Our cities and suburbs are full of smaller, older homes that, though they worked fine for mom and pop, just don't cut it as the “lifestyle centers” today's customers are looking for.
THE SATISFACTORY HOME OF YESTERYEAR, TODAY
Enlarging older homes is usually motivated by the quest for space — room for the SUVs, hot tubs, TVs, and other toys our parents somehow lived without. The solution seems to be to add on the biggest garages, master suites, playrooms, kitchens, and family rooms we can afford. Compared with most other commodities, space is actually cheap these days. So the overriding sense is that if we're going to build, let's build big.
TODAY'S BULKED-UP DREAM HOUSE
Unfortunately, the result of building big can be as charming as a 4x8 sheet of plywood. Our old neighborhoods were built to the scale of a carpenter's reach, and the value of these homes is perceived in part by how well we preserve that legacy. Particularly in the older parts of town, the charm of the community is created by the rhythm of the streetscape; abrupt changes in the nature or scale of homes can have a negative impact. Ultimately, this affects resale value.
SIZE, BALANCE, HARMONY, AND PROPORTION
When adding space to older homes, consider three things: Size: Try not to go any higher or wider than the building elements of the existing house. The idea is to enlarge gracefully, not overwhelm.
Balance: The front elevation should have a focus —usually the front door or the tallest/most important portion.
Harmony and proportion: The scale of the windows, eaves, and details should be in keeping with the existing house. —Dick Kawalek, a registered architect for more than 30 years, is founder of Kawalek Architects, Cleveland. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.