Autumn may seem like it has come and gone, but the snow will disappear in a few days and it can be autumn-ish once again! To celebrate, here is Build's Autumn 15 Newsletter with pretty pictures of a small yet functional kitchen redo and a charming addition to an Ontario Cottage.
Build restored an elaborate Victorian porch to its former glory replicating its original details with new materials. This heritage Italiante home, built in 1877, had a beautifully ornate porch which was deteriorating in places with rot, and a number of older repairs were poorly detailed and executed.
We repaired and reinforced the foundations of the porch, salvaging some original hewn beams to repurpose into interior cabinets and furniture within the home. The porch flooring was replaced with painted Accoya that we milled in a narrow profile with small spaces between the boards to facilitate drainage. New flagstone replaced the crumbling original. The curved lower railings were designed and fabricated to better shed water, and we replicated mouldings and panels where necessary.
A combination of new and moisture resistant materials, such as turned pvc cylinders at the bottom of the heavy rope wood mouldings next to the vestibule door, will help this porch maintain its architectural integrity and stand the test of time.
I would drive by this wonderful house on my way to another project, and had to stop and snap a picture of it. Undoubtedly there is a story behind it.
The window detailing above the porch roof is unique, and that porch is fantastic. I also admire what appears to be the original metal roof, long past the point of its expected lifespan I am sure, but still sheltering one of the more interesting houses in our area.
One of the lamentations of our loss of respect for proper design and execution is we wind up constructing buildings that seem "ok" but our brain tells us something is amiss. This is unfortunate as previous generations of craftsmen, builders, architects and thinkers figured all this stuff out for us, and for the most part we are just slipping into laziness and / or a sense of "good enough".
A prime example is this dormer. In the quest for extra usable space, a misproportioned cube topped with a triangle has been plunked onto this old house. It has been swathed in vinyl siding that matches nothing on the existing structure, and the proportions of the windows are simply bizarre - lots of room for a more vertical window like those of the house. A well designed and detailed shed dormer would look so much better - like the image below:
While on the subject of window shape, here is a fine example of not getting it right, and then not getting it right again! The lower double hung windows are too narrow and too close together - two wider windows would look appropriate (interesting the house next to the outbuilding suffers the same malady). And the upper window is far too wide for a double window of that height - and the windows on the back of the second story suffer as well. There is a shape known as a "golden rectangle" and its part of "design 101".
It is possible to design and construct an attractive, efficient and functional home within the restrictions of a modern subdivision. We did it by following the basic design rules that have worked for generations of architects in the past.
When we were approached last year to design and build a home in a St. Mary's subdivision, we realized that there would be some inherent restrictions involved. The project was a success, a build that was on time and on budget for clients with open minds, good taste and great attitudes.
We reduced the size of the garage and made it a single door to minimize its appearance and bring the focus to the front door and entrance. The entrance is framed by appropriately sized and tapered columns with pillars matching the dramatic black brick of the lower level. The gables above the door and on the second level also bring the eye back to the entrance. The verticality of the black brick is contrasted by the horizontal white trim to add balance. The simple decoration of the brackets on the top gable, and the black casing on the windows give a hint of Craftsman influence which also ties into the interior space.
There are no unnecessary or illogical design elements that would make one go... hmmm. The design just makes sense, visually and functionally.
I should know by now that driving through most subdivisions fills me with a sense of incredulity at how the designers of these buildings can't seem to get much of anything right. Don't get me wrong I am not asking for High Victorian splendour, I am equally impressed when a tract builder can get simple proportion and some common sense detailing right - I just wish it could happen more often. Just for fun, here are some incredibly badly executed details that are all from one "development":
I have beaten this drum before, but it bears another go around (as it seems to be everywhere) - a column that bears somewhere that makes no visual sense, well, makes no visual sense. Perhaps the bottom of this column is inside the garage… ah yes the splendour of the garage - so important that we overwhelm the front of our homes with a box for our car. Your front door is the welcoming point of your home and the last place to settle for daft details like this.
A bit more effort would go a long way with this house. While colour can be relatively subjective, I think we can all agree that the pure white of the trim here is too stark and the grey of the "stone" (undoubtedly concrete that thinks it is stone) is rather bland. Where it really goes off the rails is the white flashing at the bottom of the upper storey wall above the porch and the dormer above the garage.
With a bit of forethought and for no extra cost the flashing should be grey like the masonry and roofing - and it disappears from sight instead of standing out like a sore thumb. You can also see it peeking out below the blue upper gable siding. These are small but important details that tract builders often leave to chance and they ruin an otherwise reasonable design. The porch column bases should be slightly wider - they have a "cone head" effect with the columns above, and the single vertical post above the porch steps is far too skinny and lacks imagination.
