When adding to or improving a building, nothing determines the success of the finished product more than how well structural and finishing details relate to existing works. When these details are well matched, new work blends with old creating a seamless integration of the features that helps your projects be all they can be.
There are obvious reasons for taking the time to fuse new and existing elements. The first is more obvious: looks. Most people wouldn’t go out of their way to make their home unattractive, so why not apply a little extra attention to detail to make sure the opposite is true? The second reason is value related. By ensuring that structural and aesthetic features are working together, a building is simply worth more, a handy consideration when the time comes to move up.
Often, integration can be as simple as ensuring that a new paint colour mixes well with an existing one, or if it doesn’t, that old wall surfaces are jazzed up with colours that compliment new ones. This same thinking applies to other finishing details such as mouldings and other woodwork. If Douglas fir is the trim used, then any new trim should be fir or a reasonable facsimile, and the finishes used should be similar if not exact for best effect. Some might think that making these kinds of matches is best left to professionals, and with certain materials such as textured ceilings and stucco matches this may be true. Most of time though, patience and a spirit of experimentalism will work wonders.
One of the best strategies for blending elements is also a last resort. When new work cannot be matched satisfactorily, replace old work. This approach is much easier to use when it comes to paint finishes, and more difficult in terms of matching siding, window, or roof styles. Obviously, when putting a building addition on your home, for example, it doesn’t make sense to replace these kinds of existing elements just so your new addition matches the rest of your home. In such cases, about the best available option is a close colour match, as many home elements such as certain siding styles are simply no longer being made.
This is also true of window styles. Due to increased code standards, new windows can look quite different than those manufactured as little as ten years ago. A main, and often frustrating challenge to matching in general is the “newer is better” thinking behind the design and marketing of building products. In the onwards and upwards march to be meet consumer demand for choice and innovation, companies simply cannot maintain all product lines, and often, excellent products fall by the wayside in the process.
In general, the older an existing building is, the less likely it will be that its elements can be easily matched. This is a good thing to think about when considering renovation and additions, even at the buying stage. If you’re looking at purchasing a home that will require substantial upgrading, ask yourself how easy or difficult will it be to create or maintain consistency of colour, material, and texture. Granted, a key word in such projects is “compromise.” Some people make compromises easier than others. I find it difficult to overlook a poor siding match, because this feature will likely be in place for the life of a building. A roofing mismatch might be seen differently. Although a new addition’s roofing material may not be an ideal match, chances are the main roof will be replaced sooner than later, and when it is, a uniform style can be applied at that time.
On the whole, good matches are possible. How good these prove to be depends on the standards of the people making such building decisions. The main rule in getting these is a simple one: don’t rush. Patience in getting a good colour or patina on walls and woodwork is as important as being patient when searching for the other materials you plan to use. Start collecting these materials and doing your research and experimentation as soon as you have your plan in order. This way, snap decisions that may prove difficult to live with need never be made. And again, be prepared to accept some compromise as perfection may be impossible or extremely expensive to attain.
Considering the effort, patience, and need to compromise required in blending a home’s many features, eventually one must ask: where does it all stop? It stops, of course, when it meets or exceeds the standards of those responsible for a project. After a couple of decades dealing with these kinds of element-blending decisions, I still find myself recalling the suggestion of a colleague made long ago: If someone starts poking around, pointing out all the ways you could have matched things up better, ask them if they’d like to be the president of your fan club. Most of the time though, forethought about the importance of harmony of design will help make your project the best it can be.
Article © K. Hunter/Hunter Construction – Reprint/Copy by Written Consent