addition: material inspiration

Despite all my recent moaning and groaning, I have managed to distract myself a bit from my current situation by organizing my thoughts about the future of this house. I really enjoyed putting together the post on the interior materials, and so I thought I’d move onto the exterior materials next, before heading back inside to look at the layout in more detail. I should also point out here that this little exercise in wishful thinking is completely my own. I’d love to say that M and I have the time and energy to sit down and brainstorm on this together, but he’s always worked like he’s two men at work, and now he’s also working like he’s two parents at home. So for now I have creative license to design at will. But to be honest, I’d rather do it as a team, and the ideas that I’m starting here will only get better with two heads in the puzzle.
There are so many different directions that we could go with the exterior on a modern addition to the house. Having all those options is exciting – it would give us the flexibility to choose a material that is durable, attractive and also affordable. The only option that is not available is to mimic what might have been there if this part of the building had been constructed in 1885. The correct approach (and my favorite approach) to adding onto an historic home is to clearly delineate between the original building and the new addition. An addition should respect the massing of the original, and it can be sympathetic to the materials and to the palette, but it should never try to trick the visitor into thinking that the new was really old. This kind of freedom (and perhaps, restraint) means the addition can be as much fun on the outside as it is on the inside.
I looked around for various examples of exterior cladding materials, and tried to find instances for each that were attached to older, historic buildings.

Let’s start with the most obvious – brick, just like the original house. And while we’d never try to blend new brick with the old brick, the idea of using a different kind of brick, in a more modern way, is very appealing.
The photo directly below this is one of my favorite houses ever – it’s a Victorian home in London with a kitchen / dining room addition that I ripped out of Dwell magazine years ago. (There was also a similar painting studio in the rear of the yard.) I like the white stucco exterior. Very clean and simple. The second photo down isn’t too far of a stretch from what our addition might look like with a second floor outdoor space.
Cedar Siding
Horizontal cedar siding is a popular choice as well, particularly with clean, minimal trim details around openings. Cedar could tie the addition to some of the outdoor pieces – a fence, a deck, maybe a trellis too.


Weathered Wood
A lighter, thinner wood (like the top portion of the house below) is also interesting. It kind of reminds me of the endless miles of lath we removed from behind all our plaster walls. (Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing!)
Cement Siding or Cement Panels
Products like Hardi-board are fairly common these days on more traditional homes, but they are a nice product on more modern buildings when installed as larger panels, or as horizontal boards with no lap.
Trespa Panels
Trespa is one name brand for a type of high pressure laminate panel. You can get them in an endless assortment of colors, and configure and install them in any way you wish. I’m not a huge fan of a laminate panel that looks like wood, but I do like the idea of a panel in a wood tone, or a copper tone as an option.
Speaking of copper… copper would look completely fantastic on an addition to our house. We have copper details all over the front of the house, and I love the way that copper mellows out and becomes this rich, matte brown color. Copper would also be extremely expensive, and there’s no way I’d use it on all three sides (particularly the side that is our actual property line with our neighbors), but if used sparingly, it could be really amazing. Think of all those gorgeous stone and brick manses with copper garden rooms and conservatories on the rear. Posh, right?
Patinated Copper
The green patina that develops on copper over time is more rare (thanks to the lack of acidic rainwater these days), but you can purchase copper that’s been mechanically “coaxed” to have that green patina. I also think this is a beautiful look – and could tie into the green color of our painted trim on the house. Lovely, but pricey too.
Cor-Ten Steel (or weathered steel)
These are steel panels that have been treated in a way to not require painting – they basically have a stable rust layer on the exterior. This is another material that would tie in really well with the existing materials on our house – the warm brick color – but would be a definite change of materials between old and new. It looks fantastic with big expanses of glass.
Painted Steel
Another steel option is painted steel. I like the idea of painted steel the color of the slate roof out front. With the dark steel and the glass, the addition really recedes in prominence, and the garden space becomes the focus.
cementitious plaster
Zinc panels are another metal option reminiscent of the traditional slate on the front of the house. They can be configured in all sorts of ways – panels, shingles, horizontal or vertical siding. It’s a nice matte finish in a deep gray with a lot of depth. Pricey though.
Polished Concrete
Polished concrete is a very straightforward way to approach the addition. The concrete could even be colored – changing the look completely, particularly if a dark color is used. I really like the idea of the west wall of the house (the shared property line wall with no windows – the one by the new interior basement stair) as polished concrete, with a different material on the two walls that have lots of glass in them.
polished concrete

