Brett and Lisa Carmel were attracted to the 1930s charm of this Cape Cod-style home in Bethesda’s Westhaven neighborhood, but wanted to up the quaint factor when they bought it more than a decade ago.

The house, which they share with their 12-year-old twins, was painted white and peeling, so they hired painters to power wash and lightly hand-scrape it to reveal some of the red brick underneath. “It was an experiment,” Brett says, “and it worked out well because we haven’t done anything to it since 2004.”

The couple made more changes to the façade in 2012 while working with Anthony Wilder Design/Build on a major addition to the rear of the house. Project architect Sean Mullin designed a custom surround to convert the square entry opening to an arch, and also changed the shape of the second-floor dormers, adding an eyebrow to each window. The final touch: a curbside mailbox that stands out thanks to its cottage style.


The shutters, with a cute diagonal design, are original to the house. A very close match, the Atlantic Classic diagonal cut board-n-batten shutters are $288 per pair from (855-564-5596;

Several mature oak trees provide cover for the Carmels’ yard, so they opted for shade-tolerant shrubs such as viburnum, laurel, and hydrangea, and a hearty ground cover called liriope. Find the muscari variety of liriope for $7.99 per gallon-size container at American Plant in Bethesda (301-469-7690;


The homeowners painted the front door, storm door and shutters a warm, deep blue color to stand out against red and white brick. They chose Farrow & Ball Hague Blue in an exterior eggshell finish. It’s $115 per gallon at Farrow & Ball in Friendship Heights (202-479-6780;

The mailbox is turned sideways to emphasize the curved bracket. The Liberty cedar mail post is $179 and the “Steel Strong Box” is $129 at Walpole Outdoors (800-343-6948;


The sconces are vintage, but you can get the look with the Concord 2-light outdoor sconce, with seeded glass and an oil-rubbed bronze finish, for $179 from Ballard Designs (800-536-7551;

The Carmels punctuate their mostly green yard with pops of color in the window boxes and urns. Get a similar look with the 26-inch tall Allen + Roth fiberglass planter, which retails for $79 at Lowe’s in Gaithersburg (301-208-0400;