barely sticks off the house and the door is a little recessed like yours. It seems like that would be a good option. I can’t wait to see what you do!

  15. Eeee! I’m so happy for you! May I suggest the book, “Get Your House Right”. It’s an invaluable resource when working on a project like this. It takes residential architectural styles in the US and breaks them down into what makes them unique, as well as the subtle dos and don’ts to make new builds look more authentic. I’m reading it for fun and love that it gets into the nitty gritty details!

  16. An extremely wonderful blog entry. We are truly thankful for your blog entry. You will track down a ton of approaches in the wake of visiting your post. I was actually scanning for.Thanks for such post and if it’s not too much trouble, keep it up.Painters in Swansea


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