Easy Summer Projects to Tackle This Weekend

16 min read Easy summer projects can help you kick-off this year’s (mid-century) home improvement season! Here are a few of my favorites.

What feels like the true beginning of summer to you? Memorial Day weekend? Seeing the first lightning bugs? The last day of school? For me, my birthday in early June is the real start of summer!

It kind of feels like we just dived into the middle of summer in the last week or two and I have a feeling you might be in exactly the right headspace to take on some easy summer projects to make your mid-century home a little more your own. 

So, grab your lemonade and a lawn chair and listen in for a few fun (and, okay some less fun but more necessary) summer project you can tackle right now to kick off your mid-century home improvement season!

In Today’s Episode You’ll Hear:

  • Why maintenance is a great way to get your mid-century remodel moving.
  • How your downspout is (or should be) like a chameleon. 
  • The quick projects that give you the most bang for your remodel buck!

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Read the Full Episode Transcript

What feels like a true beginning of summer to you? To me, maybe because I have an early June birthday, I always feel like the end of spring, the end of the school year, even the end of winter is sometimes in May. And June is really the kickoff of summertime.

So if you also feel like we just dived into the middle of summer feelings in the last week or two, you might be in exactly the right headspace to take on some easy summer projects to make your mid-century home a little more your own. I’m going to focus on outside the house projects right now because it’s time to start spending some serious time outside. And if you haven’t already created an outdoor space you love around your mid-century home. Now’s the time to get into it.

Hey there. Welcome back to Mid Mod Remodel. This is the show about updating MCM homes helping you match a mid-century home to your modern life. I’m your host Della Hansmann architect and mid-century ranch enthusiast, you’re listening to Episode 1211.

Because this is a topic I’ve touched on before, if you just want to get started with the most simple things you can do to update your home. You start with the front door, get more advice on your front door area specifically in Episode 1110. Your front door on three easy levels and grab the front door checklist which is going to get you started and get you going on Future Fund home improvement projects around your front door and around the left side of your house at midmod-midwest.com/front door.

Or just head to the show notes page at midmod-midwest.com/1211. To get the transcript of this episode a list of easy summer projects you can begin with grab all the other resources available and get yourself inspired to get started. You can take this on this very weekend. What will you start with? Okay, before I start talking about what you could start with, I’m going to ask you a quick masterplan question to set you up for success. What do you want to accomplish with your energy this summer, as you listen to the laundry list of suggestions I’m about to make, which one of these things sound like it’s going to give you the most instant gratification. Some might sound easier than others, some might be cheaper.

And those are good metrics to use when you’re considering what to get started on. But what I actually recommend is that you spend some time thinking about your dream stage of easy summer projects. Ask yourself what matters in your home improvement. Are you hoping to spruce up the house for a not too distant resale? I hoping to make it just a little more shiny for your neighbors to keep up with or you to keep up with the Joneses across the street or set a new standard for your whole block. Are you looking for something to keep you physically engaged and give you a long term step by step project you can put time into every day or do with a family member.

By the way, Mid-century home remodel projects are about style, but they can be about mental health or physical health as much as they can be a way to add value in class to your home.

What are you trying to get to maybe what you just need is a place where you can have a more livable lovable outside space around your house, create an area where you drink your morning coffee in the sun wave at the neighbor’s walking their dogs and see everyone or a private retreat in your backyard where you can count the birds and meditate in solitude. So set the stage for your next weekend project by knowing why you’re going to take it on. This will make it easier to get up in the morning on Saturday and get started. And more satisfying as we go through the process. Plus, it might simplify some of the choices you make about how to spend more or less of your time, money or energy on certain things.

Okay, that’s enough about the masterplan method and how it works for everything. Let’s just get some handy suggestions for how to get started. The first thing you can do when you’re thinking and literally, this is the sound of me rolling up my sleeves or pushing the back. As I think about this, the very first thing you can do to take on an easy summer project or on your house is a maintenance or repair project. Now look, this isn’t going to be the most exciting out there. But it does need to happen.

And you don’t need a lot of skill to do most of these things. You don’t need skill to give your windows a shine if you missed doing that last fall, or to vacuum out your screens, which you might have done before you put them away or might not have or even to touch a little paint, do some spackling here or there. In fact, one of the first things you might do before you actually take on a project is just a walk in a slow circle around your house, with your phone, possibly with your partner, take pictures and make a small list.

