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I Design, You Decide: The Mountain House Exterior

What a beautiful mountain house…that sadly is not ours (yet). For you see, the exterior of our mountain house is a hodgepodge of finishes and colors and now that we’ve ripped open all the walls to put in larger windows, it HAS to be redone regardless of the fact that […]

What a beautiful mountain house…that sadly is not ours (yet). For you see, the exterior of our mountain house is a hodgepodge of finishes and colors and now that we’ve ripped open all the walls to put in larger windows, it HAS to be redone regardless of the fact that we actually didn’t mind it. I had thought about going the cheapest route and just painting it all the same color to unify it, but there is that little annoying mini-me that sits on my shoulder, saying are you sure you aren’t missing an opportunity? Is that really what a designer would do? But the real question is who is going to pay for this? Because I know first hand how much it is to redo an exterior (remember our Glendale house?) and if you aren’t careful, it can get into the six digits REALLY FAST. What I said to my crew recently was “listen, I know we need to improve this, but we are not an ‘exterior house blog’.” My original goal is to make it look better where it counts (front and back) but save money on the sides or areas where it’s less visible while keeping it consistent, obviously, but then even that was so expensive. But per usual, I’ll walk you through the whole process so you can get fully inside this exterior.

Here is what she looks like, pre-renovation.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Exertior Options Before With Copy 01

Here are the issues:

The roofline is wack, especially on the front. That double little peak is silly, although it might hide the addition in the back more. But we don’t care enough to spend the likely $7,500 it would take to fix it, and it might be more. If I were an architect or a general contractor who had to show my work to the world, that would be one thing, but we are prioritizing our money on making the interiors beautiful or the exterior more functional (like Brian’s precious hot tub corner).

There are five different materials/finishes making up the exterior of the house:

  1. Lap siding (which lives on the left side and front). I like a lap, sure, nothing is wrong with that. I don’t even mind it with the shingles, but it just seems like if the sides and back are all reverse board and batten then maybe the lap should go. This isn’t cheap plastic lap (nor expensive), by the way. Just common lap siding. This lap siding is also over the other two chimneys in the back and we don’t know what is underneath it right now.
  2. Shingles (on front exterior). Now, I don’t mind the shingles even though these aren’t real—they are the MDF version but still kind of charming and could be fine painted or mixed with one color.
  3. Brick. We have red brick OVER the lap on the front of the house and on the chimney, over the reverse board and batten on the sides and back, and all of that mixed with decking painted a dark orange (yay!!) and lattice (eek)…it’s A LOOK.
  4. Decking. This is painted a dark orangey-brown which, as you can imagine, is not my spirit color. It’s on the front, sides and on the back (although the ground floor deck is rotted so we have to replace that regardless).
  5. Lattice. Sexy, sexy, lattice painted in the same orange-brown of the deck.

On the back, we have the vertical board and batten, painted shingles, lap siding (on the chimney!) and dark wood decking.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Exterior Siding Options Before 02

But see? The color of the back of the house is actually so sweet! Sure, a dark house could be pretty, but I think that the back, all in mostly one color, already works pretty well.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Exterior Before With Copy 03 Final

We aren’t going to change it all, but we need to improve it. We just replaced all the old thin and damaged windows with gorgeous Marvin windows.

First things first: What color are we thinking?

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Exterior I Design You Decide For Blog Inspiration Images1
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Well, sadly there are some limitations. We don’t have every option available to us to choose from as the community prefers you to paint exteriors in “earth tones” which we were told means beige, brown or green and you get fined if you don’t. I get it…the colors of the mountains, and I definitely don’t want to be that hipster A-hole who comes up and paints her house black when no one else does. At the same time, there are a decent amount of deep blue houses up there so I’m like “the ocean is on the earth, right?” But we love the idea of a green house right now, so that is what we are thinking. I had the design team check with the association about the OPTION for blue, and they did say they would approve mid-tone to dark more muted blues—YAY. Also, if our house were set back from the road, surrounded by trees, I think we could have painted it super, super dark without standing out, but since it’s in a neighborhood full of beige, cream, brown and sage houses, we want it to work. The front is on a quiet street with many other houses and the rear backs up to the forest, so it needs to feel appropriate on both sides.

So let’s walk you through our inspiration:

Cabin Exterior Inspirations Dark Green
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Right now, we love a dark body color and only slightly contrasting trim, if at all.

An all-green house, like the below, seems appropriate and charming (and Brian really liked this).

