Often these homes have their original wood siding (or worse, vinyl or aluminum siding added in some former remodeling scheme) and single-pane windows. The task becomes one of bringing the home into the current century in terms of low-maintenance and more energy-efficient materials. Fiber-cement siding has the look of clapboard or shingles, but is dimensionally far more stable than wood so it holds paint for years without needing much attention.
New insulated, low-e glazing in windows that imitate the original multi-paned style make the interior warmer and quieter. New architectural roof shingles (which have a thicker edge and thus create a more interesting shadow line) are often the look of choice when updating roofs that have reached the end of their useful lives.
Original Cape Cod homes were generally built without porches, but because of the simple exterior, the style lends itself to adding one to embellish the blank look of the straight roof line. While a porch highlights the entry and welcomes guests as they approach, it also makes a huge difference in the function of a home. Being able to stand comfortably while waiting for the door to be opened, or to be able to retrieve one’s keys and unlock the door while standing out of the elements are features that make a covered porch more than just an aesthetic attraction.
Many new homes try to recreate the Cape Cod style, with varying degrees of success. Because this style is rooted in simplicity of form and materials, it seems hard for us today to respect these basic constraints. Today we have huge homes with complicated roofs and footprints that go far beyond a simple rectangle attempting to present themselves in this style.
Just as we urged caution when applying Tudor elements to a new or existing home of another style, the same warning applies to designing with a Cape Cod influence. Reproducing some of the charming trim and window styles can be useful, but a house that looks like a Cape house on steroids loses a lot in the translation.
When we understand the history and practical origin of the features of a house style, we can apply these concepts to our homes today, whether we are remodeling or building from scratch. We have a lot to learn from our ancestors as we attempt to make our homes as charming and practical as theirs.
Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com
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