What do you see that looks a little rundown or maybe you haven’t looked at the side walls of your house since you were outside much last summer and fall. Maybe you might notice that the woodpeckers have been making holes or a little line of ants is going someplace they shouldn’t. These projects are somewhat unsexy, but they are unnecessary homeowners to do list for how to knock off a little bit of satisfactory summer home improvement project.

Maintenance and repair are not the most fun although they can give you a certain sense of look what I did look at me adulting so if that appeals to you think about taking a quick gander at your house to look at the foundation the structure of any overhanging pieces, your patios, porches and decks. glance at your gutters, your windows and doors and just see if anything seems out of place and then you can Google it or reach out to an expert or check your home inspection list to see if that seems like something that needs more attention. Or just good for you, you checked on it this year. All right, that’s maybe the least satisfying thing you can do.

The most instant satisfactory fun you can have on a project is a painting project. And the category of painting Exterior Home Improvement projects is broad. But nothing is more easy, pleasant and instantly satisfactory than changing the color or even brightening up the existing finish of a painted object. This is where I pause, and I insert my standard disclaimer that you should not paint anything on your mid-century house that has not been painted before.

Please don’t look for that sense of instant gratification by painting the brick or stone of your exterior house. If you want to know why. I have an entire episode on this, go check out episode 1106. Please don’t paint your mid-century brick for details on why this is a catastrophically bad idea for resale value, for structural stability, for moisture control and just for the style and life of your mid-century home.

That said painting anything else is fair game. So here’s a quick list of fun areas, you might apply a fresh coat of paint to the obvious paint your front door and your storm door in your favorite color. And I’ve talked about this before, so go check out the front door episode. For more on that remember, that’s episode 1110. You might also think about colors. And you can see some examples of that in the front door sheet and I’ll also put a link in the show notes to whole house colors but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Other doors you might paint might be your garage door. Now that could be a pop color spot, but I actually recommend that unless you have a mid-century vintage look. You’re lucky enough to have your original door with some texture or trim or pattern grooves to highlight feel free to do that. But if you have a boring replacement door, as I do, I recommend that you just paint the garage door the same color as the siding and let it blend in with the overall mass of the house. The same advice goes for the trim around the garage door and also around your doors and windows and other parts of the house.

On cottage or a Victorian house, outlining everything in bright white can be a nice way to show off the architectural detail of the house but for a mid-century house, we’re looking for simplicity and minimalism. So you want your trim to match the siding color and blend in as closely as possible with the overall part of the house. This is something that I’m planning to do on my own home I painted the trim around my doors last year to match the siding that was the original wood, my windows or replacement windows put in by the previous owner. They have their factory manufactured metal finish on them. I’m going to prime and paint those to match the siding later this year though too because they’ve been bugging me.

You can also apply that let it blend logic to your downspouts. Look at this. It’s a downspout it is not a beautiful object. If you want to replace your downspouts with rain chains that can be an architectural structural detail, but a downspout is a sheet metal tube meant to direct water from your gutter to your garden with minimal fuss. There’s nothing about that needs to stand out so painted the color of your siding. Or if it’s running across an area of stone or brick painted a color that’s as close as possible to one of those natural colors and your stone or brick.

Treat your downspouts like chameleons and help them blend in note they do not have to match the gutters. There’s no rule that says they do. So this could be a summer project you take on one downspout at a time take it off the house, prime it on a nice day painted on another nice day and put it back up on a third night stay and then take down another one. By the way, it’s also on my to do list for this year to finally get my flooring, white downspouts doing me no design good whatsoever to just match the house and become a little more invisible.

Here’s the biggest move you could make, you could repaint your siding, as long as it’s the right material. If your house has been recited and vinyl, you might not be able to successfully apply a new color to it. But if you’ve got your original wood or even aluminum siding, you can choose a new color for it. Just give it a fresh coat. Or you could paint and prime and paint one side of the house at a time throughout the course of the summer to sort of break this project down into more bite sized pieces. I did that on my own home when I first moved in, and it is the most dramatic satisfying transformational change to your home you can make is to give it a new color.

If you’re struggling with what color to choose, go to mid mod dash midwest.com/colors And I’ll give you you’ll get a link to the podcast episode I’ve done on that last summer, and an entire visualizing guide of how different house colors work on home with red brick homes with cream brick homes with stone and homes that are just siding so you can start to make some great choices for your own home. If you’re going to repaint your site in the summer, a round of applause to you and please please send pictures.

