Need help with House Exterior Design

build_a_houseJuly 23, 2012


I like the referred floor plan but the exterior is not something I am sold on....


Is there a way to retain the floor plan but come up with a more NEW ENGLANDish exterior look for the house?

Attached is the rough lot elevation to give a better idea of how the house might sit on the lot.

Many Thanks

Here is a link that might be useful: Floor Plan

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First, the left-hand bay in the garage looks pretty short, unless you are sure one car will always be a compact -- and the other not much larger. I suggest lengthening the l-h bay, if not both.

Second, in my New England town, NE style usually means flat walls with few projections. (Think of the classic Cape Cod or Farmhouse.) I'm not sure you can really make this into a New Englander very successfully.

But you can make it more attractive. The windows on the main example shown are too short for the face of the wall. Either add interest above them (as shown in one of the other examples, or heighten them, or hip the roofs on them and the garage. Give the garage a single roof, not the two now shown (even if one is very short).

You could also possibly just hip the garage roof and leave the two other gables, but with the previously mentioned changes. Right now the garage is pretty dominant, and the variation in projection with accompanying columns and roof line emphasize this. Having done this, you could add a small dormer over the garage.

But I would talk to a contractor about that roof line. It seems pretty complex to me and will run your costs up.

And finally, while I love the look of both stone and brick, most NE homes are wood. Stone might be okay, but the brick would be tough to call NE.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 7:10PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

I don't think so as the roofline is all wrong for NE, but driven by room size shape and location.

One thing I learned in our very long design process for our house is that interior and exterior are inextricably tied....I think that's what took us so long (7 years) as I didn't learn that lesson until much later.

If you have a house with a basic shape, you can do stuff to the exterior to change the look, but this one has too many bump outs in the front facade to look colonial.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 7:58PM
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Thanks so much for the feedback.

I am OK with removing the bumps in the front and align ALL the front rooms/entrance/garage(remove the divider in garage too) to form a single line. Will that help simplify roof line? The existing roof pitch is 10/12 and I am thinking it might be too steep and can overwhelm the house itself.

We are in fairfield county in CT and my main desire is to have the exterior of the house fit within the neighborhood ( with more modern treatment offcourse)


    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 11:43AM
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Sophie Wheeler

If you want a New England saltbox, build a New England salt box and stop looking at all of those incestuously cloned house mill plans and trying to think about modifying them. Start with where you want to end up and the whole project will be cheaper and function better.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 1:23PM
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Let's say I just want the floor plan. How would you suggest I go about desiging the house around it?

I am a complete novice and looking for guidance as to how to proceed.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 5:06PM
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To get a home that blends in, you would need to do more than just "flatten" the front.

I don't know if I've ever even driven through Fairfield County but I did live in Maine for several years and one thing I remember about all the houses in New England was that they tended to be more "vertical" than horizontal. I just took a quick look at what's for sale in your area to verify that what I remember still holds true.

And, sure enough, I saw only a very few single story homes for sale with more than about 1700 sq ft of living area. And once you hit around 2200 sq ft heated/cooled plus add a two-car attached garage, EVERYTHING in your area seems to have two (or more) floors. The result is that, regardless of the style (Federal, Cape Cod, Colonial, Saltbox) they all tend to be as tall or taller than they are wide.

Houses that are wider than they are tall tend to be associated more with western states where wide open vistas and room to sprawl gave birth to "ranch style" and "prairie style" homes. In fact, that long, low "hugging the ground" look is pretty much descriptive of both styles. Thus, here in Texas, if you check the MLS listings, you'll find lots and lots of single story homes... even in the 3000 to 4000 sq foot range.

In fact, if I were looking for a single phrase to describe the difference between the styles of homes that one finds in New England and those that one finds most often out here in the west, I'd probably say something like "in New England, the houses sit up straight and tall, while here in the west they lay down and sprawl."

In New England, even farmhouses that have been added onto over time so that we speak them as "sprawling" still have a central two-story or 1.5 story core that give them an upright feeling. Whenever wings were added to the sides they were usually set back from the front facade and given a lower roofline so that the tall central core still stands out as the "main house."