Fake stone on the front, brick on the side - pick one and roll with it. The height is bizarre - slightly higher than the sills of both the front and side windows looks like a ridiculous mistake. The front roof columns are too skinny and straight, undoubtedly made from pressure treated lumber by the framing crew. Lastly this trend of stone / brick on the bottom and siding above has got to stop. The difference in depth that causes the eavestrough downspouts to jog out gives us more unnecessary visual clutter.
Most of what I said about the last house applies to this one as well - but this one adds a small sliver of "stone" between the garage doors - lets imagine this house with one wide garage door (which is actually less costly than two smaller doors, and I know you tract builders are held hostage to every nickel) and the result is better - we lose the look of "we're having a hard time fitting everything in".
We need to start valuing proper design - even if we build 50 houses all the same in a development. With a little planning and some common sense these homes can look so much better.
I recently took a three day solo motorcycle trip around Lake Huron, a few days of "alone in my helmet with my thoughts" time. Just as I start to unwind as I roll north on #23 thru Alpena, Michigan I have to brake HARD…not to avoid any road bound trouble but to make sure I don't sail past one of the most impressive stone houses I have ever seen (and there are some stunning stone houses out there…remember this one? Maybe this beauty. Or, wow!
The owner was cutting his grass and gave me a knowing smile as I grabbed my camera, it would seem he is used to the attention his home draws. Everywhere you look there is interesting detail on the "Henry House", which was completed in 1904. Two storey stone houses are quite rare, and I love the way the randomness of the stone shapes and colors plays off against the more formal style and wood details of the eaves, porch and turret. One interesting detail is the outer edge of the circular porch roof being supported by only one column. A fabulous house, looking out over the water and an obviously proud and attentive owner - old house done right!
There was a time when outbuildings were designed and built with as much forethought as the house they sat next to. More recently it seems very hard to find outbuildings that have the same sensible scale and detailing of those from the past.
Take this simple but pleasing garage as an example of how to do things properly, its scale doesn't overwhelm the house (which btw is one of my favourite Stratford homes), its ornamentation and design is logical to the era of the house, and its lovely to look at.
This garage is quite the opposite. Although the scale is reasonable, the details are sadly, poorly conceived. The "half brick half siding" look is not rooted in tradition (its a common tract builder detail) and this garage would look much better in just the board and batten siding (or even simple clapboards). The half wall of brick connecting the garage to the house is simply bizarre. A properly designed wooden or iron fence with gate would look much better, and be more appropriate and sympathetic to the house.
Ironically, right around the corner from the garage noted above is this simple barn or carriage house. Would that the neighbours had taken their cues from this structure, the neighbourhood would be the better for it. Simple details, properly executed and maintained always look better than the "let's throw everything at it even though we don't know what we're doing" approach.
And lastly here is an example of how not to design an outbuilding. We will keep an eye on this as it "progresses". The original form of a gambrel barn is ruined by the addition of a shed roof added to the side - it could have been much better if the shed roof had been pushed back from the front of the barn - it would have read as less of a tumour on the side.
Contrast this to the barn noted above it, which has an addition on the side, but the rooflines are kept separated by the upper side fascia line. Even a simple break such as that appears to the eye to be logical. It's an addition that doesn't ruin the original form. This barn never had a chance!
Build is proud to be a member of the Timber Framers Guild, a worldwide nonprofit association of timber framers. Timber framing is construction using larger wood pieces which are shaped and locked together. Often, timbers are finely prepared because they remain exposed which also exposes the skill of the craftsman involved.
Last year we partook in two separate timber framing joinery workshops near Peterborough. We are looking forward to using our expanded skills on upcoming timber frame projects.
The benefits of honing our handcrafting skills go beyond just timber framing, as this centuries old craft finds its way into our everyday construction work.
We have been working on gathering profiles and designs of vintage mouldings from around the province, and are always amazed at the thought that went into the design and craftsmanship in the execution of interior woodwork.
The shapes and proportions seem much more elegant than the off-the-shelf profiles we have available to us through standard sources. All is not lost though - with some direction from the past, and the help of a local millwork shop that runs custom profiles affordably, we can put together a package of trim work for your Queen Anne, or your 70's ranch, that will transform and unify the interior.
Think about doors, crown mouldings, casings, baseboards, wainscotting, chair rails in your own home. Whether painted or stained, contemporary or traditional, we have the design expertise and resources to make your homes interior sing.
am a licensed carpenter,