Alright, let’s go back down to an easier summer project which is simple replacement style upgrades. You might switch out your mailbox an old one for a new one your house numbers…Hello modern house numbers…your old ones for new ones that are bigger and bolder and easier to see from the street, you might switch out one light fixture for another.

By the way, if you’re stuck with a sconce light and you really wish it was in a slightly different spot, think about switching out that sconce for a pendant light, the pendant can mount that same spot on the wall in the house, but then you can swag it out to hang down from your soffit in a different place a little further from the door or multiply it into two lights for example, very easily that way, you might switch out your doorbell or just get some new lawn furniture bench. Other accent sculptural elements. These are more purchase projects than installation projects, but they can be a lot of fun.

Or you could go further you can get into perhaps a practice project for a future interior work, you can do a small construction project around the outside of the house if you’d rather pick up a tool belt and a paintbrush this summer. Think about taking the design of your house up a level or two in a weekend or three this year with changing the overall look of your house with some free standing pieces.

Now, you don’t need to worry about structural stability or necessarily even the building code to install a small decorative fence in some part of your yard. You might actually fence in your yard to make it a safe place for dogs. Or you might put a short run of decorative fence somewhere in the front of your house. Possibly you do both of those things to kind of tie the design of a new fenced backyard in with a similar material that happens in your front yard. You could use a small decorative fence to hide and unsightly element of your house like the gas meter or give privacy to an egress window.

You can spend a little time standing around in your front yard or better yet across the street. Gazing at your house. Take a note of any areas that seem to seem too devoid of detail or blend together or if the house feels unbalanced, it has more ornate details on one side than the other. Think about what you can add in lawn furniture or a small fence or patio or deck to add interesting balance but not necessarily symmetry.

If you’ve got a front stoop that feels a little bare bones, if it ever feels like when you step out your front door to scoop up the mail you feel like you’re standing on a very small bland stage. Think about planning a small decorative freestanding fence element to visually protect that area stand in front of it between you and the sidewalk just a little bit. You could go a few steps further and giving a sense of visual protection to the front door by building a two angled privacy screen or a shade trellis near the front door near a garage point or off your back patio or deck. Think about where you don’t enjoy seeing your neighbor’s, your own yard or light from a streetlight and then what easy design element you can put into that place to block that view.

Speaking of your front door or backyard, where do you sit around outside your house think about creating a built in bench that you could tuck in next to your front door or in a secluded spot in your backyard. Creating a few places to sit comfortably outside can be as simple as buying some fun yard furniture, or it might be something you design and craft yourself out of a vintage material you’ve got laying around from another project. You might also go all the way into exterior renewal with a small patio or deck project.

Now this is something we got into a lot of last summer with our design clinic on outdoor rooms. We talked about the different places around your house, you might create a beautiful outdoor space and how you can choose to extend the living space of your house into the yard with a well-crafted patio, deck or porch. This kind of project can be more satisfying than just about anything else you do to your home, and you can extend your living area without an addition simply by taking on a couple of small weekend long exterior improvement projects like a deck that flows well from your interior living space.

One more thought on that. Remember, a deck doesn’t actually have to be built on or off your house, consider a floating deck. If you google this, you’ll quickly see that it does not mean a deck that hovers in the air. It just means a deck that somewhere in your yard not attached to the house. So if you’ve got a cozy and removed back corner of your yard, you might lay a little flagstone path out to it and then create a reading corner, a hammock, a notebook or a separate dining area that feels like an entirely new part of your house to inhabit as you live outside this summer.

Alright, the last thing on my list of easy summer projects to try is to focus on your landscaping. I will be the first to admit that keeping green things alive is not my forte so I’m probably not the first person you should go to for advice about what to plant in a mid-century yard. For better advice on mid-century landscaping in general. Go back and check out episode 406 where I talked to Sarah Meyer, aka green thumb Sam of Boise, Idaho. She is a landscape designer who specializes in exterior plantings around mid-century homes. She’s lovely and we had a grand time chatting about the design vagaries of an update in that episode.

So here’s what an architect wants you to know about planning easy summer exterior projects with planted things in your yard. And what you should think about when you choose what and where to plant. Now there are a bunch of different reasons you might want to plant things in your yard. You might plant for privacy, instead of building a screen wall plant to an evergreen species that will grow quickly and densely and create a barrier between you and someone like unsightly loud elements outside your house and outside your control.

