Monday, February 13, 2017

"ECHOING": The Key to a Seamless Addition

Nothing here worth "echoing"? Au contrare, my friend!
The lap siding, shutters, pedimented porch roof, and
flanking brick chimneys are all good candidates
to be repeated in an addition.
 “Echoing” is a simple and highly effective design trick architects use to visually tie an addition to the existing building.  It involves searching out the small details that are unique to the original building and echoing them (reproducing them in their original or a slightly modified form) in the new work. Judiciously chosen, these echoed details help create a seamless addition without costing a fortune.

Often, when I suggest echoing the style of the existing house in their addition, my clients respond, “But our house doesn’t have any style!”   In fact, regardless of how humble you think your home is, it probably has plenty of style once you’re alert to it.  It’s just that living in a home for any length of time tends to make one immune to its charms.

The real trick is finding what to echo. To do this, try to look at your home with fresh eyes. What details make it different from the neighbor’s house? Perhaps the porch railings or the gable vents? How about the trim around the front windows? Homes from particular stylistic eras have lots of characteristic details that can be effectively echoed.  Here are some common ones:

Spanish Revival homes, like other Romantic Revival styles,
offer a wealth of details for echoing. Repeating details such as
the clay tile, arches, clay pipe vents, and ironwork
will practically guarantee a seamless addition.
•  In Victorian homes, echoing elements such as fish-scale shingle, cornices, and finials will go a long way toward integrating an addition. However, while Victorians have a wealth of detail that can be echoed, they also demand scrupulous reproduction in order to be successful. Two-dimensional renditions of highly-modeled details will look papery and cheap.

Note that the overall scale of the addition—window size and proportion, ceiling height, and massing   —should be in keeping with the original building as well. This rule invariably applies to any addition that's meant to blend in.

•  Colonials are much simpler to echo. Their characteristic details, such as columned porches, boxed cornices, and divided-lite windows with shutters, can all be easily and inexpensively reproduced with modern materials.

• Bungalow style homes have very characteristic front porches with stout "elephantine" columns and, often, unusual gable vents, porch balustrades, and the like, yielding plenty of details that can be echoed in the new work.

• Revival styles such as Spanish, Normandy, and Tudor, present the most specialized cases. Their builders took considerable pains to create highly original details for each, and hence no two are quite alike.  Look for details such as wrought iron grilles; round chimneys, or ones made of brick interspersed with stone; attic vents made from clay pipe or barrel tiles; and unusual stone or brick decoration around entrances.  Then, echo these in the addition where appropriate.  

California Rancher have lots of echo-able features. In this example,
some of the "must-have" details include the low-pitched shingle roof,
the used brick detailing, window shutters, and classic
items such as the "kickers" holding up the ends of the roof gables.
•  California Ranchers have a whole slew of neat details which have grown more charming with the passage of time.  Many ranchers featured countrified “crossbuck” X-motifs on porch railings and door panels, as well as diagonal knee braces or “kickers” near the top of porch posts. The more elaborate among them had projecting beams supporting the bargeboards and shamelessly phony “birdhouses” on the garage gable or astride the roof ridge. All of these details are relatively simple and inexpensive to reproduce in the addition.

•  Many of today's contemporary home styles are once again featuring “traditional" details such as heavy stucco or wood columns, heavy window trim, and windows with divided lites, making it easy to echo their designs. Better yet, it’s likely you’ll still find the exact same materials that the contractor used.

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