We’re also rather private, so while we want plenty of natural light, we don’t want to live in a fishbowl with the kind of transparency that allows everyone to see how we live… or that forces us to lower blinds and shades for privacy… something you get with the floor to ceiling windows of cubic/modernist designs. But we do love windows. Lots of them. Its a quandary.
We do like the way the lines of contemporary & modern designs are cleaner, and the way the ornate details seem to disappear with them. The simplicity of clean lines and lots of light really appeals. In contemporary & modern designs, windows stretch from floor to ceiling, bringing in tons of natural light. Their interiors are open concept and the spaces flow; they’re not compartmentalized. They are uncluttered. We like the way they seem to be about connecting the indoor and outdoor spaces, doing things like extending ceilings or walls or floors outside with the same trim/surfaces, and orienting views to nature outside. These are elements we like.
We also love BC architecture with its emphasis on wood beams, glass, stone and steel, and always, central to the design, is a connection to nature, to the outside and the incorporation of the landscape (like a boulder slab or a tree trunk protruding through a deck feature) in its style.
Likewise, we love mountain architecture with its angled roofs imitating the landscape around it, its emphasis on rustic wood, chunky wood, beams and stone.
We like the look of some of the contemporary design builds that are going into some of the Toronto area homes (Kingsway/Oakville/Burlington)… that’s where we’re from so we’re coming to realize it’s embedded a bit in our taste profile. They tend to have low angle roofs, stacked stone elements (in the lighter colours that you’d find in limestone), vertical stacks of rectangular black windows, etc. (We like grey windows, too…. especially with lighter toned exteriors, as long as the stone elements have no cream or yellow to their colouration.)
The exterior designs we like are contemporary and elegant, not ostentatious & overbuilt… simple with not too many things/materials/details going on. If the photos here are grand & overbuilt, pay attention to the comments… because there’s one or two elements we like there somewhere, despite that.
Our home has always been a retreat, a place where we can truly relax and be ourselves. Our current home has suited us very well over the years because it is oriented to the back, where the garden and views of nature surrounded us, giving us that dose of nature combined with a ton of privacy. Being able to see greenery (be it from gardens, vines or trees) and bird life is important. Our current home is full of wood, rectangular windows, and tons of natural light. There’s stone at the fireplace, and gigantic slabs of rock as garden steps off the deck. The deck pergola is covered by vines and is a sanctuary for birds… and for us.
Perhaps it's safe to say we like even more, the board & batton and painted shingle siding of New England/Eastern Seaboard type of cottages/modern farmhouse designs. Vertical orientation board & batten in a light colour, gunmetal grey metal roofs, black trim windows, substantial overhangs, etc. And if the exterior was a light colour, it would show off the plants well.
You will see many photos in this ideabook with wood on the soffits… but we wonder if that adds too much to the maintenance over time, or adds too much to the cost of the construction… money we’d rather target for the kitchen, staircase and wood fireplace, along with solar panels and cool mechanicals.
Here are a few things we know about our tastes…
Re: DECKS: Low-to-the-ground decks (so there are NO railings), extending the kitchen eating area outside. Some way to hide the deck underpinnings (like the thin board slats used in Habitat’s Double J house). Different levels, one step down at a time to define seating/usage. Low maintenance materials. NO fire pit. NO pond. NO hot tub. Where eavestroughs come off house, have no downspouts: use cascading chains instead, leading to a stone bed base. What I will miss about our current deck: it’s big stone slab steps… creating a really unique feature that reminds us of Muskoka in Ontario (so my roots) and the scrambles we do in the mountains (our fitness & play time)… not to mention the rocks we’ve collected over the years. Also, if at all possible, a sitting area that faces east for those hot sunny summer afternoons when we want to duck the heat, or those early morning coffees where we want the sunlight and warmth that an east facing exposure can give us.
