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The (Mostly) Complete Exterior Makeover

Our front porch facelift is (mostly) complete! We’re talking through all of the changes that took the front of our home from crooked and worn out to straight and striking.

sconces | swing hardware | rug | ceiling fixture

A Long Time Coming

As long as we’ve been in this home, we’ve wanted to rework the front porch. We’d made the most of it throughout the years, but the perforated aluminum ceiling, crooked angles and permanently filthy trim simply weren’t doing it for us anymore. In a year where we’ve committed to focusing on making the most of our current spaces, it was finally time to create the porch of our dreams!

Front Porch | Before

The 'before' of our Chicago front porch.

Front Porch | After

The 'after' of our Chicago front porch.

​​​​​​sconces | swing hardware | rug | ceiling fixture

This was a multi-faceted project with a lot of moving parts and a handful of delays, but we’re glad we pushed through to wrap it up once and for all! Here’s how it came together.

New Roof, Gutters + Fascia

The first few steps of this refresh were not the most glamorous or exciting, but they were entirely necessary. First, our storm-damaged roof was replaced at almost no cost to us (thanks, insurance!). We used IKO Cambridge Architectural shingles in dual black to replace the former black and grey speckled look. It provided a nice contrast to the light grey siding and fresh white composite trim (more on that later!).

Front of House | Before

Front porch ceiling and gutter 
'before' glamour shot.

Front of House | After

Front porch ceiling and gutter 
'after' glamour shot.
swing hardware | swing rope | ceiling fixture

Once the roof was done, we also installed new gutters, soffits and fascia around the entire home. Again, certainly not the sexiest update, but it was all due to be replaced. During this step of the project, we also had the crew repair a few damaged areas of siding that had been bugging us for years. All of these seemingly unnoticable changes might not make much of a difference on their own, but coupled together, they really clean up the front of the house and emphasize the lines of the traditional structure!

Lifting a Sagging Porch Corner

The next step in the process was to remedy yet another eyesore that was probably only noticed by us. The front right (when facing the home) corner of the porch had begun to sag over time, so the crew unfastened the roof, jacked it up almost two whole inches and reattached it to the supporting post. It’s as level as ever and provided a perfect base for the next couple of upgrades, which were potentially the most impactful…

Composite Trim, Wood Tongue + Groove and New Electrical

Prior to installing the new ceiling, we added a few more largely invisible upgrades. With the end goal of relocating our porch swing, we added extensive blocking between the joists to allow for more placement options. We also added a switched junction box for a gorgeous new ceiling fixture that compliments the existing sconces flanking the front door.

A detail photo of the new porch ceiling and fresh pendant light.
swing hardware | swing rope | ceiling fixture

Next came the composite trim! The porch’s former ‘brake metal’ (custom bent sheet aluminum) trim cladding was warped, dirty and wavy. Our crew removed all of it to expose the supporting beams and wrapped them all in AZEK composite trim. To give the trim a more classic feel, we stacked a few different sizes to create a stepped look that subtly compliments the home’s classic 1887 lines.

For the ceiling, we chose simple, cost-effective pine tongue and groove since we knew we’d be staining it anyway. Speaking of stain, we went back and forth on the color and tried a few samples until we found the exact shade and tone we were looking for. We used Sherwin Williams WoodScapes stain and the winning color was Banyan Brown. It provided just the right amount of warmth without being too red or orange. It compliments our nextdoor neighbor’s cedar fence beautifully without being a perfect match!

The completed front porch in all its glory!
swing cusion | pillows | wall sconce

We were a little uncertain of how we wanted the additional column trim to look, so we had our crew leave the posts bare and we tackled the trim ourselves utilizing leftover AZEK trim. We took a lot of inspiration from the other homes on our block and around our neighborhood and settled on a design that felt classic and proportional.

A closeup of the trim profile we selected for the front porch columns.

Once we completed the trim, our painting contractor took over for a few days and gave all of the trim and railings a fresh coat of white paint. He also stained the ceiling and hit the porch floor and stairs with solid stain for durability.

Exterior Solar Shade

A couple of summers ago we lost a mature, although admittedly kind of ugly, tree from our tree lawn (or parkway, or whatever you call the grass area between the sidewalk and street, depending on your location!). Since the front of our home faces west, we no longer had any afternoon shade and it left the front porch almost unusable through the last few hours of the day. Later that summer, we worked with our friends at Bali Blinds for an exterior solar shade that helped to keep things breezy and much, much cooler.

Scott pulls the looped chain on the reinstalled exterior solar roller shade.

