You are in luck, Ranch Owner, because the mid-century front door was made for your house. I’ll break down how you can get or make your own perfect Mid-Century front door. This works whether you are simply aiming for a spin through Etsy or planning major renovation.
Note: this was originally posted in January of 2019. It has been updated and now includes a podcast episode for those who’d rather listen than read!
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Let’s step back and discuss the possibilities for easy mid-century ranch updates in a more universally applicable way.
We’ll begin with the three levels in infographic form:
Resources to Update a Mid-Century Front Door
- Join me for the Exteriors Clinic on March 18 – register this week to get the early bird discount!
- Grab the Front Door Facelift checklist!
- Take a peek at my Mid Century Front Door Pinterest Board.
- Find great mid century-friendly front door resources at:
- Learn how to get ready to remodel in 2023 by watching my FREE Masterclass, “How to Plan an MCM Remodel to Fit Your Life(…and Budget)”, ON DEMAND.
And you can always…
- Join us in the Facebook Community for Mid Mod Remodel
- Find me on Instagram:@midmodmidwest
- Find the podcast on Instagram: @midmodremodelpodcast
If you want to skip ahead to the How-To portion of this post, feel free:
What is a Mid-Century Door: what are we talking about here anyway?
- Buy In: Tips and tricks for an eye catching front door
- Power Up: Medium sized DIY projects to add pop to your whole entry
- Call A Pro: when (and why)to get expert help for a dramatic change
My own Front Door Journey (ongoing)
I was instantly drawn to my sweet front door from the moment I drove up following the realtor. That doesn’t mean I thought it was doing everything right. It had a cohesiveness I could appreciate even though it wasn’t either my style OR the style I felt was most appropriate for a tuned up mid-century house.
The owners of my house had defaulted to the traditional ranch.
They had a white rail fence, a pair of carriage lamps . One on a dangerously leaning post and one next to the door above the faux hammered-iron mailbox. The house numbers were also faux blacksmith style minimal traditional.
The brightest thing about it – the red painted door – was rapidly fading to sad pink. And it was hidden by a rusting half-lite storm door.
Even the classic mid-century hedges were growing out of control. They were filled with generations of odd lost trash objects that had sifted down to the void over the years.
Note: This kind of sculpted evergreen hedge is SUPER high maintenance. Absent their owners’s pruning for just two months they were sprouting energetic little shoots trying to break out of their rigid boxes.
I knew I had a lot of changes to make.
Here’s a quick run down of some of the things I’ve done and still plan to do for my own entry that you’ll recognize from both the infographic above and the rest of the post below!
My ACTUAL first step towards improving the curb appeal of the house was huge and labor intensive; I scraped and sanded off the toxic peeling toothpaste green and painted my renewed wood siding in the medium grey.
[Tweet “I painted my house that medium grey which is the universal signifier of “I am a millennial first time homeowner planning to take on a lot of mid-century style DIY on this house!“]
What I’ve done
My first step toward fixing up a snappy mid-century front door was much more simple:
I bought the ModBox mail box I’d been obsessing about via Pinterest for a while popped it on the house. Over the next year I tackled the following:
- Painted the front door to match mailbox with a paint I had matched at my local paint store!
- Turned up the design on the lighting with a budget friendly but sleek white light from Home Depot.
- Enclosed the former breezeway with a cedar slat wall (which will eventually befriend the replacement fence when I get to that).
- Built a new slat fence outside the front walk and attached some snappy Modern House Numbers to it!
When all is said and done, I won’t change the roof line or build a generous deck over my front door steps (as I wish I could). I had to promise myself and my handyman helper Dad that we wouldn’t go OVERBOARD with the work on this theoretically temporary house. I think I will have taken an extremely modest 1952 ranch from tired to the trendy tip of modern mid-century styling.
Note: I’ve noticed a slew of ModBox mailboxes popping up on surrounding blocks since I put mine up two years ago. What is popular may not always be right (according to the middle school poster) but it can sure feel fun to be cool!
Alright, lets get down to brass tacks. What defines a mid-century front door? Before we dive into the How, lets talk about What makes up that signature Mid-century look …
What defines a mid-century front door
There are a few key elements to employ to ensure your front door looks as mid mod as possible.
