Ask Katie: Rancher curb enhancement

photo courtesy of the homeownerQ: We recently purchased a home that is a 60’s style single-story front gable structure with a low pitched roofline. The interior has been completely remodeled, but I really feel like something needs to be done to the front of the home (entrance) to make it complete. I do realize the roofline will be the most limiting factor, and we may just have to work around it. We really like the Cape Cod/refined look, but don’t know where to start with the ideas to help its curb appeal. Obviously, in the most cost effective way (paint trim, add entrance way, exterior coverings), I was curious to see if you could help us out with a few ideas to bring out the potential in the home.

Brian of Mountainbrook, AL

A: This rancher front elevation has great unrealized potential. It could really shine if we highlight and capitalize on its inherent ranchiness. That is not to say, however, that a subtle layer of non-ranch influence could not inform its unique countenance. But it would need to be a sympathetic influence, a compatible influence, not something too alien.

stengths and weaknesses

The simple, low-slung, gable roof of this home is probably its most identifying and strongest feature. The next most impactful feature may be the ganged horizontal windows, in what is presumably the living room, to the left of the entrance. The third strongest design element may be the horizontal sills, lintels and entrance canopy. The least successful portion of the front elevation may be the right side of the entrance where three disconcertingly vertical double-hung windows populate the horizontal swath defined by the brick window sill and wood lintel which becomes the entry canopy. Also, it's this side where the base of the home becomes uncomfortably muddled or non-existent. The planter off the far left of the home, in combination with the higher grade there, seem to better ground that side.

new entry porch

The introduction of a more substantial entry porch which extends out from the existing doorway and to the right could help remedy much of what ails the front of this house, while reinforcing the horizontality of the sills, lintels, and canopy, as well as balancing the horizontal bank of living room windows to the left.

I suggest removing the existing entry stoop and replacing it with a grey, rectilinear, stone stoop/terrace that extends to the left a couple of feet and all of the way across the right front and six to eight feet or so forward of that portion of the house. (Of course, this assumes that the local zoning would allow such a stoop/terrace footprint.) The top of the new stone stoop/terrace could run a few inches beneath what appears to be vents along the front. The lower height of the new stoop/terrace would likely mean including a separate landing (of the same material) that's a step or so up in front of the entry door. The new stoop/terrace could end in steps to grade on the far right facing the side yard. The new stoop/terrace would reinforce the home's horizontal design and introduce a base to better ground the home.

A new, deeper, horizontal, wooden canopy in the location of the existing canopy that's supported beneath by thin metal stays/brackets could extend to the left of the door over the new stoop/terrace and to the right across the swath of windows and stop where the existing canopy/lintel stops, while projecting about three and one-half to four feet in front of the right portion of the house. This would provide porch shelter and further reinforce the home's horizontality and the horizontality of the swath that contains the double-hung windows. 

new materials and color palette

The introduction of some natural-finish, warm-stained cedar (or fir) might lend the exterior more warmth to play off the painted white brick. In fact, I'd recommend painting the brick another color, something in the light green lichen color family might be pleasant. The existing vertical composite siding above the windows could be replaced with natural-finish, warm-stained vertical cedar v-groove tongue and groove boards. The existing vertical composite siding in between the double-hung windows (both on the right and left sides of the front) could be replaced with natural-finish, warm-stained horizontal clapboards -- again, to reinforce the horizontality of those areas. Window (and door) surrounds in all areas could be replaced with the same natural-finish, warm-stained cedar. Of course, this new palette of materials and colors would need to be applied on all sides of the home. A terrace/landing guard rail composed of new natural-finish, warm-stained intermediate posts, horizontal cable rails, and a natural-finish, warm-stained, shaped cedar cap might complement the new look nicely.

slatted wood screens

You might even consider adding fixed, slatted, natural-finish, warm-stained cedar screens -- the height of the lower double-hung sashes and in alignment with them -- running across the front of the horizontal openings (which contain the double-hung windows and infill to the far left and right of the front door). These would act as privacy screens (instead of the interior window shades) in the more private spaces, while reinforcing the horizontal swaths between the painted brick elements.

