Your House Design Style Needs to Be Consistent

This Farmhouse Style House Design Fails Due to Inconsistent Elements and Details

Some house designs start out in the right direction but manage to veer off the road and end up in a ditch. I noticed a house that once appeared on the HGTV Facebook page recently. The architect (or house designer) who designed this house must have been texting while driving. They started out with a solid concept of designing a farmhouse with a wraparound porch. There are not many architectural styles that are as universally appealing and express “home” as well as a farmhouse. It just makes you think of Ma, apple pie, and sipping an ice cold lemonade while sitting in a rocker on the porch, even if not a single day of your childhood was spent on a farm.

HGTVhome 2013 (600x450)

A good house design needs to stay true to its style. And in this example, the architect tried adding in elements that are out of tune with the melody. The initial impression of this house is not at all good. Why is that? The primary villain is the second floor front porch roof. It lacks the detail that a traditional element in this style should have. It is just plain clumsy. It is so clunky, you can’t keep your eye from landing on it first, drawing attention away from the main front door and the nice wraparound porch. Additionally, the form of this roof porch is strange. A gable on top of a shed dormer kind of roof shape is just plain weird. It all looks like something that belongs elsewhere, not in a farmhouse style house design.

The side gables on the main roof look great. They are “in tune” with the style. It seems to me that using a gable that matches the primary gables of the main house, with matching overhang, slope, and detail and having it intersect the main roof simply, without the shed dormer kind of thing, would have provided consistency and “held” the house design together. The roof would have been elegant in its simplicity, just as a farmhouse should be.

That was not enough style mixing for this architect. He or she decided to throw in a contemporary cable railing. Cable railings are great because they block the view less than wooden railings. I like them so much, I have one around my covered porch. However, my house is more contemporary and is on a lake where the nautical reference of the cable rail is appropriate. I think a white, wooden railing would have been the better and more stylistically consistent choice for this house. And a wooden railing with boxed newels at the corners for the columns to sit upon would have been the right thing for the second floor porch. The railing would have “engaged” the porch railing with the roof, giving cohesiveness to this house design.

Typical Gable-Front and Wing home featuring wrap porch.  this style does not typically feature a front balcony over the porch roof.

This is a Gable-Front and Wing Home featuring wrap porch. The style does not typically contain a front balcony that interrupts the porch roof. But one could be added if it remained consistent with the materials and details used in the rest of the house.

The lesson here is that simpler, straight-forward designs are always best. You do not want to jam every idea, good or bad, into one house design. Understand what the house “wants” to be, include elements that support that, and omit any elements that do not. And if you’re looking for a good reference source for house design styles, take a look at A Field Guide To American Houses, by Virginia Savage and Lee McAlester.

Bill Hirsch

Bill Hirsch

2 Comments

  1. antony on October 16, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Hey Bill,

    Would you do me a favor and tell me where you found the house above on your website (gable front and wing home? (yellow)

    I have a home in Arlington that looks identical in a historic neighborhood. I would love to see as much about this house as possible. the owners in the 70s took off the front porch and I think you have the original design above.

    Thanks
    Antony

  2. Get that Home Designs in Brisbane on July 15, 2014 at 6:17 am

    I fully agree with your views regarding home design needs. You have mentioned a great description on the house design need in a reliable manner. Thanks for sharing with us.

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