Color pallets shifted a bit through the mid-century decades, but this was not a bashful era. For your front door you can go for color POP. Pick your favorite lime, teal or butterscotch and bold.
Unlike almost every era before, the mid-century house did not organize itself symmetrically around the front door with a matched array of one, two or three windows on either side. The Mid Mod designers were more casual. Just as they experimented with open plans on the inside, they were busy changing what a house had to look like on the outside. Feel free to throw symmetry out the window as you re-think your front door.
Variety of texture/material:
Most mid-century ranches have more than one material on their facade. Some have stone base walls, others a dramatic brick chimney, and the most modest still tend to vary vertical siding against horizontal. Mix it up! Feel free to add natural materials or fun manufactured ones – BREEZEBLOCK! – to add interest to the simple ranch form.
Level ONE: Buy In
If you are just dipping your toe into the waters of either Mid-century modern or updating your ranch house, start small.
Try just two things.
Note: Don’t pick only one thing off this list. Remember, Mid-century is all about asymmetry and keeping the eye off balance, so you need multiple elements in play.
Pick out a mid-century style mailbox. Here’s one I LOVE. Then buy a quart of paint in the same color and make your mid-century front door pop.
Did you know you can get an exact match at the paint store? You can … and its a blast. Here’s the post where I rave about how much fun it was when I gave my front door this one-two color punch.
Further Note: I do not advise you to paint your shutters to match too … because I do not advise you to have shutters. See this post on how Shutters on a Ranch house are the ABSOLUTE WORST.
If you aren’t matching your mid-century front door to the color of the mailbox, feel free to experiment. Paint samples, or better yet, paint your door with a sample quart from the paint store. Then paint it again. Then again. My neighbor re-painted her front door four times before she found the color she LOVED to walk up to. Now she gets compliments all the time!
Want to keep going? Here are a few more to do items!
A few more dollars and some elbow grease will get you a lot farther. Update your house lights and house numbers.
With a fun door, light, mailbox and house number combo just about anyone notice and appreciate your house proud efforts.
When you’re thinking house numbers, why not go BIG? They will stand out from the crowd, make your neighbors jealous AND make it easy for your friends, guests, and Amazon delivery to find you when they drive along your street.
You can make your own designer house numbers on the cheap by painting them yourself, cutting them from translucent stickers for your windows (as I have) or by attaching smaller numbers to a bigger element like a fence, post or placard.
You can also add color or texture with oversized planters or seating elements. Think powder coat metal, cedar slat or bright ceramic.
Remember, the mid-century front door isn’t about matching every piece – its about balancing elements that talk to each other. So while you might want to have a bright colored mailbox and the same colored front door, you don’t want to put that same color everywhere. Mix it up with a (small) variety color or materials around the entry.
Level TWO: Power UP
For bigger mid-century moves, focus on asymmetry. Play up any irregular elements in your facade. Use new elements to “aim” your eye to the front door from the sidewalk, the garage door, any way you (or your guests) approach the door. Keep the eye moving.
A good way to think about this is to create two (or three) visual blocks that stretch in different directions – one horizontal and one more vertical.
You can see it in the sketch above.
This was/is a great move for my own house because I had THE MOST SIMPLE MATERIAL PALLATE. It was literally just 8″ horizontal siding. No brick, no stone, not even an area of vertical siding near the door.
To fix this I have added in a square-ish wall of cedar slats that fills the front of the old breezeway. It’s great and I love it BUT the house won’t be complete until the spring when I can dig post holds for a new low, horizontal fence to run along the entry sidewalk.
Here’s a particularly subtle example. This whole ranch is an exercise in understatement but it has the mix of textures, and asymmetrical un-balance we’ve been talking about. The door offset to the right with covered walk way leading to the left, the differing heights of wreath and mailbox and the two different brick wall heights all keep your eye bouncing around, picking up more detail. The white is so bright it might as well be a color pop. LOVELY!
Here are some other DIY project you can take on to improve the mid-century character of your front entry.
Replace the front door:
You can infinitely improve your front door with a splash (or roller) of paint but if it is hopelessly colonial under that paint job … you might eventually want to step it up. The Diva of preserving mid-century houses, Pam Kueber over at retrorenovation.com, has assembled this great list of places where you can get an authentic mid mod style front doors.
