3 Inspirational Home Exteriors and the Design Elements that Shaped Them?quality=70&width=1500

3 Inspirational Home Exteriors and the Design Elements that Shaped Them

By Michael Buck / 8/24/2020

Every custom home presents unique opportunities and challenges for the designer – whether it’s the desires of the client, municipal restrictions, or modernizing a classic style.

These factors show up in three different residential projects, which influenced how the designers eventually created their incredible exteriors. While the circumstances are unique in each project, one common thread is the fusion of classical architectural styles.

“We’re finding that residential architecture descriptions are being blurred and any traditional style can be adapted to have a modern or unique flair,” said Jason Hale, president of Willow Homes, a custom design/build firm based in Birmingham, Alabama.

Here, three firms detail how they approached their projects, where they found inspiration, and their favorite exterior elements of the homes they created.

A Camouflaged Modern Home in Knoxville

Nestled in a forested area, one of the primary goals for this home design was to blend it into the surrounding environment, said architect Robert Nebolon, AIA. 

Nebolon borrowed the “dazzle camouflage” concept used on huge World War-era battleships to break up their profile and make them difficult to identify.

“We wanted to reduce the size and shape of the house by breaking up the wall into a pattern of windows, and different color and textured wall planes when seen through trees from neighboring houses and help it merge with the forest.”

For the camouflage, Nebolon used a mix of landscaping, which will become even more effective with time, two different siding sizes in three colors, as well as large windows. The siding is 4-inch and 6-inch exposure Artisan® lap siding, which is part of the Aspyre Collection by James Hardie®. Nebolon said he and his clients liked the strong horizontal lines created by the thickness of the siding as it gave the house an elegant architectural presence from the street.

“We used the Artisan siding for a practical reason as well,” Nebolon said. “The owners previously lived in a home with real wood siding and squirrels were a problem. They also had woodpeckers that drove them crazy. They didn’t want any of those problems on their new house.”

The finished design is a contemporary revisit of the mid-century modern style. The style is a blend inspired by the work of Cliff May and Anshen & Allen (Eichler Development) — both highly regarded mid-century Southern California architects. Nebolon channels Cliff May in the simple low-slope gable roof design, and Anshen & Allen with the large glass walls to let the garden into the house.

“Both architects used the post & beam structure and so does this house. In our office, we called this a ‘Neo-Eichler,’” Nebolon said.

A Custom Suburban Infill Home In Alabama

Set among the rolling Appalachian Mountains, this home, which was photographed by Tommy Daspit, is in Mountain Brook, Alabama, an upscale suburb located about 10 minutes southeast of Birmingham.

The area has historically featured Tudor and Tudor-inspired homes, and more recently a blend of architecture throughout, said Jason Hale, president of Willow Homes.

Hale’s clients purchased the land, which was a vacant lot and situated in a mature neighborhood, and were ready to build their new home.

The challenge for Hale and Barry DeLozier, his design partner on the project, was to create a home that fit the client’s tastes and looked as though it had been in the neighborhood for years. The challenges were not dissimilar to urban infill projects.

“You want it to be seamless,” Hale said. “We evaluated existing homes in the area and found the characteristic Tudor architecture along with Craftsman-inspired homes, which is what you see in elements of this design.”

The lot also influenced their approach. It’s relatively narrow and deep, with a steep slope from a high point at the back of the lot. There are also restrictive height limitations and setback requirements in the municipality.

To compensate, the home design called for a gabled roofline to provide the illusion of height, and expansive front stairs that scale the width of the home.

One of Hale’s favorite features is the arched entrance, which is finished in Artisan siding with mitered corners. Whereas the arch may have typically been finished with masonry, the thick siding and rich shadow lines provide a more modern touch.

An Italianate Tennessee Farmhouse

When Patrick and Mary Hatcliff, the husband and wife team that make up the custom design/build firm Hatcliff Construction, needed inspiration for a new home outside Franklin, Tennessee, they looked 100 miles to the north.

There they absorbed the details of the Croft House, which is located on the Grassmere Estate at the Nashville Zoo and listed on the National Register of Historic Homes.

“The original home was built in 1810 as a large Tennessee farmhouse,” Mary said. “In 1850 there was a major renovation in the Italianate style. I would call this design, and ours, an Italianate Tennessee Farmhouse.”

Mary’s favorite aspects of their reinterpretation of the Croft House are all of the rich, classic Southern details on the exterior, which they developed with architect Alyson Sailer of Sailer Design.

The home features Italianate columns that are reminiscent of the Greek or Classical revival columns that characterize Southern style, as well as an opulent porch and balcony that spans the width of the home. The garage and guest house feature products from the Aspyre Collection by James Hardie, which harken back to elements of the original home design.

“I think the Artisan siding along with the 10-foot tall windows are what made this home look like it was over 100 years old, but without all the maintenance issues,” Mary said.

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