A beautiful new sapling has since been planted by the city, but it’ll be years until it provides us with the amount of shade we need. Since we wanted to get to using the porch as quickly as possible, the exterior shade went back up as soon as the paint had cured. Now that it’s mounted securely on a level, freshly painted porch, it looks even better than it used to!

Styling + Decor

With the exception of the siding (which got a thorough pressure wash along the way), almost every surface of the porch is new and/or freshly painted or stained. While we were at it, we swapped in a few new furniture pieces that suited our needs much better than the pieces they replaced. The outdoor rug with the subtle black stripes plays nicely with the vintage Salterini hoop chairs and really ties the ‘room’ together.

the new rug and side tables compliment the tones of the vintage Salterini chairs and relocated swing.
sconces | swing rope | rug | side tables

We also swapped the pair of Article coffee tables in favor of these new terrazzo side tables, which are also from Article. The new orientation keeps the center area of the porch clear and suits our current needs much better than the old setup. The space now feels breezy and open!

Catfish lounges in one of her favorite spots - the front porch swing!

​​​​​​​Catfish | swing cushion | pillows |swing rope

Final Thoughts and Next Steps

As can be seen from the before and after photos below, we also took matters into our own hands on a few additional changes. The two large junipers got a fresh trim, the lattice surrounding the underside of the porch was pulled down, and we added a new post at the center of the porch for symmetry and extra support.

Front of House | Before

The front of our Chicago home before the project got underway.

As temperatures drop later this summer and into early fall, we plan to completely rework the landscaping in the front yard. With the exception of the two junipers, we’ll likely remove and relocate everything, and we’ll add more layers and depth with the landscaping. We can’t wait!

Front of House | After

The front of our Chicago home after the project was completed.
sconces | swing hardware | swing rope | rug | ceiling fixture

Over the years, we’ve already revamped the front of the house with details like lighting, fresh paint on the front door, a storm door and lots of new windows. Next in line after the landscaping this fall will be the BIG one; We’ll finally replace the siding on the front and sides of the house and upgrade all of the windows that we haven’t swapped thus far. Next summer, maybe?

We’re reminding ourselves that our home is constantly evolving and we simply can’t do it all at once. In the meantime, cheers to progress, and we’ll catch you outside swinging lazily on the swing, cold cocktail in hand!

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  • Stacy8.13.21 - 6:26 AM

    This looks fantastic! I cannot believe how much of a difference removing the lattice made – I’m sure the tenant in the garden appreciates it, but it also did wonders for the view from the street!
    P.S. I laughed out loud when I noticed you added a “source” for Catfish 🐈🐟❤️ReplyCancel

  • Vickie8.13.21 - 7:29 AM

    We have two big porch swings (huge porch) that face each other on opposite ends of the porch.  Our swings are hung by chains which attach at the front of the arm rest and the top of the back of the seat. (There are metal supports at both ends and middle of seat. So it is actually the metal that is being held by the chains.) Every time I see a picture of your porch swing, attached at the bottom, I wonder about the risk of tipping backwards. . .ReplyCancel

  • Karen8.13.21 - 8:14 AM

    That ceiling! It’s wonderful. ReplyCancel

  • Baylee8.13.21 - 9:43 AM

    Glad you mentioned a very unsexy part of updating a house! ReplyCancel

    • Kim8.13.21 - 10:16 AM

      Sexy or not, it all adds up to the greater picture.ReplyCancel

  • meredith8.13.21 - 1:04 PM

    I love these kind of changes that make such a big impact! Not always the most glamorous but completely worth it. Your attention to detail is always so impressive, too.ReplyCancel

  • Julie Marquez8.13.21 - 3:57 PM

    I remember reading your 2021 goal list and it feeling so tame – just work on what you’ve got at home. Then you had the empty condo and you guys busted your butts for a season. I’m so glad to see the front porch finished and better reinforced, and all the better for the enjoyment!ReplyCancel

    • Kim8.14.21 - 8:00 PM

      Aaah, we were so hopeful for more relaxation in the start of the year, haha.ReplyCancel

  • Andrea8.16.21 - 1:36 PM

    We have a porch and steps painted a very similar color to yours. How do you manage to keep it from chipping and peeling when you shovel snow in the winter?ReplyCancel

    • Scott8.16.21 - 3:06 PM

      Hi Andrea! The short answer is… we don’t. :) However, using a plastic shovel as opposed to a metal-tipped one helps a lot. Every year or two in the spring, we get out a mini roller and touch up any spots that need additional coverage. Hope this helps!ReplyCancel

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