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Design Dilemma
Design Dilemma

Need help with exterior design of this house!

arihsDecember 4, 2012
Im working with an architect now to design a house we are hoping to build but not feeling like theres enough creativity in the design. Itll be aprox 30x50 because were working with a pretty narrow lot. I like modern/contemporary design and will do this in a combo of stucco and stone. Really need some help making the front of the house unique and have architectural appeal!! suggestions??
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If you wanted a modern / contemporary style home the architect should be able to provide you with one.

Mauldin Residence · More Info
    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 7:13PM
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Cynthia Taylor-Luce
Since you are dealing with a professional, you should be able to get the look you want. Communication with your architect is crucial. Have you collected photos of features that you like?
    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 7:45PM
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Deborah Butler, Brickwood Builders
Do some searches here on Houzz for modern or contemporary exteriors and save some that you like and show them to the architect. There does not appear to be anything contemporary about the drawing you posted.
    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 4:27AM
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Thanks for your responses. The house will be in a traditional neighborhood so i didnt want to go too modern on the exterior, but build something that has edge and modern detail. i originally showed this pic to my architect, and then decided to get rid of the covered porch and only cover the entryway....im feeling like the whole contemporary look is getting lost but dont want to start from scratch...how should i proceed??
    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 6:38AM
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    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 6:43AM
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here it is again
    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 6:47AM
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It doesn't look anything like contemporary, especially with the porch railing and the window muntins. Is that the design drawing or the construction doc? Looks a little stiff for the former. Plus there's something about a small width house that uses a lot of materials all over the elevation that makes a house look smaller. Here there's stucco, stone, some kind of panels I guess and two roof materials.

And I wouldn't term taking another look at the elevation "starting from scratch". I'm very hands on so if it where me we'd sit down across from the table from each other and spend an hour looking at ideas via freehand sketches, both yours and mine. Suggest that to your guy.
    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 6:53AM
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these are the drawings well give to the contractor who will then give us an estimate-dont know which category that falls into..?
interesting that using the different materials will make it look smaller..ill keep that in mind!
what do you think of this photo? its similar in shape to what im working with now... except ill need the front door centered on the left side of the house due to inside layout...will that still work with this style house? also-are black windows a lot more expensive? i seem to like that look in a lot of photos...
    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 7:32AM
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Both of your photos have houses that have strong horizontal lines evoking a prairie house feel. Both look great and have an "updated" feel. The house in the drawing doesn't do any of that. I see strong vertical lines in those stone quoins and the porch does the same thing with emphasis in the vertical. Stone is a very heavy visually while wood is very light visually. Notice how the porch in your first photo emphasisethe horizontal with the strong, deep frieze.

Don't know where it lies but there appears to be a communication problem here.

Most decent window companies have 20 or 30 clad colorings. Generally they're all the same price.
1 Like    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 7:51AM
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Cynthia Taylor-Luce
Regarding your question about black windows... If you want vinyl clad windows you won't get black. They don't make anything in a saturated colour--they are more like different versions of sand, yellow, pale green, grey, salmon, etc. You can get a black window in fibreglass which is a superior product but more expensive. Your architect is the best person to discuss these options with since he/she will know local suppliers and the various options open to you.
    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 7:54AM
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Cynthia's right. I was assuming metal clad windows but vinyl doesn't like dark colors because of expansion when in the sun issues.
1 Like    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 8:35AM
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Wood Railing
Mountain Laurel Handrail http://awoodrailing.com would add some rustic style to the very rectilinear elevation.
    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 11:42AM
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thanks again for all the helpfull feedback. Been playing with the drawing and some of your tips and came up with this to go back to the architect with. i know its not super modern but i think with the right windows, doors, and materials used it can look pretty contemporary. what do you think??
1 Like    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 7:20PM
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First time I've done this but a very quick and very rough freehand sketch of what I'd do. Don't what the "in's and out's" of the plan are but focused on getting as strong as possible horizontality as possible for a 30' house. Influenced by your two photos above as well as FLW.

Got rid of the railing (which we can do if we're less than 30" to the ground. It looks like we're 18" or so), widened the steps (and make them with at least 16" treads). Got rid of those wimpy overhangs and pumped them up to at least 24" or hopefully 30". Put a low planter in front tying into the house and extending to the side if possible. We're not stopping design at the exterior walls. We're stopping it at the property line!!!!. One roof material. French front door that ties into the porch windows having them read as one element. The windows above need more attention and we may have egress issues. Your guy will have to take all that from here.

Not sure about the brick but all that's straight out of FLW. Drew it in anyway. Above it is a horizontal stucco band (what's it all about again??). That band could be a brick soldier also.

Your sketch comes a long way but there's still some of the "doo dad" look to it and mine has a long way to go but give it to your guy to clean up. Be sure the other three sides are looked at the same way and the whole house ties in. We aren't doing a painting here!
5 Likes    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 5:29AM
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Buechel Stone Corp
Nice design - if you are looking for some insperation we have a site for Brick and stone combinations and stucco and stone combinations. Maybe you'll see a combo to help with the selection process?