Re: KITCHEN EATING AREA: One of the things we have loved about our current house is its rectangular bump-out that has windows on three sides. The bump out holds only the table and chairs. On the windowsills are plants. The garden enters/flows into the house this way. There is a deck as well that tucks into the place created by the nook with a pergola that shelters it. There's so much life in that shaded area with the birds living, hiding and feeding in the vines there, and it can all be seen through the windows.The windows of the nook are at the same level and height and are in alignment with the other windows on the back of the house. It is a light, airy, happy place.
Re: DESIGN BALANCE: The house must look balanced from the outside. We don't like designs where the windows are placed haphazardly all over the elevation... no doubt they work and function optimally from inside the house, but outside they look so "off." Perhaps this is why craftsman and mid-century modern homes appeal to us... because the windows are usually so balanced in the exterior design. Also, if one design element is used (say wood panelling, horizontal siding, stonework, metal), it must be repeated in the exterior elevations... patterns of 3s work so well. And that pattern must be balanced visually top to bottom, left to right.
Re: EXTERIOR FINISHES: blocks, protruding elements, wrap around elements to create visual interest. Low maintenance. Lots of squares & rectangles. Emphasis on natural elements (wood, stone/slate) plus metal, glass, concrete/hardi panels. Chains from eavestrough spouts to rocks in garden below (versus downspouts). Windows clad in black, grey or shiny metal finishes on the exterior (not white smart board or white vinyl). Windows stacked in vertical columns, that meet/wrap around at building corners. Many rectangular elements to the windows (whether it be elongated upright windows or collages of rectangular glazing in a large expanse of windows, stacked windows in vertical columns, etc). NO curves (unless in the roof line). NO semi circular or circular windows. NO rounded pillars. NO pillars that are oversized & stumpy on the bottom and taper up like triangles at the top (traditional craftsman). If beams are used, they must be substantial, in proportion, and verge on chunky & rustic.
Re: STONEWORK: if stonework is incorporated into the design it must not end one foot around the side, as it wraps around the front of the house. That false-front look (that saves money on masonry) just looks unbalanced and wrong. We'd rather go without stonework detailing, than have it wrap that way. It needs to be a true element of the design, rather than a decoration stuck to the front of the house.
Re: GARAGE: if a stand-alone, it must be visually interesting (as it’s most likely seen from the kitchen and the patio). It must be VERY functional, so perhaps a shed attached that has room to hang bikes, and transom windows to allow light in without compromising wall storage space & maintain privacy (minimizing potential break ins and theft of high end bikes & gear). Having the shed as a separate attachment or room will allow more wall space… versus a bump out room on the garage where we’d lose 2 wall spaces for storage. A tall, narrow crib to stack firewood in, either inside the garage or inside the shed would be useful… something big enough to contain & keep dry one season’s wood use in the most economically space saving way possible, with space to split kindling. Having a covered breezeway to the house would be an asset.
Re: ROOF: metal roofing would be ideal, especially if we're choosing solar installations that will be roof mounted. But careful consideration needs to be paid to where the snow sloughs off over doorways & walkways.
Wood deck strip would be very neat through the back patio area, if concrete.
Wood post size
Back deck ceiling, fans, feel
Black & white
Black & whit
Black & off white & white
Black and white
Shou sugi ban with light burning, black windows
Shou sugi ban in black with white house
Shou sugi ban with thick charcoal soffits
Brown-grey shou sugi ban with minimally trimmed black windows
Grey shou sugi ban with minimal black window trim
Grey shou sugi ban plus metal roof in charcoal
Shou sugi ban with off white
Shou sugi ban with black windows
black beam posts
Wood wall (back deck; entryway)
nfo on changes from our home insurance policy, Aug 2017
Like the white body and its building block appearance in its rectangular panel formations. Like the reduced reveals on the windows and the wood soffit with its small pot lights.
light grey + white + dark grey door
wood + light grey/cream hardi panels
Panels at side/back of house along our length?
Dark underside of roof; charcoal wood detailing; white board & batten
Charcoal/brazed wood of entryway exterior wall
This seaside home features 1 x 12 boards with 2 x 2 battens in Western red cedar.
White, wood, grey, black