I’ve noticed a real estate trend that bears discussion. Many homeowners seem to be making improvements or additions that are incongruous with the home’s style. I see this trend in person as a Realtor, and I see the phenomenon represented in magazines, newspapers and even on television.
When you buy a home, it’s natural to want to put your own stamp on it, and decorate it to your own personal taste. That’s an important part of truly making it your own. However, it’s important to take into consideration the style of your home, making improvements that are in keeping with it.
This is not just for aesthetic reasons, as it can also affect resale value if the home looks disjointed or you’ve taken away the elements that made the home fit the intended style or that of the neighborhood.
The most common mistake I see, especially from a curb appeal point of view, is with front-door replacement. Just because you see a door that you like, that doesn’t mean it’s the right door for your home. There was a trend here in Atlanta, which seems to be waning now, of using a door with a giant oval of fake leaded glass in the center on pretty much any style home. These cropped up on everything from mid-century ranch homes to traditional two-story brick homes, and everything in between.
Taking this to a grander scale, I’ve seen folks buy a home and change the exterior to make it into a different style. A good example is someone buying a mid-century brick ranch and attempting to make it into a craftsman bungalow. Using the shutters, doors, windows and trim that belong on a craftsman home does not make aesthetic sense on a ranch home and only serves to make it look odd.
Folks shopping for a home in a neighborhood of mid-century ranches are not going to be interested in a home that has been modified in a way that doesn’t fit in with the look of the neighborhood. Sometimes potential buyers can’t quite identify what’s wrong with such a property; they just know it is “off.”
If you’re considering changing the style of your home, involve an architect or designer, and ensure you have the funds, time, vision and open mind to make the appropriate changes.
Replacement windows also can make or break the look of a home. Replacing old, single-paned windows that are in bad shape and lack energy efficiency makes sense. Unfortunately, I see too many people changing the whole look of their home by putting in new windows that are incongruous with the style of the home. Look around at the other homes in the neighborhood, especially at homes with a style and age like yours.
New windows can make a home look fresh and clean, but the wrong ones will stick out like a sore thumb. In the long run, you haven’t saved money if you’ve bastardized the look and value of your home.
The same logic can be applied to the interior, though there’s a bit more leeway here. It’s one thing to use traditional furniture in a modern home, or vice versa; that can work very well. The actual finishes are a different story. Overly ornate traditional moldings or staircase posts have no place in a home with a modern interior, just as sleek glass and steel trim doesn’t work with a very traditional home. There are of course exceptions and, again, an architect or designer can help you identify those special cases.
The long and short of this: Try not to make a square peg fit in a round hole. If you like prairie style, you should try to buy a prairie style home. If you like sleek modern design, go for a home that fits your aesthetic. Trying to change the home or its key elements to a totally different style is really not an improvement at all. Save your time and money, and protect your home’s value.
You must know the goal of the project as you start planning for it. What do you want your home to look like after your improvement project? If you know your goal, you will have the vision and the plan to do it successfully.