If you have the DIY fever, or want to get really custom you can MAKE A MID-CENTURY DOOR YOURSELF with a kit from makeitmidcentury.com where Susan Halla, a fellow architect, helps people achieve their Mid Mod dreams. You can tell all the people who compliment your new door that you built it yourself!
They also provide kits to improve and adorn your garage door in marvelous mid-century style. Check out the options here!
Improve your steps and stoop:
Most vintage front stoops are too narrow. You want to have a place for multiple people to stand or one person to stand back and juggle a package while the door swings open. Note: don’t go to big. You don’t need to plan a space for a dozen carol singers to gather once a year.
Add Cover Overhead:
If you feel up to it, adding a portico, pergola, or extending your roof is a great project at this level. Some ranches come with covered porches and if yours doesn’t this is a marvelous way to make your guests feel more welcome and encourage you to stop coming and going through the garage!
Enliven the Landscaping:
If you have a green thumb, dig in with adding several varieties of texture and height to the area between your house and the street. Nothing looks homlier (not good) than a tiny ranch planted in a sea of bare lawn. Ranches are supposed to be low, horizontal, and connected to the surrounding landscape. Give yours a hand by transitioning between house and yard with plants.
Play with Planter(s):
Plants don’t only need to go in the ground. Raised planters are not only easier to tend but they have more visual punch as well. They can look good even when emptied out for winter or be left with some year-round shrubberies intact. Mix and match planters and fence elements to create a sense of privacy up to your mid-century front door.
Extend a walk way to the sidewalk:
One of my pet peeves is a house approach where guests have to walk up the drive way – car space – to get to your front door. Why not connect the house to the public way directly. Pretend you live like a pedestrian.
This is where you can really go nuts with Pinterest ideas. There will be so many great projects online to emulate that you’ll never have time to try them all. Remember to look beyond the Mid-century style for your How-To information.
I like to search FamilyHandyman.com whenever I’m taking on a mid-sized project. They have amazing step-by-step tutorials for everything from how build a window-well retaining wall to how to set a fence post. Even though their aesthetic is more traditional/cottage, I can follow their methods and then give my projects a mid mod twist!
Mid-century friendly materials to use around your mid-century front door: painted wood, wood slats, breeze block, concrete.
Level THREE: Call a Pro
To go all in, you will likely need to bring in a design professional and a contractor. Options include building a deck or patio out from the door or changing up the roof line. If you are planning an addition, make sure it works WITH your entry and strengthens it rather than ruining your whole aspect.
Remember, the ideal mid-century front door has a protected space to stand while you fumble with your keys or knock and wait to be let in.
Take your ranch from dull to daring by adding a cross gable over the entry. You can wrap over the garage and make that part of your entry statement.
You can get a one-two punch of exterior face lift and interior re-design.
A big enough change can dramatically improve your interior spaces, too. Perhaps this is a chance to raise up the ceiling in your living area, improve your solar aspect, pull in more natural light or find a spot for PV panels on your roof.
The sky really is the limit here. Get inspired!
While you’ll never turn a midwest ranch house into a California Eichler (that flat roof would not be smart in the snow) you can definitely look for inspiration around you in both houses that have been remodeled and those with original design features.
- Keep your eyes peeled around Mid-Century neighborhoods. (Here’s how to find them!)
- My instagram feed is full of inspiration.
- Pinterest should be your GO TO for this. Here’s a custom board on Mid-century Front Doors to get you started in your search.
I’m am particularly a fan of wide low-slope cross gables (like my level three example below) to DRAMATICALLY change the facade of a simple ranch. This doesn’t have to involve increasing your footprint – unless you want it to.
Note: all of these sketches are different versions of my house. Each of these levels of change are totally possible on even the most builder basic ranch!
Dream big. This is how amazing transformations can happen!
This is not an either/or situation. You don’t have to limit yourself to just one level of making a great Mid Mod Front Entry for yourself. Feel free to treat these as phases in an ongoing process. Start with a brightly painted front door and then see how far down the rabbit hole you’ll go!
How is YOUR Mid-Century front door?
Do you have a fabulous mid-century front door? Or a weird / problematic one you can’t figure out how to fix? Post about in the comments. I would LOVE to brainstorm with you or cheer you on!
