Friday, April 1, 2011

The Rules: All Materials MUST Change at an Inside Corner

I think most people who design, either for a living, or as a hobby, have, whether they are conscious of them or not, certain rules they abide by.  I wasn't even fully aware that I had any hard and fast ones until a friend recently reminded me that I once told her that one of my rules was that every room needed a touch of black. (More on that another time.) So I'm going to do a few posts on my personal rules of design. Now, before I do, let me start by saying that the first rule of design is that you shouldn't care what anyone else thinks. If you love your home, that is all that matters.  Got it? Good!

Now, one of mine (and one that makes my skin crawl when it isn't followed) is that all materials must change at an interior corner. More specifically, under no circumstances do I think a "Hollywood Front" is acceptable. Yet, there it is on an alarming percentage of new homes built. Brick or fake stone spread onto the front facing surfaces of a house like peanut butter on bread.

Classic example!

Why is the garage worthy of stone?

Now, I doubt anyone thinks it's good design. (Though the way realtors tout a "brick front", I could be wrong.) I'm aware that it's an economic decision moreso than an aesthetic one. But if the pocketbook only allows a limited amount of stone or brick, it can be applied in better ways. Perhaps doing just a brick or stone at the foundation height--or extending it up to window sill height for a high watertable? Or just accenting one element (in the first photo, perhaps wrapping all three sides of that central gable at the front door?)

Spec homes and houses produced by mass-builders give us some particularly egregious examples of this sort of material abuse. Check this house out: a highly detailed front entry, full brick front, lots of ornamentation. But only on the front. Turn the corner and it is completely plastic and devoid of even simple window casing:

The front of this house has absolutely no relationship at all to the other three sides!

If automakers took the same approach to car design, we would all be driving around in this:

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  1. Love your blog! DIscovered it on Hooked on Houses and I've become hooked on your simple and elegant design style! While I agree that it can, especially on a large scale like the last house pictured, look ridiculous(it doesn't bother me so much as an accent on a gable or a part of the house that sticks out in front of others), strangely enough, we own a house that we've been trying to sell for what will be 4 years this Fall (we rent it out and try to sell between renters). Our house is wood siding and it won't sell because the houses with the brick facades on the front of the garage or another part of the front of the house are the only ones that seem to sell-and for MUCH more money! There's no difference between square footage or features, and some of the brick front houses are even a few years older, but list and sell for 10-15% more! I guess people like brick, even if they can only get a little bit of it!

  2. I have always hated those brick fronts! They remind me of the plastic people from HS. When looked at from a certain angle, all beautiful and perfect. But just turn the corner and Wham! Fake!

  3. Pamela: Thank you! That might be the nicest compliment I've gotten in a long time, I appreciate that! I blame the Hollywood front on the builders! They're hoisting it on us and tricking us all into thinking it's a wonderful feature. I guarantee they could spread that peanut butter brick they slap on around in a much better way and the world would be better for it!

    Woody--great analogy!! LOL!