Simple changes can transform an exterior

Chances are that each of us has, at one time or another, been asked to improve the street-side appearance of a client’s home. It is always very difficult to see past the existing structure and envision what it could be.

One particular house we had success with was a typical 1960s or ’70s two-story home similar to what you might find in most areas of the country. Situated on a beautiful piece of land, the challenge was to remodel this house without adding too much square footage. In working with the clients, Colonial and Country French elevation concepts were developed as they wanted to explore different options. After looking those over, the clients asked about the possibility of giving the house a Craftsman feel; a style they had always admired. I assured them it was possible and provided several sketches to review. The plans were shortly underway.

This style of house is fairly easy to rework as the front is a two-story box with a porch attached. Many different styles can be developed by adding a gable bump-out. Center it up and add eyebrow returns, a half-round vent, window head pieces and some raised panel shutters, and you have a pretty nice Colonial look; nothing historically accurate, but suitable for most developments. Add a double gable and center the smaller one over the front door, add a swept (curved) eyebrow, stucco and stucco stone, and you have a country European variation. Don’t forget to add timber columns and brackets to the porch.

The house can also take on a simpler look with standing-seam roofing on the porch, two-over-two vertically proportioned windows and a more slender porch column with a simple bracket, and a Victorian-era farmhouse is born. With all of these options, it can be difficult to know where to start the process.

In this case, there were some plan changes to incorporate. The master bedroom was stretched to the end of the existing garage to allow room for a new walk-in closet, a bump-out was added at the rear to accommodate the kitchen and casual dining expansion, and an oversize two-car side-loaded garage was also added. Once these were roughly sketched into the floor plan, the front elevation sketch came next. The Craftsman style is known for the wide flat cross gable, and it centered over the front door easily with the plan. The eaves were dropped to give it a bungalow feel.

Half of the existing front-loaded garage was repurposed as a mud room and laundry. A small gable and planter disguise the idea that there was ever a garage door there. Tapered flat-panel columns on square stone bases along with three-over-one windows helped to complete the Craftsman look.

During demolition, mold was uncovered in the attic so the trusses were removed and replaced with new pieces that incorporated the broken or “kicked” eave, an idea suggested by the owner. The opportunity also allowed the 7-ft. 6-in. second-floor walls to be plated up for better head height. This seems like a lot of effort but full disclosure here: The owner is also the builder and he has a well-worn tool belt.

This example is of course a case of extreme remodeling, but simple changes to siding, windows, paint and trim can radically revive a tired old tract-style two-story.


Jim Wright, CPBD, AIBD, CGP, is president and principal designer at the award-winning home design firm Residential Designed Solutions. Wright has served as Secretary/Treasurer of NCBDC, National President of AIBD for two terms and as Treasurer and VP of Central Ohio NARI. He has received many awards including the 2004 MasterWork of Design, the 2004 National AIBD Designer of the Year and the 2005 BIA Distinguished Service Award in Architecture.