Read the Full Episode Transcript
You love your mid century house. But do you have a lovable mid century front door? What does the outside of your house say to the world and to you about the life you’re living inside it. If your home needs a curb appeal tune up, then this episode is for you. Today, let’s talk about how to take your mid-century front door from drab to dramatic, my friends. We’re gonna have some fun with this. Let’s 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 season 11 Episode 10. This episode is a companion to a blog post I wrote several years ago and have recently updated it’s got a lot of helpful visuals that you may want to check out.
And if we’re going to be getting started, the first thing you want to do is grab my free mid mod front door guide. This resource is a checklist of the first things you can do to improve your mid century house front door aspect. So go grab it and see everything that is going to illustrate what I’m talking about today at the show notes page midmod-midwest.com/1110.
But now if you really want to get serious about shining up your front door and more, if you want to take your home’s curb appeal to the next level, then I want you to sign up for the mid century exteriors clinic I’m giving to my ready to remodel students on March 18.
Now during this two hour Saturday workshop, I will be answering all of the questions about mid century exterior upgrades. Wondering if you need to replace your siding? Sure, I’ll give you a criteria to decide if it needs to go or stay. And the best options for reciting a mid century house what you need to know about trim single or multiple color palettes, etc. If you’re curious about replacement windows, we’ll talk about why you might or might not want to and what works best for a mid century house and how to make affordable choices.
I’ll be detailing not just what you want to use, but how you can place house numbers lights, your mailbox and other design elements to best midcentury effect. You get the picture. So sign up for the clinic. It’s free to my ready to remodel students. But you can join us and workshop your house in two weeks in real time right alongside us for just $47 if you sign up for the early bird price. I will see you there.
Alright, let’s get into the topic. A charming mid century house may not after all these years still have a charming exterior. It might simply be rundown from its original qualities, or it may have had some mistaken replacement effects done in the 80s 90s early 2000s that have damaged its mid century creds. So whatever the state of your house is right now, we’re going to talk about how you can make it more mid century charming and modern appealing at the same time.
Now here’s a little bit about my own mid-century front door journey – ongoing. I was instantly drawn to my sweet front door from the moment I drove up to the house following the realtor. That doesn’t mean I thought it was doing everything right. It had a cohesiveness that I could appreciate even though it wasn’t my style or the style that I felt was most appropriate for it tuned up mid century house.
The previous owners of my house had definitely defaulted to the traditional ranch. They had a white split rail fence, a pair of carriage lamps, one was on a dangerously leaning post and the other one next to the door above faux hammered iron mailbox. The house numbers were also in that sort of faux blacksmith, minimal traditional style. The brightest thing about the whole house, the red painted door was fading back to a sort of sad salmon pink and hidden behind a rusting half Lightstorm door.
Even the classic mid century hedges were growing out of control and filled with as I later found out two generations of lost trash, including paper plates that had sifted down through the greenery, and were hidden, sort of rotting behind an impenetrable hedge over the years.
Note this kind of sculpted evergreen hedge is super high maintenance absent the former owners pruning for just two months, they were sprouting energetic little shoots and trying to break out of their rigid boxes. I ended up deciding to pull the move that hedge so that I could repaint the house more easily. The bottom line is I knew I had a lot of changes I wanted to make. And here’s a quick rundown of some of the things I’ve done for the house and still plan to do for my own home that you’ll recognize from following me on Instagram or listening to this podcast.
My first actual step towards improving the curb appeal of my front house was huge and labor intensive. I don’t necessarily recommend this as a step one to you. But I scraped and sanded off the lead paint, which was peeling so dangerous, and toothpaste green, not my favorite, which renewed all of my original wood siding was otherwise in great shape. And I painted it of course, Della Hansmann millennial gray. My first step towards fixing up the snappy mid century door was much more simple. I bought a mod box mailbox, which I’ve been obsessing about for a while and popped it on the house.
Over the next few years I got around to painting the front door to match that mailbox. With a paint I matched at my local paint store, tuned up design and lighting by replacing the vintage carriage lamps with modern, relatively sleek, white lights from Home Depot. I would love to go further and replace them with something in like a bow tie pattern from Hip Haven, but I haven’t got around to it yet. I created a set of jaunty house numbers by cutting the neutral font style out of a sheet of stick-on rice paper from Home Depot and attached them to my front door lights. Later I came back and put house numbers from modern house numbers onto a new fence I added in place at the original split rail fence.
