Smart Solutions: Exterior makeovers can have dramatic results

By Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News
This Pleasant Ridge home comes to life after an extensive renovation that features a redesigned porch and new stairway

If your house could use a face lift, an exterior home makeover can be a great place to start. This remodeling topic was featured at a recent Wine & Design seminar presented by MainStreet Design Build in Birmingham.

As Christine Ramaekers, vice president, explains, these updates tend to address what your home may be lacking, such as curb appeal. In some cases, the structure may not function well. Other factors may be deferred maintenance issues, outdated features or a poor layout, lighting or walkway.

Exterior remodeling can be broken down into three categories. The most basic approach, says Ramaekers, updates existing elements that can easily be replaced like roofing, siding, windows, gutters, finishes and doors.

The next level modifies current features, while the most involved project entails an extreme architectural makeover.

While painting the existing brick and adding shutters can give your dwelling a fresh new feel, a more detailed endeavor might feature a redesigned porch and a new stairway.

“An extreme exterior makeover really deals with the architecture of the home,” says Ramaekers. Since a bungalow remodel would differ from the renovation of a 1960s colonial, the bones of the house often dictate the new design strategy. 

Other extensive updates include adding a covered porch or realigning the windows, while basic changes might mean being on-trend with the latest colors and finishes.

A Pleasant Ridge home before a major exterior remodel.

Though Ramaekers says clients don’t always know what they want to do when it comes to their exteriors, one wanted a more modern mid-century feel for a postwar colonial in Royal Oak that looked like many others on their street. “They love their neighborhood, so they don’t want to move,” she says. “It’s fun to recreate something and give it new life.”

The dramatic results make their house look like a completely different dwelling. Ramaekers says for many, this is a personal investment because they intend to stay in their homes that speak more to the person living there today than they did previously.

Though costs for these projects will vary, they will increase with the level of detail required and with the use of superior products like copper gutters.

When a renovation follows the design-build process, everything is under one roof with an architectural department that works hand in hand with building and other departments.

For anyone considering a renovation, Ramaekers suggests doing your research up front and making sure you believe in the team you choose. It’s important to check references and have open communication.

“We try to understand their vision and look at what their house can do,” she says. “We work within their budget and do everything in-house, but it’s more than being up front about your budget, it’s about building a relationship and building that trust.” 

Their next Wine & Design seminar is scheduled for December 5. This timely topic will be home interiors with a focus on holiday tables. For these events, MainStreet Design Build teams up with Birmingham Wine for a fun and informative experience. Space is limited and RSVPs are required.

For information, go to

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at