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Perk up with Paint: Before

"The homeowners didn't realize what they had," says architectural color consultant Amy Wax of the diamond-pane windows and the stickwork hidden in the gables. She suggested a modern take on classic Victorian-era schemes.

Shown: The 1902 house, in Montclair, New Jersey, was suffering from the blands. The two-tone treatment made it top-heavy and disguised its splendid trim.

Perk up with Paint: After

Photo by Courtesy of Amywax.com

The new palette brings out period style and detail, with crisp, defining lines of red and white, and dark and light green highlighting the shingle and clapboard siding.

A window box on the second floor—standing ready for its summertime infusion of blooms—ties together the two siding colors while reinforcing the polished look.

Helpful handrails in traditional painted wood warm up the welcome and also bring the steps up to code. A curvy path of interlocking concrete pavers replaces the old straight and narrow walkway, adding interest and a more inviting approach.

Paint: Benjamin Moore's Trailing Vines (siding, top), Cheyenne Green (siding, bottom), Navajo White (white trim), and Country Redwood (red trim)

Color Inside the Lines: Before

Situated near a historic district, this emblem of the bungalow era regained its sprightly soul under the guidance of architect Dennis Thompson and interior designer Jessica Risko Smith.

Shown: Despite its cheerful picket fence, the 1920s house, in Santa Barbara, California, seemed to be quaking behind a cloud of tree limbs.

Color Inside the Lines: After

Photo by Jim Bartsch/Thompson Naylor Architects/Allen Construction

A tricolor treatment of turquoise, chocolate, and white turns the original ornate front door—and the unusual stained glass in its transom—into a focal point while adding dimension to the windows, porch-column bases, and other architectural elements. Extra oomph comes from an unexpected fascia pinstripe in the same shade that gives definition to the porch, windows, and rails. "A lot of homes nearby have bold trim, so it worked well in the context of the neighborhood," Smith says.

A lightened-up landscape, in the form of a purple-flowering jacaranda tree substantially pruned for a more graceful and open shape, puts the newly colorful facade on display.

Blue-gray asphalt roof shingles draw the eye up to a new second-story dormer, which allows more upstairs living space and balances the bay window out front and the windowed gable end above it—both now more visible

General contractor: Allen Construction

Paint: Franzee Paint's Hard Wired (siding), Meteorite (windows), and Direct Appeal (casings). Dunn-Edwards's Cottage White (columns).

Create an Opening Statement: Before

New homeowner Buck Davis, aided by family members and carpenter Carlos Castro, rebuilt the porch, revamped the lawn, and toppled the listing carport by hitching it to Buck's truck.

Shown: This Depression-era cottage was licking its wounds in a quiet Atlanta neighborhood.

Create an Opening Statement: After

Photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

The fundamentals—foundation, siding, and roof—were sound, though the house did require new support beams. Brick piers replaced the slim posts holding up the porch roof, and Buck and Castro used home-center spindles to create a crisp-white railing that is echoed by an arched garden gate at the edge of the yard. "I designed the gate and helped figure it out," Buck says. "We bought 1×12 boards and cut the arch out with a circular saw."

Spiffy black paint revived the original windows. Buck's dad helped make the complementary board-and-batten shutters. A fresh coat of green brightens the original clapboards, and Buck finished a windowed door he found at an antiques shop with a custom orange-red that makes it pop.

Yard improvements, honchoed by Buck's cousin Wayne Vassey, a garden pro, included leveling the ground and pouring two concrete walkways as well as a new drive. Shapely boxwood topiaries give the once forlorn yard a refined air.

Landscaping: Thorn Garden, Atlanta; (404) 922-8367.

Lumber and porch rails: The Home Depot

Paint: Sherwin-Williams's Retreat (siding) and Black Emerald (shutters).

Reinforce Period Style: Before

Once the house got a new foundation, with the help of a steel beam, the exterior had to be taken down to the studs, and the roof to the framing to help iron out a sag.

Shown: The 1920 house, in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, "had been through a lot," says homeowner Brad Beasley.

Reinforce Period Style: After

Photo by Courtesy of Brad Beasley

Fiber-cement planks, painted warm gray, replaced the worn wood siding. A bit of the same gray tinted the white paint used for the trim and existing roof brackets.

The porch, designed by architects Josh Chesney and Jason Mills, benefited from major surgery and the touch of a retired mason who lives next door. Bricks from the old foundation were reused for the steps and porch-post footings, and some of the same planks used for the siding went into the porch piers. A new wood floor and a home-center door, painted poppy red, add polish. Potted vincas stand in for a railing.

Plantings like red begonias and yellow mums complement the color scheme, while boxwood and other additions fill in the garden bed. A handsome 4-foot stained-cedar fence creates privacy on this corner lot. But the porch is the real draw for owners Brad Beasley and his wife, Christy. "The former owner found the porch glider in the garage before he left," Brad says, "and brought it by, reconditioned, as a surprise gift."

General contractor: MAS Construction; 918-637-3945

Mason: Mark Schneider, Broken Arrow, OK (retired)

Siding: jameshardie.com

Paint: Sherwin-Williams's Gauntlet Gray (siding) and Bolero (door).

Porch light fixtures: Lowe's

Celebrate Symmetry: Before

This Cape Cod attracted the eye of architect Bill Ingram, whose X-ray vision saw hidden bones.

Shown: The house, outside Birmingham, Alabama, had been randomly altered, and the front stoop and path "stuck out like a tongue," the architect recalls.

Celebrate Symmetry: After

Photo by Laurey W. Glenn

To achieve better proportions, Ingram dropped a third dormer between the two oddly spaced, oddly narrow ones he inherited; he also replaced their hipped caps with roofs pitched to echo the side gables. All the windows are new. "The ones on the first floor were really low and narrow, so I made them a little higher," he says.

Cedar shingles on top and all four sides plus a chunky stone chimney add weight and texture.

Little luxuries, like a paneled door, hinged shutters with iron fittings, and downspouts, gutters, and a lantern made from copper, give the small house a pleasingly formal look, reinforced by a brick-rimmed parterre. "It was easy," says Ingram. "We just planted one-gallon boxwoods pot to pot," then added two manicured willow trees.

Paint: Benjamin Moore's Copley Gray (door) and Georgian Green (shutters)

Door, windows, and shutters: Marshall Lumber and Mill

Uncover Hidden Charm: Before

Built in 1885, this house came with an entablature and columns framing the door—plus ornate fretwork hidden behind aluminum siding under the gable.

Shown: The exterior of the Victorian-era house, in Chicago, was masked by stucco, metal, and dark paint.

Uncover Hidden Charm: After

Photo by Courtesy of Kipnis Architecture + Planning

To revive the original details, architect Nathan Kipnis removed the metal panels from the gable end, exposing camera-ready fretwork. Further exploration revealed the original dentil trim and a keystone detail in the half-moon transom window.

A new paint scheme sharpened those details. Armed with books devoted to Victorian-era palettes, Kipnis spruced up the exterior with a green-tinted elastomeric coating for the stucco and painted the trim two shades of cream, the window muntins a darker green, and the door and small details burgundy. A custom oak screen door reinforces the period look.

Finishing touches include a lamppost lightened up with a statelier glass shade. Hanging pots and planters also warm up the entrance, proving once again that small improvements can make a big difference in enhancing the street view.

Stucco finish: Thorocoat

Paint: Benjamin Moore's Ashley Gray and Lancaster White (trim), Peale Green (windows), and Cottage Red (door and trim details).