Home Additions and Architectural Style: Blending New and Old

    One of the biggest challenges in designing and building a home addition is the stylistic connection between old and new. The design approach can either match architectural styles to blend seamlessly together, or you can deliberately contrast them. Sometimes a designer must find a way to help a client who may live in a center hall colonial but has the aesthetic sensibility that makes them partial to a more contemporary style. That approach will require some finesse to achieve the right balance. Whatever stylistic approach is taken, it is essential to make a design that will stand the test of time structurally and stylistically.

    What is the Difference Between Renovation and New Build Architecture? 

    With new construction, we are starting with a “clean slate”, constrained only by budget and local ordinances, so the architectural style is mostly unrestricted. The architect will take into consideration the surrounding landscape, the positioning of the lot in relation to natural light, and the neighboring buildings. The style chosen may present a bold statement or blend subtly into the existing environment.

    Building an addition to an existing home involves working with and around an existing structure, ensuring that the addition is structurally sound and aesthetically cohesive with the existing building. If you love your neighborhood but need some updates and more space, renovation and additions can be the best choice.

    A renovation is an excellent opportunity to improve on design elements. If a home was designed with a small front porch, that can be expanded and made wider or longer as necessary during renovation. There are often creative ways to take the design beyond the restraints the original designers were working under.  

    What should you consider when deciding between a renovation and building from scratch? Building codes, especially setback requirements, may make an addition impractical. If there isn’t enough clearance along the sides, back, or front of your home, or if the shape of the addition will not make sense in relation to the rest of the house, it may not make sense to remodel.

    How much will a home addition cost? Aside from the new construction, you must factor in the cost of updates to the existing floor plan and custom architectural details. Moving to a new location or tearing down and rebuilding on-site can be expensive too, so it’s important to have a sense of the real numbers involved as you make a decision.


    Should My Addition Match the Original Architectural Style?

    Once you’ve decided to move forward with an addition to your home, there are a new set of questions to answer. How will the addition fit in with the rest of the property? While the most straightforward path is to have an addition that closely matches the original style of the home, it is absolutely possible to blend architectural styles when building an addition. The challenge is to blend architectural styles in a way that will be seamless and timeless. 

    Under the right circumstances, you can also choose to change the architectural style completely as you renovate. For instance, we recently completed a renovation on a ranch style home. The design completely changed the look of the home to what we might call “French eclectic.” The beauty of a renovation is that you can make a more artistic version of the original home. 

    Where will you draw inspiration for your renovation? You may have a coastal vacation home, or have fond memories of a particular destination. We had clients in a two-story colonial in DC who wanted some contemporary, coastal Northeast elements added into their home. We were able to add those elements while retaining a sense of place rooted in the Middle Atlantic region, bringing distinction while still blending into the established neighborhood. 


    As tastes have evolved in our area, so have expectations around renovation projects. Metro DC is an increasingly sophisticated, multicultural, cosmopolitan place. Homes and what homeowners expect from additions reflect this reality. People want their homes to look like what they see on HGTV and Houzz - and there’s no reason NOT to have a stylish, cohesive architectural look when you renovate.

    While building an addition is possible on most any style home, newer homes are often less complicated to renovate. Older homes may have underlying structural conditions that need to be addressed during renovation.

    Overcoming Design Challenges with the Right Design Partner

    Sometimes the existing architecture of a home needs to be more distinctive. A renovation comes to mind in which the house had originally been clad in bland siding. There was no defined front entry feature. We helped them add an entry with a modern, Asian-inspired style that gave the home a look much more appealing than the original. 

    A renovation might include adjusting a roofline over a garage to get more height for an addition. By changing the direction of the roofline you add visual interest instead of having one long unbroken roofline. No one wants to live in a bunkhouse! 

    To get the most pleasing results from a renovation, your design team may show examples of the architectural style of your home. Renovation can not only produce a beautiful addition but also improve the existing architectural style. The right design-build team will help you articulate what you like and don’t like about the style of your home as it currently exists. They will help you bring elements of old and new comfortably together to create a cohesive, attractive whole. 

    To learn more about the home addition design-build process, download our eBook titled "What Every Homeowner Needs to Know About Home Additions and Whole Home Remodelingto get an in-depth understanding. If you are considering a home renovation, please feel free to schedule a home renovation discovery session with Gilday today.

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