So this isn’t really a formal poll or anything, but I’d love to know your favorite(s). E’s sitting here with me for this little materials lesson and she’s picked 1. modern brick, 2. copper, 3. zinc, 4. Cor-Ten steel and 5. cedar siding, in order of preference. She’s also stated that she’d be happy with any of them if they actually got built, and she got to help out on the project. I love the fact that she’s perfectly happy to sit here and talk about patinated materials and installation details for cement panels with her mom. She’s a pretty cool kid.

17 Responses to addition: material inspiration

  1. I love that you’re embracing a modern addition to your historical house and introducing new materials. Buildings become so much more interesting when volumes and materials are layered – like they tell a story, these new marks made on its surface.
    That said, I hate the idea of white stucco! I imagine it will get dingy very quickly. The wood, copper or corten would be a nice counterpoint to the existing brick, and would weather nicely over time. These materials suggest the same warmth and richness as brick, but are more reflective of the aesthetic you seem to be after.
    Looking forward to seeing your thoughts evolve on this addition!

    • Your concern about the white stucco is my main concern about that as well. I think it was the right choice for the house in that first photo – they also have this really larger, lush lawn and the addition (and corresponding studio across the yard) sits really nicely upon it. The original house has lots of white details as well – like those box bays you see on the back.

      Stucco (particularly a light color) would be very difficult to maintain on our narrow lot. It’s amazing how much color runs in tight spaces – I think it would eventually be streaked with dirt, but also with the natural color runoff you get from other building materials like neighboring brick.

      The other thing I didn’t mention is that the addition is south facing – so glare would be an issue as well.

  2. So many options!! You know how I feel about modern. Bring it on! Of course in your case it’s so important that it make sense with the original structure and I’m so impressed with all these ideas. They’re beautiful.

    I think I like the stucco idea, too. It looks so clean but would it actually “stay clean”. A lady down our street did a stucco overlay on her brick home and at first I gasped but honesty it’s really beautiful when I drive by. The finish is perfection! The Cor-Ten is awesome and just grabbed me right away. Of course I love the look of rusty, weathered things. I don’t think you could go wrong with any of them. I get overwhelmed when I have too many options so I’ll be excited to see what you pick. It’s so fun to dream and plan.

    • Yes, on keeping it clean – see my response above to Nadia. I really like the look, but I think I’m more drawn to it in a larger setting, and maybe not so much in a tight urban setting. I’m leaning more towards an object that recedes in prominence in this case.

  3. mercy, I would not know where to begin. love the openness of the first shot. tricky in an urban setting, perhaps. always good to have options. (and I am happy to report your post came through to my inbox with flying colors!)

    • Thank goodness on the email issue. What a pain in the rear that’s been. I’ve tested it on so many different emails that I’m getting notifications all over the place.

  4. I am surprised by how much I love the stucco! I guess I just always associated stucco with that typical southwestern ranch style home, but it looks so chic and urban. So, stucco, modern brick, and zinc are my top picks, although I think any of them could be gorgeous. (I noticed that vinyl siding in a vaguely similar color to the brick was not on the list, although that was the choice made by the previous owners at our house!)
    Brooke recently posted…Around Here LatelyMy Profile

  5. Pingback: admiring: kitchen / dining wish list | third story(ies)

  6. I thought you might enjoy seeing how this addition turned out. I couldn’t help but think of it when I read this.

    • Thank you for sending me that link. What an incredible project. There are so many things that I love about it and their responses to limitations similar to our own site constraints are spot on. You nailed it.

  7. So pleased! Here’s an article with some actual description:

    I look forward to seeing yours come to life!
    Jessica recently posted…Vision Quest 2015 – Action PlannerMy Profile

  8. Yeah, no kidding. The stair detailing looks similar to one we designed at work.

    Gorgeous stuff.

  9. Pingback: project addition: preliminary meetings with the city | third story(ies)

  10. Pingback: black* brick / white brick | third story(ies)

  11. Beautiful houses and so modern. I love every detail of it. I love how these houses looked very manly because of its edges. Thanks for sharing these inspirations.

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