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 6:01AM
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Architectrunnerguy thank you so much!!!!
I will take some of your points back to him to touch things up. Your sketch actually looks a lot like the first one he came up with but I don't like covered porches so I've been playing around with other ways to so that side. I gota check on elevation cuz I have young kids and might need the railing there for safety. Are you recommending I do a double French door there? Don't see it in the pic? And love the planter box- great idea! Thanks again for your efforts helping me out w this!!
    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 6:32AM
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Well Arihs, you're quite welcome.

Not to get too theoretical here, but the best houses are the ones designed not where the designer is focused on creating an object but is rather focused the relationships of elements in the house and letting the object be born out of that. If the relationships work, the house will work. The reason for so many failed buildings is because the relationships don't work. To be honest it looks like your house is an "object driven" design. There seems to be "doo-dads" added and subtracted without regard to the relationships inherent in any building.

If you think of design as not a process where an object is created but a process where relationships are created and let the object be born out of that, you'll wind up with a house that's far better.

For example, If I think of a front door just as a hatch to get through the exterior wall, that's probably all the front door will ever become. But if I think of it as an element that helps order the progression from the street to porch to foyer to first interior views (and thereby the door's relationship to street/walk/porch/front wall/foyer), the front door has the potential to become much more.

And there are 100's of those kinds of relationships in a house. Another example: That little side planter I drew??? It has the potential of doing a bunch of things, all because of it's relationship to the house, the street, the front yard and the back yard. It orders the geometry of the house of course but also can order the relationship of front yard to the street as well as the frontyard to the backyard by acting as a low sort of fence. It also shows we're thinking about landscaping now, not as some afterthought. Needs development but that's a relationship.

What scares me is I see a little nippit of the side of a bay window, which shows horizontal siding, as well as a design that looks like it belongs on a center hall Toll Brothers colonial tract house. Tie in all four elevations. That horizontal band I have? Have it go all the way around the house with proper relationships (there I go again) to windows and door heads and sills. Maybe tie the height of it into a pergola (which can come later if $$ are short).

I wanted to carry the porch steps all the way around the corner. So if safety is a concern, do so (BTW: I don't think there's a safety concerns there. Get the grade up to about 15" and make your landscaping Japanese Holly's etc. that gets 2' tall and nothing's going to fall off). I've attached a recent design where we wrapped the steps all the way around the porch, giving the house a pedestal to sit on. Coincidentially, it also shows a bunch of inside/outside relationships. Don't stop design at the exterior walls, stop it at the property line.
1 Like    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 3:23PM
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I've been looking at exterior stone recently for part of my house and find that small, regular stacked ledge stone (I think that's what it's called) has a very contemporary look as opposed to larger and more random shaped stone which feels very natural/country and traditional. (This is even more true for monochromatic stone which seems more contemporary to me.) I'm posting a photo of a house not far from where I live that is very traditional in its shape, roof lines and other various elements, and very appropriate in an area of traditional/country shingle-style and white farmhouse style homes: vertical siding, natural cedar shakes, stone, gables etc. At the same time there is nothing about it that says "traditional."The traditional elements assembled in a fresh and contemporary way. In the house I'm building now I wanted red windows but couldn't spring for custom colors. My solution is to use stock 'terratone" Anderson windows which are being trimmed in red. My hope is that the terratone will blend into the glass like a shadow and the red frame is what the eye will be drawn to. The windows are being installed this week - I'll post a picture when they're framed out. In the picture I've posted here, I think the windows are black. I wonder how different terratone or another standard brown would have looked.
2 Likes    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 5:18PM
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again, you make some great points. it seems that whenever i ask my architect to change something or add a feature that i saw in a photo i like, he adds it exactly how i asked but doesnt nec pay attention to the whole look of the house. i like things that are out of the box and have character but i dont have enough knowledge of the architectural concerpts to really direct him toward the final product im looking for, thats cohesive and flows. Agghh feeling frustrated but gonna ask to sit down with him again and explain my dillemas, and really press him to throw out some new sketches i can pick from.
Ellessebee thanks for the tip on the stacked stone- i like that look too!
    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 6:03PM
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Certainly arihs and be sure to keep is posted as to your progress. You seem to have a higher then average level of appreciation for good design (maybe that's why you're frustrated!). I'd send you a lists of books/sites on working with architects and house design theory in general but apparently there's no way here to go "off forum" (I'm very new here) and I really don't feel like posting all that stuff here.
1 Like    Bookmark   December 7, 2012 at 2:35AM
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Thanks! My emails arihs@aol.com if you don't mind sharing that info that would be great! Will keep you posted!!
    Bookmark   December 7, 2012 at 5:03AM
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I agree with architectrunner guy and your tastes and ideas seem very Prairie to me. It is a nice balance of contemporary and traditional, and any architect worth his salt should be familiar with it.

I think the Aris design is the closest to what you might have had in mind, and captures the Prairie aesthetic.