I closed off my former gaping sort of empty haunted looking breezeway with a cedar slat wall that became now more garage space behind it and then actually a mudroom space that opens off my kitchen in the second half of the breezeway, I replaced that horrible leaning fence with a new one in Cedar slats that matches this leader slat design of the breezeway closure, and I’ve got some other plans to maybe build out my front stoop at some point.
I’ve continued to do little painting projects painting the white trim around my door to match the house in gray, painting the garage door (which had been never painted before) white to match the house and blend out of the color a little bit more. I’ve thought of other things I could do to the house that go a lot further, like, for example, change the roofline or build a generous covered deck over my mid-century front door steps as I wish I could. But I don’t want to go overboard on this house.
I think I have taken this from an extremely modest 1952 ranch…the tired end. To the trendy tip of modern mid century styling on a budget and with relatively little effort spread out over a couple of years. One fun thing is I’ve noticed that I’ve made changes to my house and some of those changes I’ve seen repeated around the neighborhood.
Now this could just be a coincidence. But I do think it was interesting that within the year, I put a mod box mailbox on my house, I saw a whole bunch of them popping up on the surrounding blocks. And my dog walk survey, which is very unscientific has really seen that this is taking off in our area. I would be very curious to find out if they’ve noticed a surge in the Madison area or particularly in the Midvale Heights neighborhood since I put mine up and started to post about it on Instagram all the time.
Here’s a fun thing you’ll find when you tune up your mid century house. What’s popular might not always be right, according to the middle school poster, but it can be fun to be cool. And if you make a change to your house, you might find that some of your neighbors follow suit.
A neighbor down the block actually ended up doing a paint job on their house that exactly matched my own. Which didn’t totally thrill me only because I left the trimmer on my windows white because they were replacement windows with metal that I didn’t want to start a cycle of painting, and they painted their original wood trim white. If I had been able to tell them what I did, and why rather than they just looked at my house and seemed to like it, I would have advised them to paint their trim gray as well. That’s another topic for another day.
So here’s the question, what can you do for your home? This spring is coming. And if you want to make a few changes, the first thing you want to know is what defines a mid century front door. What makes a great mid century front door look? Here are a few key design elements to keep in mind no matter what the scale of change you want to make for your house is.
First bold color colored palettes shifted throughout the mid century decades, but this was not a bashful era. This was an era of colorways. So for your front door, the simplest thing rather than changing your color of your whole house, change the color of your front door. Go for pop. Pick your favorite lime teal, butterscotch, orange (if you want to match me feel free, I won’t feel upset if you copy me) or red. Basically, you want it to be fun and bold.
Then you want to think about shapes. Unlike almost every era before the mid century house did not organize itself symmetrically with everything on either side of the front door matching an array of one two or three windows or one two or three carriage lamps, etc. We are focused on asymmetry. The mid mod designers were more casual. Just as they experimented with open plants on the inside, they were busy changing what the feel of the house had to look like on the outside, so feel free to throw symmetry out the window as you rethink your front door.
And the third thing to bear in mind is a variety of texture and materials. Most mid century ranch houses have more than one material on their facade. Not mine is the most modest version so it has only wooden siding. But many houses in my neighborhood and yours have stone knee walls or brick. The most modest even have just a variety of vertical siding and horizontal mix it up. Feel free to add natural materials or fun manufactured ones. If your house doesn’t have enough detail, think about a breezeblock wall to add interest to the simple ranch form.
Now with those basics in mind, let’s talk about what you could do right away literally in a weekend if the weather holds to improve your home’s curb appeal. And that of course is a level one remodeling project. Today we’re going to focus most of our time and attention on the level one things you can do to improve your mid-century front door area because if you haven’t done these things yet, do them right away.
Remember, the other nice thing about a level one project is that it’s a low investment of time and money. So if you want to do something level one for satisfaction, right now, you can come back and do them over again more intensely next year or a couple of years from now, and you haven’t lost anything. Because a little one improvement is often a product you’ve purchased. You could purchase a fun new mailbox for your house right now, and then take it off again, when you update the siding and reinstall it on your new more elaborate front door area when you get back around to it.
