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Exterior Renovations - Keeping It All In Proportion

Originally Posted: March 19, 2009

Nicole B. Brewer

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Take your time and drive around the neighborhood and beyond taking notes of elements on homes that interest you - maybe it's the windows, might be the line of the roof, perhaps it is the front entry - and take pictures if you can. If you only like contemporary homes do not go to an architect that specializes in traditional and vice versa. Photo courtesy of Blaze Makoid Architecture

Southampton - At this time of year homeowners tend to take note of the front of their homes a bit more. The first bulbs start to emerge and that sense of spring renewal means cleaning out and freshening up the house. Now what if your home is over 20 years old and a bit dated? Clearly Botox is not an option but a good facade face-lift is just what the doctor ordered, call in the pros to get it done right.

In any good home exterior renovation project there are three main elements - the design from the architect, the construction from a team of builders, and the final touches from the landscape designer that pull it all together.

Creating a new entrance and updating the windows will update any home. Photo
courtesy of Telemark Construction

If you look at your home and it just doesn't thrill you anymore - relax, you are not alone says leading Hamptons home builder, Frank Dalene of Telemark Construction (367 Butter Lane, Bridgehampton, 631-537-1600, www.telemarkinc.com), "Now, most people don't understand specifically what they like or dislike about design but it is usually based on proportions. If proportions or the size of the house in reference to the property are out of scale you will immediately react to that. And that's usually what people mean when they say McMansions - large houses on small lots."

Trends in homes vary from person to person but there's no denying that there is a 'Hamptons' look with cedar shingles and dynamic roof lines. "And it is an aesthetic that varies from person to person," explains Dalene, "I live in Wainscott in the hills and I built my house 25 years ago when it was pretty popular to do contemporary things. Now it looks old and outdated with vertical rough hewn cedar centermatch, which is a tongue and groove board."

Dalene's plan, "I can very easily put shingles on there and change the appeal of the house to something more traditional. For the contemporary houses built in the 1980s the values are not there in the real estate market. And that's not good. That's why you redo the face of your house. You may want to get more in the market if you're planning on selling the house. The best bet thing is to go to an architect and work through that and then hire a builder with a good reputation."

Clearly taking an early assessment of what you like and dislike is important and then working it out with an architect whose style matches yours is key. Take your time and drive around the neighborhood and beyond taking notes of elements on homes that interest you - maybe it's the windows, might be the line of the roof, perhaps it is the front entry - and take pictures if you can. If you only like contemporary homes do not go to an architect that specializes in traditional and vice versa.

The front walk should complement the front entry. Keep an eye on proportions. Photo courtesy of Telemark Construction

One architect taking design to a new level, and sometimes many levels at once, is Blaze Makoid of Blaze Makoid Architecture (7 Tradesman Path, Bridgehampton, 631-537-7277, www.blazemakoid-architecture.com) with his modern designs that break from the old with plenty of glass, interesting materials, and multi-level living spaces. When speaking to a client about a renovation he starts by, "spending a lot of time talking to the owner to understand how they live. A lot in the Hamptons is focused on leisure activities."

With the economy changing the scope of many projects Makoid says, "I would encourage clients to do a smaller project of a higher quality, rather than spread their money thinly on large, bland space, that in the end, they probably don't need and won't use." For a home renovation project consider changing the lines of the house, removing an element that you just can't look at anymore, adding windows, and architectural details. An architect can take a look at the bones of your home and make recommendations to give your home a new look for any budget.

Changing the direction of the siding or adding a front porch will add drama. Photo
courtesy of Telemark Construction

Tying the new design together is the landscape that can add drama and enhance the scale of any home. Frederico Azevedo of Unlimited Earthcare (2249 Scuttlehole Road, Bridgehampton, 631-725-7551, www.unlimitedearthcare.com) starts a renovation by, "Removing the existing evergreens and anything overgrown. The paths might be outdated too." But what if you love that old tree or would prefer to think "green" and recycle those plants that have served their original purpose? "Sometimes we can replant the trees and shrubs in another area for privacy, to hide naked trees, and create a mixed border by transplanting what you have," suggests Azevedo.

After the area is clear of construction debris, the ground has settled a bit, and you've transplanted everything that can be saved Azevedo explains, "Start all over by the foundation with natural lines and curves which add more depth to the house. If you stretch the landscaping past the house the overall result extends the eye and the house looks larger and more pleasant." A basic rule of thumb, suggests Azevedo, is to mix evergreens for winter structure, tall and short shrubs like boxwood and hydrangea, plenty of ground cover for transitions between areas like hosta and ferns, and lots of perennials for color throughout the seasons.

A path to the front door might be a simple upgrade to any home, but if the path is three feet wide and the last step for the front door is five feet wide the eye is thrown out of balance - be sure they measure up. Think about the windows, consider the colors or the materials, and when choosing the plants do groups of threes and fives mixing color and texture on the property, repeated elements create more pleasing views.

In the end it all comes down to proportions - from the design of the facade, the building materials and their layout, and the landscaping elements remind these experts. Just keep those tips in mind and any exterior renovation will come together nicely and you'll be pleased to come home over and over again for another 20 years.

Transplanted trees find a new home in a replanted garden. Photo courtesy of Unlimited Earthcare

Nicole, an award-winning journalist, is Executive Editor & Publisher of Hamptons.com where she focuses on celebrity interviews, fine living and design, social events, fashion and beauty. She lives on the North Fork with her husband, their two daughters, and Bernese Mountain dog, Cooper. www.hamptons.com HamptonsOnline NicoleBBrewer NicoleBBrewer NicoleBBrewer

Guest (tracy mitchell) from sag harbor says::
nice article!
Mar 19, 2009 6:19 pm


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