How a Deep Front Porch Brought Life to a Plain Ranch's Exterior

A Utah couple gives a boxy ranch charming dimension with a deep front porch that invites friends, family, and even local wildlife. 

When Jenn Gubler carries her bowl of granola to the porch in the morning, scuff marks on the ipe wood decking tell her deer visited overnight. "They eat the sweet potato vine out of our hanging pots," she says. Located at the base of the Wasatch Range in Alpine, Utah, the porch is a perfect spot to observe wildlife, including deer, bighorn sheep, and elk. But it wouldn't have been possible when they first purchased the "flat as a pancake" ranch house in 2016.

Gubler home exterior before
Jenn and John Gubler's ranch home before the renovation. Courtesy of Jenn and John Gubler

Jenn immediately envisioned the house with a deep porch, "almost Southern deep," she says. She sold her vision to husband John and snapped pictures of the front so she could trace designs. "We wanted to sit out there and soak it all in—the green mountains, the summer rains, the peaceful snowfalls. I kept drawing it different ways," she says. Architect Greg Brown eventually suggested two roof pitches. "He said one pitch would feel like a covered backyard deck," Jenn says. "I'm so glad he suggested that."

Jenn and John Gubler
Adam Albright

Jenn and John acted as general contractors, calling on tradespeople Jenn knew through her job working for a builder. But the couple and their teen sons did a lot of the work themselves—laying the decking, installing weathered boards on the ceiling, building the swing. There were lots of little projects, too, such as putting muntins in the upper-level window to match new French entry doors and picking plants for the landscape— including snacks for the deer.

"That's just how we are; we're project people," Jenn says. "When you do one thing, you gain confidence to do the next."

Gubler home exterior side view
Adam Albright

Jenn and John were looking to downsize. Jenn was convinced the open-plan ranch would suit their family. John was a harder sell: "I said, 'You can go inside, but I'll stay in the car. We're not buying this house,'" he says. But Jenn and their sons, Owen and John Isaac, raved about the updated interior. "I thought, 'Oh stars, we're going to buy this ugly place,'" he says with a laugh. Today, the remodeled facade, opposite, is so admired, Jenn says she often sees people slow their cars to take pictures.

Jenn Gubler, Homeowner

"That's just how we are; we're project people. When you do one thing, you gain confidence to do the next."

—Jenn Gubler, Homeowner
Gubler home exterior
Adam Albright

Easy-to-climb shallow stairs to the porch are designed in an ever-widening cascade. "I'm not going to lie, framing them was hard," Jenn says. The steps are formed from all-weather composite lumber; the porch decking is ipe, a Brazilian wood prized for its durability. Working with the hard material was a challenge for their tools, John says. "Our chop saw went through many blades. Literally, 10 cuts in and we were bogging down again. We started buying them and drill bits in bulk," he says. Jenn says, "We love it though. It's so comfortable on your feet." She oils it twice a year to keep the deep brown color. "But you can let it go gray," she says. Black accents in the flowerpots and door hardware tie into the roof color.

home address letters
Adam Albright

The Gublers chose letters from and ordered matching stencils to paint the house numbers on the curb as well.

After choosing warm neutrals for the house and trim paint (Sherwin-Williams Dover White and Fawn Brindle), Jenn wanted lots of plants and flowers to add brightness. She and John and their teen boys (their daughter, Kennedi, was away at college) dug the trenches for the brick planter footings and built the wood window boxes.

"We made the shutters, too," Jenn says. "The miter saw I used was actually a Mother's Day gift one year. I've loved woodworking for a long time." The planter beds were built from concrete block faced with brick. Black exterior paint upgrades the look of inexpensive concrete capstones.

The black metal pendant joins other crisp black details, and the glass panes echo divided lights in the French doors. Kennedi's puppy, Texas, now enjoys the shaded oasis.

porch swing daybed with flowers
Adam Albright

Tahoe the cat endorses the front porch swing, but he's not the only one. The Gublers lounge on it in the morning and often bring their dinner out to catch what they call "pink mountain time," when the sun sets behind them and illuminates the mountains.

The swing, big enough for a twin-size mattress, has been such a draw that son Owen started a company called Gubler Made and ships them all over the country. They spray-painted black the shackles and rope crimps from the hardware store, but Owen's company orders powder-coated black hardware. The heavy-duty manila rope is also an online purchase.

For extra support for the swing, the Gublers anchored 4x4s in the ceiling and screwed eyebolts and locknuts into them before placing the cosmetic weathered planks.

Updated by
Jessica Brinkert Holtam

Jessica Brinkert Holtam has spent over 20 years providing writing and editorial services, beginning with Exteriors and Flea Market Style, and continuing to work with Elegant Homes. She is the regional interiors editor of Better Homes & Gardens and regularly works with photographers, editors, and stylists. She also is the owner of Sprout Media Studios, an editorial business. Her writing and editorial work also appear in Elegant Homes, Country French, Refresh, and Décor.

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