Don’t wait for that happy day in the future when you’ve got the budget and the time to resign your entire house in order to have a mid-century front door you like right now. Don’t wait for the budget to replace your weird 90s cut glass door, paint the door you have and then replace it later. You’ve lost nothing. But you have won looking at a color pop that makes you smile every day. So if you’re just dipping your toe into the waters of either any home improvement projects whatsoever, or into mid century modern, let’s start small.
Start with just two things. Now here’s the caveat, don’t pick just one thing I’m saying because mid century is all about asymmetry and keeping your eye off balance moving around. So you need a couple of elements in play. So to start, I would recommend with picking a mid century style mailbox. I love my box mailbox, both their house mounted versions and their street variety.
But there’s a couple of other great midcentury mailbox designers out there. Grab one that suits you. This is also the easiest way to pick the color for your pop your mid-century front door or your entire house siding. Because you can take this mailbox to the paint store and have it matched by a cord in the same color and make your front door pop. I’ve done a blog post about how you can do this. But basically just go to your local paint store with an object and they’ve got a laser scanner that can exactly match the color and produce a paint to be a perfect match just as if it was planned that way.
Note, I do not advise you to paint your shutters to match your front door and your mailbox because I do not advise you to have shutters, I’ve talked about this in other places. But shutters on a mid century house are really only appropriate if you’re going for the entirely twee mid century traditional cottage look. And that’s not what I teach anyone who listens to mid modern model.
So if you aren’t inclined to match your front door to the color of your mailbox, go ahead feel free to experiment. I like simplicity. So I have one color on the entire front of my house. One accent color for the entire front of my house and it’s orange. I have an orange mailbox, an orange mid-century front door and an orange snow shovel that sits out front all winter long.
My sister who loves a multiplicity of colors, has one color for her front door which is matched by the interior living room. While you can see from the street and daylight. Her mailbox has two other coordinating colors. And she’s got a couple of other coordinated colors that flip around the area, too. So feel free to experiment paint samples, or better yet, paint your door with a sample quart and then paint it again. And then paint it again until you get it right. My neighbor Bree painted her mid-century front door four times before she found the color she loved to walk up to and now she gets compliments all the time.
So if you want to keep going do a few more easy weekend elbow grease projects, update your house lights, just replace the exact lights you have with others in the same spot. If you are familiar with DIY-able electrical work, this is a homeowner project you can do in a weekend. If you’ve never done an electrical wiring before, this is something you hire out. But it’s still a relatively straightforward project.
Update your house numbers. Next week on the podcast I’m going to be talking with the owners of modern house numbers which is one of my favorite modern house number companies. We’ll talk about this in more detail next week, but the default advice for modern house numbers of any source is go as big as you can. This is both a style thing and also just practical. You want the UPS guy and the pizza delivery guy to be able to find your house very easily.
With just those elements of fun front door color, new lights, a mailbox and bold house numbers, you’ve made some changes that just about anybody walking by on the street will stop and appreciate. Remember, the midcentury front door isn’t about everything matching. It’s about balancing. So where do you go from there?
From that point on, we’re kind of talking about level two moves. For bigger mid century moves, focus up on asymmetry. Play up any irregular elements in your facade, use new elements to aim your eye to the front door from the sidewalk to the garage door. or any other way you want your guests to approach the front door. You can do this with landscaping planting or with a decorative fence. A good way to think about this is to create two or three visual blocks that stretch in different directions. One piece of something around your house that’s more horizontal and linear. This might be a fence or a knee wall of brick that already exists, and one that’s more vertical. This might be a natural planting, or it might be siding turning in a different direction. I’ve got some sketches of this in the show notes page.
Here’s a checklist of other level two things you might do to improve your front door area. You could replace the door itself. If you have your original mid-century front door – hurray you may be in luck, it might just need a tune up. But if someone has replaced it in the interstitial era, then you definitely want to bring it back to the mid century period. I highly recommend you check out retrorenovation.com where the diva of preserving mid century houses, Pam Cooper, has assembled a great list of places where you can source an authentic mid mod style front door.
Or if you’d like a more modern mid century door, you can find a bunch of these from the various door replacement sources. If you have a lot of DIY energy, you can just get a simple slab door and then make a custom mid-century front door with a kit from make it mid century. There are links to all these things in the show notes page. By the way. Once you’ve got a great front door itself, remember now paint that into a color you love or if you’ve chosen to get it in a lovely wood stain that’s awesome.