If you live next to a noisy road, the very best way to block that sound from the road is to have a combination of hard wall and planted objects. A block wall with a planted border of our providing, or some similar species will prevent and baffle the sound from coming through in the most effective way.

You might also want to plant for shade. What is the best way to make your house more energy efficient, is to prevent it from heating up in the summer and from cooling off in the winter, so that you need to add less artificial heat and cooling to the house. And one of the best ways to prevent your house from heating up in the summer is to keep it shaded during all the times of year when you might be running your air conditioning unit. Actually, another way to keep your energy costs low is just to shade your actual air conditioning unit.

Now this is a long term proposition but think about planting shade trees. This could count as an easy summer project for small trees now, and it’ll take more than a summer to come to fruition, but it’s well worth it to make sure that you have deciduous shade trees in your house that provide a blockage from sun coming from the south and from the West during the hottest parts of the day. Think about what you can plan to provide natural shade to your house in the summer, and ideally not shade the house in the same spots during the wintertime.

You might also plant for visual interest in the front of your house. If your house has a very simple builder basic style. If it seems bland or even sterile, you could add decorative or architectural details or you could simply add some interesting plantings.

For a truly vintage look ,you think about the sort of juniper or another low growing evergreen element. Or you can go eco modern and do a prairie planting or choose some beautiful flowering tree, just an anchor point in the yard for balance, you might match that tree to the color pop of your front door, or vice versa. Make sure you plant items with different heights if you’re planning to plant for visual interest. If you plant a whole slew of things that will never get much taller than your lawn, it’ll be less interesting. But if you have a variety of heights of perennial and annual plantings that will come up and interact with each other in different ways. You’ll enjoy it more.

And while we’re talking about planting, you might also want to boost your ego credibility by not just shading your house and your air conditioning unit with deciduous elements but also reduce your overall water requirements of your house by considering native plants, removing green lawn or even going so far as to xeriscape. Replace the ground cover elements with stone mulch or gravel that require less maintenance over time and also less water from your local environment.

This is important even here in the Midwest where I’m located. Choosing plantings for your garden that don’t require excessive watering is always a smart choice. But particularly in other parts of the country where water is at a premium these days, it might be expedient as well as eco-friendly to choose less thirsty plants.

Okay, I’ll get back off my soapbox, and just encourage you to have a little fun around your house this summer. Look for some bright, cheerful tidy home improvement projects. I hope I’ve given you something you want to start with. And here’s what I’d love for you to do next, pop up on your phone, open up Instagram and send me a direct message to let me know what project is first on your mental to do list or send a picture of a project you’ve just finished. I would love to cheer you on.

If you need a little more inspiration than this episode to get you going, here are three easy ways that I can help you. And as a reminder, mid Midwest is the name of the business, but you do not need to be in the Midwest. We’ve done projects from Washington DC to Washington State. And okay, a whole lot of projects in the Midwest too.

If you’re looking for some quick design advice, you don’t want to make the effort of getting out the paint brushes or calling up the house painting team to change everything about the front of your house until you know you’re going to like it. Just get someone to hold your hand. Someone who cares about mid-century and give you some advice some confirmation a permission slip before you get started call up and get in one of my easy one hour design SOS consultation zoom calls, I will look at your project. We can walk around it together, look at photos talk it through, and you’ll walk away feeling so much more confident about what you’re about to take on.

If you’re looking for ongoing support and a little loving kick in the pants on a regular basis to your plans rolling you might want to join ready to remodel. If you’d like to learn more about that or just more in depth information about the Master Plan method, I was talking about at the beginning of the episode check out my free masterclass how to plan an MCM remodel to fit your life and budget at mid mod dash midwest.com/ready to remodel.

Or let Mid Mod Midwest do your design thinking for you. If you really want a big picture preview for everything, you’re going to do on your remodel inside and out. You want a master plan. Apply to work with us today.

Next week on the podcast, I’m going to send you a little song about one of my very favorite things, sketching and their power to get your ideas sorted out quickly and help you think creatively and come up with ideas you might never have thought of otherwise.

Oh, and there might just be a one day sale on all our mid modern model educational products next week, the occasion. I’m having a birthday for me and giving you a present. So don’t forget to listen to next week’s episode on Thursday. I’ll catch you then mid mod remodelers. See you next week.