Wendy’s Dilemma: Ideas Anyone?

We’re not sure how many of you are knee deep in a turkey somewhere (wait, that sounds terrible) but there’s nothing we like more than a group brainstorming session, so if you’re around, Wendy would love your suggestions. She has an exterior issue and she’s ready to dive right in (you know what that means… after pics! Hopefully really soon!) so here’s her letter:

I’ve been a YHL reader since house #1 and I’m so excited that you’ve started this group advice feature!  I have a problem I hope you and your readers can help with. We’ve lived in our home for about four years, and the front needs a major paint job. It’s a two-story brick house, and the trim is peeling and in desperate need of re-painting, but we keep putting it off because we can’t figure out the color! I’m not a fan of the off-white color, and our style is not particularly traditional, though that is the style of the house. We have an HOA so we can’t go too crazy, but I’d like to inject some fun color somehow to give it more appeal and personality. Maybe a bright front door?

The one thing that has me tripped up is that our brick is more orange than red. I’d love to hear what colors might work with that for our door, shutters, & trim. I have great fantasies of one day painting the brick, but for now I would love some advice for working with it as-is. Thanks! – Wendy (and Mike, Lucas, and Jackson) Note: for anyone who wants to play around in photoshop, just click the image above this paragraph to enlarge it – and you can share your creation in the comments by linking to it on a free photo-sharing site like Flickr or Pinterest.

After staring at that before photo for a while, I dragged it into photoshop to see what stuck. Here’s what I did first:

  • Made the off-white trim white (this wouldn’t be scary or dramatic, but it’s a little crisper and less traditional, since it sounds like Wendy leans that way – and let’s face it, the HOA probably won’t go for something like blue trim)
  • Added a glossy red door (it sounds weird to pair orange-y brick with a red door, but we did that with our first house and for some strange reason it made the brick seem less red/orange by comparison – sort of like how if something looks yellowed but you put a super yellow object next to it, it almost looks white by comparison). We used Fabulous Red by Valspar and loved the look in a nice shiny semi-gloss. It’s bold but still really classic.
  • Planted a whole mess of red tulips out front (it would add even more color without annoying the HOA)

  • Hung some nice oversized porch lanterns (something like these on either side of the door would look nice and weighty)
  • Put some potted plants on the porch
  • Added a scripty house number over the portico (spelling out the entire address with black metal numbers and letters could be really charming if there’s room)
  • Painted the porch steps a nice neutral mocha color (just to neutralize that red top step)

For my second go, I:

  • Tried a rich navy tone on the front door (like Regatta by Sherwin Williams or Hale Navy by Benjamin Moore)
  • Went deep charcoal-navy with the shutters (like Rock Bottom by Sherwin Williams – since some people are suuuper anti navy door + black shutters, painting the shutters a few shades darker than the door, so they’re still deep but not quite black should do the trick)
  • Hung some sweet and simple house numbers on top of the portico

  • Added hanging flower baskets on either side of the door
  • Put two clean-lined planters on the porch
  • Painted the porch steps a nice neutral mocha color (just to neutralize that red top step)

This one is a “squint a little” solution since the photoshopped shutters aren’t perfect, but this time I:

  • Went white with the shutters (just to see how they’d look with the white trim)
  • Added a spring green color on the door (that’s usually a pretty foolproof-yet-fun choice since there’s SO MUCH green in nearby nature that it tends to tie into that instead of looking like it’s out of left field. Of course this is photoshop, so it doesn’t look as real and layered as it would in real life, but it hopefully gives Wendy an idea so she can hold up some swatches in real life and just see what she likes – maybe try Lemon Grass by Behr and go from there?)

  • Brought back the lanterns from my first rendering
  • Added topiaries to the porch for height
  • Tossed in some greenery to grow up those porch columns (Wendy can just ask what creeping plants don’t harm brick or wood at a nursery and see what they recommend)
  • Hung the address above the door (this time I went for the scripty look with the numbers written out)
  • Painted the porch steps a nice neutral mocha color (just to neutralize that red top step)

A few other options that came to mind were that Wendy could…

  • go for dark charcoal shutters, white trim, and a glossy plum door
  • try a robin’s egg blue door with navy shutters and white trim
  • add window boxes for more color and interest
  • hunt down a really great old doorknocker and doorknob for the front door

And just for fun, here’s Clara’s suggestion. She told me to do purple bushes and grass with blue bricks. Clearly she wasn’t following the “keep the brick as-is” directive. Ah, to see through the eyes of a child…

Do you guys have any votes or ideas for Wendy? Are you Team Red? Team Navy? Team Green? Team Edward? Team Jacob? There are tons of other ways she could go, so she’d love to hear everyone’s ideas. Picture me passing you the baton – er, the mic? The keyboard?

