The Four Key Guidelines to Exterior Design

The Biggest Obstacle, According to Most Homeowners, is That They Just Can’t Visualize what Their Home Will Look Like

Buildings designed with careful attention to aesthetics arouse and enlighten their occupants and that promotes their good health

– Robert Evans

Using design software like Renoworks makes it possible for your customers to visualize their project. We rely on it daily. It’s easy to use, and best of all it has detailed libraries of window, door, roof, and siding options from all the major manufacturers as well as the available colors, styles and textures.

However, having the software is one thing; knowing how to design is another.

With all the options to choose from it can easily become a daunting and confusing task for homeowners when it comes time to change the exterior of their home. Even for people just looking to paint their existing exterior, I’ve seen couples splash numerous swatches of paint on their home to help them decide what the right choice is.

Add siding into the mix, where you’re not only changing the color, but texture and possibly even the style of the home, and the possibilities can quickly become overwhelming.

The biggest obstacle, according to most homeowners, is that they just can’t visualize what their home will look like.

Fueled by HGTV shows, Mrs. Homeowner gets busy scouring websites like Houzz & Pinterest to get ideas of what she’d like her home to look like. This can either be a blessing or a curse to the contractor, depending on how realistic their goals are. This leads us to the first guideline.

1. The Reality Factor

What needs to be quickly established is this: what style of house do they currently have and what are they looking to achieve, if they even know in the first place? For instance, let’s say they have a typical 2-story bi-level, and they’re looking to achieve improved curb appeal and have a relatively maintenance free home. Bi-Levels are pretty straight forward, there is no real sex appeal like in other style homes. The owner may have thoughts of making it into a craftsman, which is pretty much impossible, short of knocking it down and building one.

Instead, focus on the entryway: a new door, transom, or perhaps some stonework. The windows are the eyes of the home and installing new windows with a distinctive grid style and color can add character and charm to typically bland house.

2. Less Is More

Unless either party has a background in design, it’s easy to over-design, or “busy” a house. If you follow the Rule of Four, this will keep you out of style faux-pas and guide you in achieving the right look. There should be no more than 4 colors on a home.

  1. Roof
  2. Siding
  3. Trim
  4. Accent

Roof color will dictate the siding color. For instance, if the roof is brown, you’re locked into earth tones colors on the house. We recommend black roofs this way you have an open pallet for the rest of the house.

Once the siding, or primary color is settled on, next choose a trim color. Most times this is white, however you can choose an off-white, or even a darker color which will make for a unique look, especially on more contemporary style homes.
Finally, an accent color either on shutters or an entry door can add punch to the front exterior. Here you can go with something bold, like a red or black. Stone is also a great way to add accent, however because most cultured stone has multiple colors in it, you’ll want to choose something that both blends and highlights your other color choices.

3. Know Your Surroundings and Customer

Some people want to stand out, while others want to blend in. Being cognizant of the neighborhood as well as the landscaping and the environment is key to designing the exterior to achieve either goal. If their home is in a wooded, rustic setting versus a more suburban neighborhood, this should factor into your design. The knowledge of whether they’re looking to blend or standout will play into your color and style options.

4. Color and Texture

Some ways of adding some flare to your design is by choosing to mix siding colors or textures. For example, if the main siding choice is clapboard, adding a shake or board and batten to the second story or peak can help punch up the design without adding additional colors. Subtle additions like crowns over windows and doors, frieze boards, historic trim and dentil moldings can put the finishing touches to the design, making for a winning combination of character and elegance.

About Mike Damora

Mike Damora is vice president of sales and marketing at K&B Home Remodelers, in Randolph, N.J. You can follow him on Twitter @madamoracatch him on Drift.