All right, you can improve your steps and stoop. Most builder basic vintage front door stoops are too narrow. You want to have a place for a couple of people to stand. Or for one person to stand back and juggle a large package or some furniture coming in while the door swings open. Now you don’t want to go too big. You don’t need a space for a dozen carol singers to gather once a year. But you do want to have a space where even you yourself might want to sit with a cup of coffee and a calm front door watching dog not my dog and watch the world go by.
You might also want to add overhead protection. Add a portico a pergola or extend your roofline. This is a great project level to some ranches do come with covered porches. And if yours does, hurray. But if it doesn’t, this is a marvelous way to make your guests feel more welcome. And encourage you to stop coming and going through the garage and actually use your mid-century front door. It’s really unpleasant to fumble with your keys outside when it’s precipitating on you. So having a place to stand undercover. This just helps to extend the feeling of entry as you come into the house. And actually protect your inside of your house from whether when the door opens and closes.
You can also enliven your landscaping. If you have a green thumb add varieties of texture and height to the area between your house and the street level. Nothing looks homelier, not good, than a tiny ranch just sort of sitting alone in a sea of bare lawn. Ranches are supposed to be low, horizontal and connected to their surrounding landscape.
So give yours a hand by transitioning between the house and yard with some plantings. And you can also put plants into planters they don’t only not only need to go on the ground, raised beds or planters are not only easier to attend, but they have more visual punch. They can look good when they’re emptied out for the winter or be left with some year round strawberries intact. Mix and match planters and fence elements to create a sense of privacy right up to your front door.
And then also extend a walkway all the way up to the sidewalk. One of my pet peeves is a house approach where the guests have to walk up the driveway a car space in order to get to your mid-century front door. So why not connect the house to the public way directly? Pretend you live like a pedestrian. This is where you can really go nuts with Pinterest ideas. There are so many great projects online that to emulate that you’ll never have time to try them all.
I like to search the familyhandyman.com Whenever I’m taking on a midsize project like this, they have great step by step tutorials for everything from how to build a window wall retaining wall to how to set a fence post. Their aesthetic is much more traditional or cottage than mid mod, but you can follow their methods and then get the projects a mid century twist. This is absolutely what I do when I’m DIY something I haven’t designed or done before.
If you want to go a little bigger on your project, you’ll be calling a pro. To go all in you need to bring in a professional a contractor or a team thereof. Options include you could build a deck or a patio straight out from your front door you could change the roofline. If you’re planning a small addition, make sure it works with your entry rather than ruining your house.
The ideal front door has a protected space to stand where you fumble with your keys or where someone knocks and waits to be let in. You can take your ranch from doll to daring by adding a cross gable over the front entry that is a pitched roof that points towards the street instead of runs parallel to it. You could wrap that over the garage and make that part of your entry statement. I’ve got a sketch of how my house could have been transformed if I really wanted to go all in with a cross gable entry and it is dramatic.
A big enough change can change the quality of your interior spaces too. So this might be your chance to raise the ceiling in your living area to improve your solar aspect to get more passive solar heating to pull in more natural light or find a spot for PV panels on your roof. The sky is really the limit here. Now you’ll never turn a modest Midwestern ranch house into a California Eichler. That flat roof wouldn’t be smart in the snow. But you can look for inspiration around you in houses that have been remodeled and those with original jauntier, bolder design features. So keep your eyes peeled on my instagram. Follow midcentury Instagram around. Pinterest should be your go to. I have a custom board for midcentury front doors over there to link on the blog page.
But I just want you to think about all the things you could do. And then there narrow it down to what you’re going to do. But dream big.
I’m encouraging you to start making some changes this weekend. But I warn you that once you start to think of one thing you want to change about the front of your house, you tend to think of a lot more, I get a lot of calls from people who realize they’re about to just replace their siding in a pretty permanent way. That’s the idea behind Hardy board or LP SmartSide, you make a choice, that’s going to be low maintenance for you, because you’re not going to recolor or change it for a long time.
But once you start thinking about that choice, it starts to give you a little bit of a panic attack. This is a commitment. How do you know you’re going to do the right color? What other things will be affected by it? You’ll have to remove your light fixtures, your house numbers. This starts to be a pretty big decision. It’s actually what I think of as a decision cascade, when one thing you must change then leads you to a whole host of other decisions.