Psst – Got a particularly tricky spot or a dilemma in a certain area of your house? Please submit at least three photos of the space along with a quick sketch of the floor plan and a short description about what has you stumped to advice@younghouselove.com.


  1. Courtney says

    Well obviously, I have to vote for Clara’s version! :) But in case the HOA doesn’t go for that, I love love love the version with the navy front door!!!

    • mary says

      i absolutely have to agree: some creeping charlie in the grass, plant some lilacs in front… clara’s onto something big!

  2. Chase says

    I love #1 the best. Something about those red tulips with the red door! Keeps it traditional for the HOA but has such warm, welcoming appeal :)

  3. Sheila says

    If painting the brick were an option I would go with Clara’s rendering in a heart beat. I truly think that the blue could be so pretty. But 2nd choice would be the green door. I just think the red and blue are pretty I have seen alot of them. The green is just a little daring without being in your face. What a calming but happy color to come home to each night. As always your creativity astounds me. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

  4. Emily E says

    Team Navy! I think the red looks terrible against the brick but the Navy looks charming. Especially with crisp white trim and pretty white flowers! Could just be the American girl in me but the red(bricks), white(flowers) and blue(door) really speak to me!

  5. Nikki says

    I really like Sherry’s second suggestion the most. I think the white trim will pop, the blue door is excellent, and the traditional house numbers are great.

    One thing to consider is removing your screen/glass door. No matter what color you put on the front door you won’t be able to see it as well with the glass reflecting it. I took mine off and haven’t missed it. (I live in an urban area and would never leave the front door open with just the screen door closed because of the security risk).

    This is a gorgeous home! I think even just freshening the trim white and painting the porch would make a big difference if you want a phased approach! Best of luck and hope we get to see pictures!

    • Lisa E says

      I guess it’s a matter of personal preference and practicality. I recently added a storm door because I needed that cross breeze. I also painted my door a bright blue and you can still see it, however probably not so much with a subdued color.

    • says

      I’ve been having the storm door war raging in my head. We’re going to replace our front door in the spring and I want to paint it a fun colour, but we also want a storm door to help with air flow (we have a wall of windows that don’t open, so stupid!). But the storm door will block the pretty door. Decisions, decisions.

    • Cathy says

      They make screen doors that disappear when closed up. You get the door in the color of the trim and it blends right in. Then you only see it when you unroll the screen. Just google retractable screen door. They’re a bit more expensive (for a good one) but worth every penny!

    • Rachel says


      Calling from the UK here, where we don’t have storm doors. Can’t you paint the storm door to blend in with the main door behind it? Or am I being stupid…?


    • bfish says

      I so agree with Vikki and Sherry — lose the storm door. A nicely painted wood front door can be such a great focal point; please don’t cover it up. On a traditional house a full-louver wood outer door with a screen on the inside (painted same color as front door) can be a good compromise though.

      All of the examples have some merit; that said Clara’s is my favorite because I’m a painted-bricks-all-the-way person. But please, no white shutters!!! They are absolutely the worst. (Sorry, I’m very opinionated on these things and the white shutters are one item I just can’t hold back on.)

  6. Cristin says

    I think I like Team Navy and Team Green…. I like the white shutters in Team Green but with the Navy door. Although, white shutters make me shudder (am I channeling Dr. Seuss??) because I hate to think about cleaning them every year, I like how they look against the brick. I also like the hanging baskets and the numbers in Team Navy too. It has a more classic feel.

    This is such a cute house!!

    • Courtney says

      I like a mixture of all three! The full address idea on the triangle part from #1 + the navy door/white shutters from #2 + the ivy from #3. Either way, the house is gorgeous – good luck!

    • says

      We had white shutters at our old house and I just sprayed them off with a hose once or twice a year to clean them. Easy peasy.

      We chose vinyl shutters with a faux wood grain for pretty much no maintenance and you really couldn’t tell the difference even from just a few feet away.

      Can’t wait to see what they decide to do!

    • says

      I have to agree! The green door is charming, but I really like the idea of white shutters and a blue door.

      Also, I’d combine the simple numbers of #2 with the lanterns and plants in #3… My only other thought is to maybe add planter boxes to the bay window; flowers spilling over the sides would be delightful. Looking forward to seeing the final result!

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