Having a Timeless Exterior Design is absolutely the easiest way to make your investment last for the long haul.
However, designing your exterior can be incredibly overwhelming – and expensive! There are hundreds of decisions to be made, and with how much you’re spending, it feels like the wrong move can be absolutely devastating.
You don’t want to make a decision that you’re gonna regret – or even worse, want to actually change in a few years and waste all this time and money you’ve already invested.
So today, I’m going to share with you all the things I look at when working on a client’s home, and walk you through a few easy ways to help your exterior design not only feel timeless but to help make those hundreds of decisions a bit easier.
Because with a few simple guidelines and a little bit of logic, you can get a timeless exterior design that looks great for decades.
Header photo by Emma Frances Logan on Unsplash
Does what you’re doing make logical sense?
Photo of a timeless shingle style cottage by Omri D. Cohen on Unsplash
First, take a few clarifying breaths and stop for a minute to think…in and out, in and out.
Okay. Now, take a hard look at your house. Anything you’re attempting to add, and/or how your exterior already has been designed overall should make logical sense.
Here is what to look for:
Siding & Veneer:
- You want the stone veneer placement on your house to make the stone look heavy. Is it literally touching the ground, making it feel grounded and settled into the earth? Does it wrap around a corner or go all the way to the next section of your house? You want to avoid any masonry that floats off the ground or looks like wallpaper at all costs.
- In general, other siding patterns should run either horizontally or vertically. Avoid adding angled siding or changing siding direction anywhere but on a gable end. Siding should make each section look whole, and any small bump-outs look integrated. No changing directions or patterns only for change’s sake!
- Are your window frames customized to each individual surface that surrounds them? Do you have wood trim with wood siding and masonry or wood lintels and sills with masonry siding? You want to avoid using wood trim on any masonry sections or using a big faux lintel on wood siding.
- Does the placement of your window make sense from the exterior as well as the interior? Are they all mounted at about the same height? There will always be a few places where a random window is worth the exterior misalignment. But in general, timeless exteriors will have a symmetrical and logical window placement all the way around each floor. Generally, either the top or the bottom of the windows line up.
- Do your decorative beams look like they could actually support the roof? Are they completely touching the roof or notched into the eave?
- Do all your porch overhangs look fully supported? Is there a post or bracket on each end? You want to avoid overhangs that look like they are floating.
- With faux lintels over windows or doors, do they extend to the outside of each opening a few inches? They should look like they have support from the sides of the opening.
- Shutters should be big enough to cover the window they’ve been placed on entirely. And do they look like they actually open and close? Even if they’re faux? Are they mounted on top of the window trim and not outside of it? Do they have decorative hardware like pulls or tie-downs? Avoid any situation that makes them look like they were added without regard for the window size and shape. Picture windows typically won’t get shutters, and arched windows should have arched shutters, too.
Simple, basic logic is the first and the most important thing to look at when you’re designing your exterior.
Make it make sense!
Does everything have the same style?
Photo of a timeless farmhouse by Zac Gudakov on Unsplash
Trends come and go, and if you really love something, you should have it! But if you want a timeless and authentic exterior design that ages well over time, you need to make some strict calls when it comes to style.
Start by asking yourself, what sticks out? What doesn’t have a partner? What is different from everything else? Mixing styles is great, but you never want to have a single item be so different that it doesn’t make sense anymore.
The first place I’d ask about this is with doors and windows. Are they telling the same style story? If you have farmhouse-style windows, do you also have a farmhouse-style entry door? If you are doing a modern garage door, does your entry door also have a modern feeling to it?
Then, look at your lighting and accessories. Are your lights the same overall style as the rest of your exterior? Cottage on a cottage, modern on a modern, rustic on a rustic? Do your house numbers tell the same style story as the rest of your accessories, or are they a drastically different (modern) style?
Next, if you are considering any style with ‘Modern’ in the name, are the parts you’re making modern easy to update? Because what looks ‘Modern’ will change over time.
And no matter what style you’re working with, but particularly with anything ‘Modern,’ add it in a couple of places, like garage door + entry door + lights. Or siding color + numbers + lights.
Alternately, If you want to add a bit of rustic, add it in a couple of places, like wood-wrapped posts + wood entry doors + wood shutters.
You never want any one thing to be its own style – it wants friends!
How many different materials does your home have?
Photo of a timless modern new build by Point3D Commercial Imaging Ltd. on Unsplash
When it comes to exteriors, there is such a thing as too much. You can have too many different siding textures, too many colors, or too many added decorative details.
But the most timeless houses that feel good to the eye for decades and decades are the ones that don’t try to do too much on one house.
- They have a single siding material and one or two accent materials (one wood, one masonry, for instance).
- With colors, they have one main siding color and one main trim color.
- They treat each and every gable the same way.
- The overhang of the eaves is the same all the way around. (And no pork chops!)
- Each and every porch or patio is treated the same.
- They have the same style of window (not the same function, the same decorative style) on every window opening.
- They have the same style of entry doors and side doors.
Because truly, it doesn’t have to be that complicated – I’m officially giving you permission to keep it simple! Pick one siding texture, one accent, one window style, one door style, use those choices everywhere, and call it a day!
And this is all ESPECIALLY true if you have complicated architecture/footprint or complicated rooflines. For a truly timeless look, you can have complicated architecture or complicated materials, but not both.
Have all the details been covered?
Photo of a timless brick cottage by Ronnie George on Unsplash
And finally, once you’ve gone over the big stuff like architecture, siding, and windows and doors, it’s time to really get into the finer details.
Because you need to sweat the small stuff for a timeless exterior design! You’ve put in too much time and effort just to stop once you almost reach the finish line. So start taking a deeper look at those finishing touches like color, lighting, and accessories.
With color, you want to make sure that your undertones match. This means that if you have red brick, you want other the other colors, like trim and accents, also to have a red undertone. If you have a brown roof, you want a warmer siding color that also has yellow and orange tones in it. Silvers and greys mean using cool whites and other colors that are based on blue tones. Because once you match all those undertones, your exterior palette will really sing!
Looking at your light fixtures, do they match the scale of the other elements? There’s an easy equation for lights around entry doors (the height of your light fixture = height of door x .25) and for lights around garage doors (the height of the light fixture = width of door x .25 / 2), and this really does make a difference! Small lights get lost on larger homes and make it feel like they were a forgotten detail.
And finally, look at all the hardware on your exterior, things like light fixtures, door handles, and house numbers. Not just at the style of each, which we talked about before, but the finish. Is everything the same color? Or if you’re mixing metals, is there a single piece with both metals on it to tie everything together?
Again, you never want anything to stand completely alone, whether that’s color, finish, size and scale, or overall style.
Four easy ways to get a timeless exterior
When I’m designing an exterior for a client, these are the first things I look at, and often, the easiest things to modify to make any house feel just a bit more timeless.
And while I hope this has helped get you started, if you ever get stuck or need help crossing the finish line, I’m always here to help with your exterior design!
Happy renovating – I’m sending successful vibes!