Prairie was done on small urban lots and for 2-story houses. Frank Lloyd Wright even did ones like that before about 1910, and Purcell and Elmslie did a whole slew of them. Many did not have porches. While you don't have to copy them exactly, you can capture the spirit with simple massing, contrasting tones, asymmetrical design elements, and yes, much deeper roof overhangs.

No spindels!--solid masonry walls. Aris is heading in the right direction with the little side windows and the extended patio, Make those railings brick to match the ground floor, and run that brick around the sides except for the bump out, even better. Consider adding a bit of canopy over the front door, similar to your second inspiration photo. Or lower the brick to water table/railing height, add a beltline and run that all around. What is the rest--stucco?

Sounds like your architect is more of a draftman than a designer. Do not settle. I would even consider consulting someone else, or getting a senior in the firm to look it over. What he gave you is not at all like what you asked for.Tell him you want a contemporary version of Prairie and show him lots of photos from the websites I have given you and the drawings above. And yes, every elevation and should look like this, not a hodgepode of standard pieces.

I would also look over the interior detailing to make sure it is what you want--not just some whimpy off the rack spindels and ranch casing.

Here are some Prairie style homes for inspiration something like what you posted. Note the extra wide lap or cedar shingle siding wrapped around the house in the second photo--a cheaper alternative to brick.

There is a great website for Purcell and Elmslie at http://www.organica.org/purcellandelmslie.htm.

There are lots of photos of the Purcell-Cutts house (first photo) at
which is a modestly scaled home Purcell built for himself It is maintained by the Minneapolis Mueseum of Art. This photo doesn't really do it justice.

Frank Lloyd Wright Blog has pics of some of his more modest 2-story designs http://www.thefranklloydwrighttour.com/apps/blog/ (see bottom left)

Prairie School Traveler has lots of photos of Prairie style houses. you might even find some near you. http://www.prairieschooltraveler.com/home.html

This George W. Maher house could be a good model for yours: http://www.prairieschooltraveler.com/html/ca/pasadena/318oaklawn.html (bottom right) Note the chunky railings--have to go to site to see them. The front entry could be a good model for your entry with just the little pent roof over it.
1 Like    Bookmark   December 7, 2012 at 7:51AM
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Wow, you are amazing! Checking it all out now!
    Bookmark   December 7, 2012 at 8:11AM
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YES! Modern prairie is what im looking for! I love all these photos!!
Planning on doing a stucco, stone combo.
2 Likes    Bookmark   December 7, 2012 at 8:45AM
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Cynthia Taylor-Luce
I am so loving this discussion. Architectrunnerguy, you are a star, and how generous of you to give your time, your expertise and even a beautiful sketch to illustrate your points. Would you mind sending me your list of book references too? ctaylorluce@cogeco.ca Thank you.

And arihs, you must be so glad you asked your original question. This is a fantastic example of the beauty of using houzz to tap into a pool of expertise that we can all learn from.
3 Likes    Bookmark   December 7, 2012 at 9:12AM
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Yes!! You have all been soooo helpful!!
    Bookmark   December 7, 2012 at 9:38AM
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Awesome thread!
    Bookmark   December 7, 2012 at 11:21AM
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Sorry Arihs, but I didn't realize that you were the homeowner and designer too. with just some deeper soffits, I think you nailed it on the head for the exterior design and could show your architect a thing or two.

The little square windows are the perfect accent for the front entry and a very Prairie detail. You must have absorbed the style along the way because it fits right in. Do a little research and come up with a few more options if you wish. If you ring the deck with wall, it will give almost a platform appearance, also very Prairie.

I don't know if you can see the door on the Maher house, but it is very similar to yours--simple transome, sidelights and door. Maher did some combination styles with a Prairie bent.
1 Like    Bookmark   December 7, 2012 at 11:51AM
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Thanks Cynthia for the kudos. Thought a while before doing the drawing as "free design" doesn't do a whole lot for me. This one was a little bit different however. Most posters here are supposedly very willing to spend a healthy 6 figures on a house but come here for free design. And most of the whole house stuff here is a train wreck. This lady had a train wreck but was paying a professional to come up with it. I could not stand by. And it was only 30 minutes anyway.

Also, timing had something to do with it. That morning my wife had a work deadline so got up at 3:30AM. I lied in bed for 30 minutes looking at the ceiling feeling sorry for myself when I decided to get up. Got coffee and came here with some time to kill waiting for it to get light before heading out for a run, saw the thread and freehanded it out.

BTW, victorianbungalowranch I'm having a hard time figuring out who you're refering to in some of your posts. Arihs is the owner and she's already working with an architect and who's Aris (7 posts above)?
1 Like    Bookmark   December 7, 2012 at 12:22PM
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Same person--have bifocals and can't always see the screen that clearly! By designer, I meant her (?) redo was better than the architects!
1 Like    Bookmark   December 7, 2012 at 12:41PM
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FYI- you can call me sherry:)
REALLY appreciate all the help and will keep you all posted as the plan progresses!
    Bookmark   December 7, 2012 at 12:52PM
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