enhanced ranchiness infused with an Arts & Crafts touch

The addition of the new horizontal stoop and guard rails, a deeper bracketed horizontal canopy roof, a new materials and color palette, and new slatted wooden screens would enhance this home's ranchiness, while better grounding it and lending it a dash of Arts & Crafts influence (an influence not as far afield from a ranch as a Cape influence).

by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast

Email architect Katie Hutchison (Katie@katiehutchison.com) your general-interest residential design question. Put "Ask Katie" in the subject line and summarize your question in a couple of paragraphs. Include your name, town, and state. Check back with the Ask Katie category to look for Katie's responses to select questions.

Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 3:08PM by Registered CommenterKatie Hutchison in | Comments Off

Q: What does the architect say? A: Clerestory

Found on many a homeowner's wish list, the clerestory window is one which is placed above an abutting roof line and, as such, is well above eye level. We designed small, square, awning clerestory windows for the Brewster Long House, pictured here, which draw daylight from above, deep into the dining area below. One of the beauties of the clerestory window is that it can welcome daylight and views of treetops, mountains, and sky, but typically not views of neighbors or a home's occupants.

Clerestory windows are often confused with transom windows. Transoms are ganged directly above a door or window. Both admit daylight from above. Clerestory windows generally draw daylight deeper into a space since they themselves are usually positioned deeper within a space.

by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast

Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 3:04PM by Registered CommenterKatie Hutchison in | Comments Off

KHS 2014 calendar of New England images

Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 4:58PM by Registered CommenterKatie Hutchison in | Comments Off

Design snapshot: Homey garage

This is a rare two-photo Design snapshot. Pretend for a moment that you hadn't yet seen the title of this post or the thumbnail photo below. Would you think, as I did initially, that the structure to the left in the image above is a home addition with an entry? Maybe an in-law suite or a home office? Imagine my surprise when I turned the corner and saw four garage doors. A garage? With such a nice sheltered entry and lattice-edged stoop? An entry more inviting than the workaday entry to the far right?

Then I began to wonder if perhaps the space behind the double windows, just to the right of the sheltered entry, functions as a mud room. And perhaps the garage isn't an addition, but an original cottage turned garage once the rest of the house was added to the right ? Or perhaps it was once a free-standing carriage house that was later absorbed by the larger house to which it is now attached? These kinds of narratives about how a dwelling was or may have been shaped over time can inspire the design of an addition (whether the addition is a garage or a larger house). What ever the true narrative for this property, this side-facing garage is particularly homey.

by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast


Posted on Saturday, December 7, 2013 at 5:04PM by Registered CommenterKatie Hutchison in | Comments Off

Q: What does the architect say? A: Massing

Today's word is massing. Building massing refers to the three-dimensional forms which comprise a structure. Massing, for example, can be compact, charaterized by forms tightly arranged around a central form, or winged, in which forms branch off in a wing-like fashion, or perhaps linear, in which forms are aligned, or nearly aligned, end to end.

Generally, architects aim to balance massing. Ideally massing is legible, such that the distinct forms communicate meaning in relation to each other. You may be familiar with the book Big House, Little House, Back House, Barn: The Connected Farm Buildings of New England. It illustrates the connected massing of 19th century farm buildings in which the Big House, which was the main house, could be understood in relation the Little House, which might comprise a kitchen, to the Back House, which might contain additional space for in-home industry like cheese making, to the Barn which was the primary location for agrarian enterprise. The arrangement of the massing of these distinct elements communicated what happened within each component and the relation of each to the other.

In the image above of the West Tisbury House, we arranged the massing of the home such that three overlapping gable forms of different height and width communicate a similar hierarchy of sorts. The distant tallest gable contains the main house (Big House); the one and one-half story gable to the left is the Little House (kitchen and more); the single-story gable to the right is the Back House (ancillary living space); And, in this example, there is no Barn. 

When designing a home, massing is one of the first characteristics an architect considers.

by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast

Posted on Monday, November 25, 2013 at 4:24PM by Registered CommenterKatie Hutchison in | Comments Off