Resolving the exterior

Deciding what we wanted to do with the exterior of the house has been a constant question. If I were to write a creative brief for this assignment, the objective would be to design something that aligns to the overall look & feel of the project (see “The Matte Vase”). The problem we’re trying to solve is that the old exterior lacked visual interest and dimension—it had what my wife affectionately referred to as a “pancake face.” Like most things, I hate unnecessary veneer.

The old front face (with new windows installed)

One change that we wanted to introduce—both from the previous exterior, and the architect’s plans—was to use one material (brick). We really hated the white triangle of siding and didn’t want to recreate that. The triangular form and the visual divide of the two materials, we felt, made the house look shorter and less cohesive.

The other was to extend the roof and create an eave, similar to every other part of the house.

To help us figure this out, I went old school: redrawing the elevation of the house from the plans, and using different layers of tracing paper to experiment with different styles, colors, and front door configurations.

We’ve toyed with the idea of putting awnings, screens, or some other kind of “eyebrow” over the front windows. The house was drawn that way, but we keep asking ourselves, “is this necessary?” These things add visual interest and depth, but is that a good thing?

While we wanted this front face to be visually interesting, we also didn’t want it to be the center of attention, and so rather than add design elements, we started removing. The more we experimented, the more it became clear that less was more; the new eave, larger windows, and brick all the way up would be enough.

In part 2 of this post, I’ll talk a bit more about finishing the exterior—both in terms of material and color choice.