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Don’t forget to update the garage door

One of my recent obsessions is what to do to update the Ranch Style house. There are so many communities in San Diego (like Claremont, College area, La Mesa…. to name a few) that were built as mass developments of single story ranch style houses in the late 60’s. The very most common shape, the “L”, has to be the hardest hardest house to remodel and have it look attractive when you are done. Plop a second story on it? It just looks like a boxy fortress. Make it into a “u” shape and add a guest bedroom? Now your front door is at the end of a long cavernous tunnel. So as I drive around these parts of town, I’m going to try to snap images of remodels to Ranch houses that actually worked, and see if we can find some unifying principals to think about when you are contemplating a remodel of your own.

Today’s tip: Don’t forget the garage door! We are so used to ignoring garages because they jut out at us unattractively, so we just block them out mentally. Or at least we try to. So you’ll see plenty of house that have undergone a full remodel and still have their cheap looking white painted aluminum garage door. I’ll try to find better pictures to show how a new garage door can make a huge difference, but here was the house that set me thinking on the issue, so this is the one you get for today.

The house itself is a little less modest than it appears because it drops off of a slope, so the back could be 2-3 stories, but the front is quite modest. They added cedar shingle, refinished or replaced the garage door, and added the new roofline over the front entry. Overall, I think it probably helped the look of the front of the house quite a lot.

A few other things that I have noticed that can make a big difference:

1) Anything you can do to add dimension to the architecture will help. Try adding canvas awnings to the windows, like this one from my favorite canvas company, Moran Canvas:

2) Other ways to add dimension to the architecture: Add a heavy overhead arbor to the front entry. It can feel like a new roofline.

3) Add a gabled roof over the entry and create a small entry patio there with some planter pots or even rocking chairs. Or, take this idea further and make it into a front entry courtyard.

4) Push the style to the next level and play up the Mid-Centry Modern side. It is very very in right now. We can blame Mad Men for that.

5) Redo the stucco and make it a Santa Barbara smooth finish. This will look substantially more modern, really. You’ll be amazed.

6) Add trim to the windows. They cheaped-out back then on the windows a lot.

7) Try a paint scheme that has three colors: one for the body of the house, one for the trim and facia, and another one for the windows and doors. Look around your neighborhood and find a house with a three color scheme and see how it adds a depth that you can’t get with two colors.

Okay, enough of that rant for today. I promise to find more good pictures of a ranch house remodel done right and post them for your viewing pleasure.

Sage Outdoor Designs is a San Diego landscape design firm. Kate
Wiseman, the Principal, has been a San Diego landscape designer
for the past ten years. Find out more at