Google+ House Revivals: Big House Before and After Concept

Monday, January 25, 2010

Big House Before and After Concept

The Problem:
There is a big house in my neighborhood that sits on the market for a lonnnnnngggg time every time an owner tries to sell it.  This house has been "remuddled" too many times over the years and has taken on the look of a lady who has has too much "work done".  You know what I'm talking about-- the tightly stretched skin, the too puffy lips, the absence of character lines.  This poor lady has had her face "lifted" to the point where she just doesn't have much character left (and we won't even talk about her most recent southwestern style remodel on the interior)!
Before a house can sell, you've got to get the buyer in the front door, and unfortunately, many potential buyers won't even get out of their car if the house doesn't look good from the curb.  So, just for fun, I gave her a quick "makeover!"  Her problem areas included the huge expanses of bright white stucco, unrelated roof-lines, slit-like windows, the blank stare that often results from enclosing a front porch, and an uncertain pedigree.  Oddly, although the front porch has craftsman-like bones, the body of the house appears to be four-square in style. Obviously, one of those "styles" is not original to the house.

Most definitely the hip dormer on the front of the house is not original, either.  It feels a little awkward because, honestly it isn't something people are accustomed to seeing in American Vernacular houses.  It almost wants to be a clerestory, but kind of wants to be a hip dormer-- basically, it's having an identity crisis.

The Solution:
It is not feasible to tear off the many additions this house has suffered over the last hundred years, so, working with her present bones, here is what I came up with.

First, let's address the porch.  The porch should be a feature.  So, let's emphasize its craftsman styling by calling attention to the massive columns, and by breaking up the expanse of stucco in the gable with "half-timbers."

Next, we should contrast the stucco portions of the facade with the window trim color to address the old house's "vacant stare".  Simply by contrasting the color value on the window trim and the stucco, we have turned the beautifully paned windows into a feature, and emphasized the porch's pedigree.

The final change to make to the porch would be to give the foundation some visual weight by painting it a slightly darker hue than the gable.  The most important part of this house's  face lift is the porch, because that is what will grab the eye, and distract the buyer from some of the house's odd architecture.

To address the house's slit-like windows, I'm recommending realistic looking shutters.  That ever-problematic expanse of white stucco can be broken up with very understated "half-timber" trim, and a subtle change in hue below the trim piece.

The "not a typical dormer, but not a clerestory, either" should be down-played to keep the interest on the porch.  We don't really want the body of the house to compete with the porch as focal point.  Rather, we want the body of the house to play a "supporting role".  Basically, just a  few changes can go a long way toward bringing grace and character back to this house's facade.

photo courtesy H. Brandt
I'm linking this post to Met Monday at Between Naps on the Porch, and to Alphabe-Thursday at Jenny Matlock's blog.