I THINK you might be able to design a house with a somewhat similar floorplan to the one you like that would blend into your New England neighborhood but to do so, I would suggest that you start by squaring up the central core of home (the kitchen, great room, dining room, TV room, and foyer). Then make that section 2 stories high or at least 1.5 stories with dormer windows upstairs. If you don't want any bedrooms upstairs, use the upper space for a bonus room. Or, if you really don't need/want a second floor at all, make the core room ceilings nice and tall (10 or 12 feet or more) and then have false dormers in the attic above to give the impression of having a second floor. Do keep the 8/10 sloped roof because you need the height.

Then, push the bedroom wing and the garage wing back and give both areas a lower ceiling height... Maybe 8 to 9 feet depending on how tall you made the ceilings in the core area. That way, the roof lines over these sections will tuck in under the roof of the central core. That will tend to make the wings look like they were added to the house later. Because you won't have enough room to the side for all the bedrooms you want, you'll need to extend the wings to the back. (You don't want to keep going out to the sides because you don't want the house to get too wide.) However the wing extensions will give you a perfect patio area out the back.

Then, if you like more of a "farmhouse" look, add a porch across the front of the core area.

At 3200 sq feet (not counting garage or bonus room) the sketch below is probably bigger than you were planning to build, but maybe something along these lines would work for you.

Do consider hiring a good local architect tho...especially if you want to wind up with a good useable design so you can start actually building anytime in the next few years. I'm not saying you CAN'T eventually design your own home. It isn't rocket science... but if you're a novice as you say, even if you're a pretty quick study, have a flair for design and are willing to spend a LOT of your free time on it, it could still take you YEARS to learn all you need to know. A good architect who listens to what you tell him and then tries to fulfill your dreams rather than simply impose his "artistic vision" on you can be well worth his fees.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 6:44PM
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Sophie Wheeler

If you want a home that suits your needs and the lot and the neighborhood into which it's being built, engage the services of an architect. It's that simple.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 7:01PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

I am in Ffld county and can recommend a good architect if you're interested. He did our home and we are most pleased. Email me.
Front facade


    Bookmark   July 25, 2012 at 2:05PM
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Hi Annie,

I could not figure out how to email you from the site. Can you please let me know how to reach out to you?


Thanks for taking the time out and giving a very useful insight. I might just hire an architect to do the job.


    Bookmark   July 25, 2012 at 4:33PM
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Annie and/or build_a_house:

In order for one GW member to email another offline, one of the members must have their member profile set up to allow others members to send them emails via GW. Neither of you is set up to allow for emails.

To change your member profile to allow emails to reach you, first make sure you are logged in. Then, go to the YOUR PROFILE link at the very top of this page (in the gold GardenWeb bar next to the Log Out link.)

When you click on that, you'll be taken to your profile. There, near the bottom, you'll find an option to check mark if you want to allow other GW members to send you emails. Your email address will not be shown.

Instead, when someone wants to email you, they can click on the MY PAGE link immediately after your name in any thread you post and that will take them to a Member page that will have a link that says "SEND ME AN EMAIL". When they click on that, they will get a form that allows them to compose an email that GW will forward to the recipient.

It takes a little while for emails sent via GW to pop up in one's mailbox so GW may have some sort of filter they run them thru to try and make sure that objectionable stuff is not sent. And, as far as I know, you can't attach anything or use any html code.

If you send an email to someone via GW, they will then have your email address so that they can respond to you directly and, at that point, you can send attachments to each other or whatever because you're no longer communicating via GW.

However, when you first send an email to someone via GW, it is probably a good idea to put something in the Subject line that let's them know you're a fellow Gardenweb member. Otherwise, if they're like me, they may never open your email because they don't recognize your email address as anyone they know.

And, you can always change your profile back to stop getting emails via GW anytime you want. I've never had any problems with having my profile set up to accept emails tho.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2012 at 5:46PM
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