A Frame Cabin Dark Exterior
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Going the dark route was a hard sell for Brian, at first. He kept saying “I don’t want a Halloween house,” but the more I showed him, the more that he agreed it was cool. A medium green could look great, but a dark green would give it a bit of an edge. The below house, despite how un-edgy it is, convinced him that we should do all one color.

Dark Green Cabin
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A Frame Cabin Dark Gray Exterior
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So at this point, he’s cool with something darker, but now we need to figure out what material do we eliminate? Despite being lazy and trying to save money, even I know that we probably shouldn’t have shingles, board and batten, lap, and brick all together (or should we?…keep reading).

Dark Cabin Exterior Colors
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One thing we are pretty into right now is having the trim color be the same as the body or only slightly different. The white on the dark below is pretty for a traditional home, but the monochromatic look is trending, folks.

Dark Blue House White Trim
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Below, you’ll find a mix of materials, board and batten, and siding (which is what we did in Portland and loved it, by the way).

White Siding Home Exterior
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White House Exterior With Porch
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Lastly, we are currently thinking about having a natural wood deck, although I could be convinced to paint it.

Brass House Numbers Dark Wood Cabin Siding
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Look how beautiful that bleached deck is. I’m sure that you need to seal it and that is probably one of those photos that contractors look at and laugh at, but I love how that looks and it obviously adds some warmth.

So Velinda cooked up a bunch of options for us.

I know that many of you are going to skim right past this, but for those of you interested, here is a deeper dive into exterior house combo options before we get to the final two.

Exterior Options 2Exterior Options 2

There is a combination of two green paint colors, with varied chimney finishes and different materials. I like to see all the options and so does Brian, especially when SO many of them could look good, but we had her narrow it down to two that we liked.


Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer House I Design You Decide Exterior Option 1

Option one WAS to get rid of the shingles and the horizontal siding and keep all the existing board and batten and then match the rest. Great.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer House I Design You Decide Exterior Option 2

For option two, we’d do a lighter green and plaster the brick with a schmear (like we did on the interior fireplace), nix the shingles but keep the horizontal siding and the board and batten.

Before we posted this though, I had a last minute thought that maybe I should ask my contractor to give us a quote on those. We also had him quote us for just repairing the house and painting it all one color. I was SHOCKED at the cost.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer I Design You Decide Exterior 3 Options 1

That’s right. It was pretty nauseating. And it’s a $20k difference. We canceled the I Design, You Decide for the materials because this wasn’t something that was in the budget (ha, “budget”…that’s a hilarious word) so we are doing anything to keep the costs down while making sure that this house still looks good.

So, I told Velinda that we would save at all costs and just choose between two different colorways. We also got the good news that they would approve a blue, just not a crazy bright blue. We still love the green, but happy that we have two options for us to decide between.

First up, we just paint it all the same dark green. We keep the different materials but unify them through color.

Emilyhendersondesign Mountainfixer Exterior I Design You Decide Option 1 Green Copy 1

Honestly, it looks really good and when it’s dark enough, it’s so seamless you barely notice all the varying finishes. I think if I were an architect or a general contractor that blogged about my work, I might invest it making it look better, but we just need to save resources for the interior as that’s where my focus is.

Here it is in a dark moody blue, which I love, too. We have to steer clear from being too close to black, but I’m leaning toward going darker while making sure there’s a little green undertone in it (so it doesn’t go too purple).

Emilyhendersondesign Mountainfixer Exterior I Design You Decide Option 2 Blue Copy 1

Depending on budget, we might just paint the deck the same blue, but I love the idea of warming it up with a natural wood tone, it just has to be the right wood. And we will paint the chimney a matte charcoal, but honestly that is still kinda up in the air.

So there you go. All that time and effort designing these finish changes when really it’s just “green or blue.” I love either. We haven’t chosen the exact colors yet as we are awaiting a potential paint partner (which would be so lovely), so stay tuned on that front but if you have any favorite specific blues or greens, please leave in the comments. But either way, she is going to be moody and mountainy and that a unifying color will help it feel modern. Heck, maybe the different finishes are actually kinda charming, but you tell me. Do you think it’s a mistake NOT to take down the lap siding and the shingles? Or do you agree that it’s a great place to save money? Our decision is made and the work is already in progress (and they are moving FAST) so it can’t be changed, but if you have opinions, please do tell.

So now, VOTE!

Option One – Dark Green


Option Two – Dark Blue


(Vote by Wednesday, September 12th to have your voice heard.)

Thank you for doing your daily design duty.
Your vote has my vote 🙂


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