Before and After: A Dramatic Paint Job Gives a 1918 Farmhouse a Stylish New Start

published Nov 9, 2021
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Before: Old yellowish farmhouse and mailbox

Matte black houses are stylish and sleek year-round, of course, and they offer tons of curb appeal perks: They’re eye-catching but still neutral, they hide dirt and grime, and they often make dramatic angles and rooflines more pronounced against their backdrops.

But there’s just something about a black exterior paint job that seems especially striking against an autumnal landscape.

When sister design duo Marni and Willa Blank bought a nearly 104-year-old farmhouse (aka @theblankfarmhouse) with the intention of restoring the inside and outside and hosting vacationers, they decided to go dark with the exterior. That’s a far cry from what they got to begin with: a house with white siding and a dated off-white, yellowish shade on the gable, trim, and front door.

“There were outdated colors and fixtures throughout the home,” Marni says. “We also bought the home in the winter when things like rotten decking were covered in snow.”

Because Marni and Willa had to pay to repair the rotted deck, their budget for the rest of the house was tight, but the existing property did have a stamped concrete walkway worth keeping.

Credit: Michael Druce and Lauren Rogala

As for the siding color, they tested four shades of charcoal and painted them on the sides of the house to see them during different times of day. Both Marni and Willa’s favorite was Benjamin Moore’s “Soot,” so they ran with it. “Our intention was always to honor the original character of the home while giving it a modern refresh,” Marni says. “Going dark with the color felt like it would keep the home classic and not combat all of the natural beauty surrounding the home.”

Credit: Michael Druce and Lauren Rogala

Marni says the paint made the biggest impact on the outside of the house. But it was also the hardest part to pull off because an increase in home projects during the pandemic made hiring a painter a challenge. But once they found a painter, the process went quickly.

“Everyone in the neighborhood would drive by slowly and stop to comment on how much they loved the color and what a difference it made,” Marni says of the moody charcoal transformation. “It really brought new life to this home that had remained unloved for some time.”

Credit: Michael Druce and Lauren Rogala

The second-biggest curb appeal impact, she says, was the landscaping. Before, there were two overgrown barberry bushes in front of the home “that made it look a little haunted,” Marni says. They removed the bush directly in front of the house to free up the front entry and trimmed back the one to the side, which ended up flowering beautifully later in the year.

Marni and Willa also looked to a local farm to pick out plants based on look and texture. “Our dad would come up on weekends and help plant,” Marni says. “He’s a big gardener. It was fun to make it a family project.”

Credit: Michael Druce and Lauren Rogala

Marni says she is also proud of the fruit and evergreen trees they planted on the property and is excited to watch them grow over the years. “The plants will be an ever-evolving journey for us, which is exciting as we continue to experiment,” she says.