And this is true. So often, in so many parts of home improvement. If you want to replace the tile floor and your bathroom, you’d have to pull up the toilet. So then there’s a question you need to address. Do I keep the same toilet or replace it, you might reveal some structural issues, perhaps you need to replace sub floor due to an ancient leak that’s been long since addressed. Perhaps changing the color of the tile means you need to address the paint colors or other finished colors elsewhere in the room.
Like I said, this kind of decision cascade is really common. And I get a lot of my design SOS, our concept calls around exterior of house decision cascades. Particularly when someone wants to replace their siding, they’ll call and we’ll end up making a plan for them to update all the parts of their house, from the door to the house members of the mailbox and more.
I told you already we’re gonna be doing mid century exteriors clinic on March 18. But actually, I’ll be addressing the kind of challenge of a materials decision cascade in a new workshop in April, we’ll be talking about how to make a style guide to simplify all those remodeling choices and help you create that cohesive vision for what you want to do in any part of your house or throughout all of it.
The style guide is so wonderful, because when you’re trying to do a whole remodel at once you’ve focused all of your choices, they can be even more useful when you know you’re going to be taking your house one project at a time over the next several years. Because the worst case scenario for a step by step project house is that you end up forgetting and then having to relearn every home improvement lesson and make every choice again, over and over and over every time you tackle a new project.
The alternative, the best case scenario is that it makes your life simpler when you do something again, you’ve done before. And that’s what the style guide method is really designed to do. So to get back to our topic, today, I’ll be taking a style guide approach to any part of your house.
In the April clinic, I’ll be using a small bathroom remodel as an example for my workshop. We’ll be talking about style guides a little in the exterior design clinic, too. But if you’re really thinking about projects for your house, I recommend you sign up for both. Here’s actually a tip, just like the exterior design clinic that’s coming up, if you’re curious about the ready to remodel program, both of these are for ready to remodel students.
And if you’re not one, I encourage you to check out one of these clinics because it’s a great idea for two reasons. One, the well, three reasons. The actual subject matter which will absolutely help you out. Then two additional reasons. The first is that it will give you a really clear idea of my teaching style, you’ll see exactly what you would learn inside of ready to remodel for your home. And the second great reason is that the people who come to these clinics are some of my favorite people to work with inside of ready to remodel. So I typically offer a discount to folks who enroll in the clinic if they decide to join the ready to remodel program afterwards. Just bear that in mind.
And if you’ve been listening to the podcast for a long time and didn’t know this yet, we now offer these clinics. They are alive zoom event you can attend on a weekend, see my face talking in real time ask your questions and get direct feedback on your own problems. But they’re also saved as a recorded event so you can watch them on your own time. And if you’re listening to this podcast months or years after the original airdate, hit pause on this episode and go sign up to take the workshop whenever the timing is right for you. You won’t regret it.
All right, my friend. What are you going to do first for your midcentury front door? Send me a DM on Instagram because I want to hear about it. And I’d love to see a picture of your front door as it is right now. And then maybe one after you’ve improved it. We’re looking at a snowy weekend here in Madison. But depending on where you are, you might be in home improvement weather already and if not, you can start planning right now gathering your ideas gathering your materials. I want to know what you’re going to try first. And I hope I’m going to see you at the exteriors clinic a week from Saturday.
Next week on the podcast I’ll be chatting with the mind behind modern house numbers. So tune in to hear how this great small business helps homeowners like you create mid century updates for their front door areas. Doesn’t that sound topical. And until then, enjoy thinking about your mid century front door.
2 thoughts on “Perfect Your Mid-Century Front Door”
Wonderful post! I have a builer’s model ranch (in Brookfield) designed by Ray Prell, another Wisconsin architect whose style was informed by FLW. The first thing I did after purchase was paint it a sandtone greige, to match the Andersen Windows ‘Sandtone’ casings I’d chosen for the replacement windows.
Searching for the ‘Wright Red’ for the front doors, I settled on a rusty cedar. Wish I’d known about Cherokee Red!
Well … doors can be relatively easy to paint. Its an idea you might test come spring! I don’t know Ray Prell but I’m always adding to my collection of Midwestern Residential Designers. Thanks for another addition to my research list!