How to put modern twists on traditional home styles
Classic designs never go out of style—but they are getting updates. Architects and AIA partner Andersen Windows explore how to balance timeless design with modern lifestyles.
There’s a reason certain home styles never seem to fall out of favor. From Craftsman to Colonial, Farmhouse to Tudor, classic looks stir emotion as much as they effect an air of proportionality and purpose. But catering to today’s lifestyles means blurring the lines, inside and out, between traditional and modern.
“If you look at how home styles have evolved over the decades, Tudor, Colonial, French Eclectic, there’s a lot of inherent good design and proportion and character and charm. The reason they’ve become styles is because it’s something people have found attractive and desirable over time. There’s an inherent beauty there that people like,” says Marc Sloot, AIA, senior associate at SALA.
At the same time, “people live differently than they did 100 years ago,” Sloot notes. “The space they want to have, now they want it to flow, there’s a real migration to open spaces and more open floor plans.”
Accommodating open layouts, more daylight, and increased indoor-outdoor connections means not only rethinking interior layouts but swapping in larger windows, greater expanses of uninterrupted glass, and movable doors that let in light and views but alter the familiar facades of classic designs.
For example, a modern farmhouse Sloot designed included quintessential features such as a wraparound porch, double-hung windows, and truss detailing. But a larger bank of windows take advantage of the property’s sweeping vistas at the rear. And in the kitchen, casement windows replaced double-hungs that would have blocked eye-level views; a cross pattern in the muntins gave nod to the traditional units elsewhere in the house. Wood flooring and beadboard blend seamlessly with stainless steel appliances and industrial-style light fixtures.
In Minnesota, Heather Hansen and builder Carl M. Hansen Companies worked with architect Tom Rauscher & Associates to design a Tudor spec house updated for today’s lifestyle. The color scheme, steep gables, rear wood bumpouts, and stucco bring a timeless Tudor feel, but the larger, unobstructed windows, sleek frames, and clear glass add a contemporary edge and allow light to penetrate into the interior.
“Today’s homeowner likes an open floor plan and lots of natural light in their homes,” Hansen says, noting that the Tudor’s unadorned Andersen 400 Series picture windows allow more daylight infiltration. Full divided lights in the transoms and in the upper casement windows provide a nod back to the traditional Tudor panes.
“I think people still love traditional because it’s timeless,” says Hansen, now a realtor for Hansen London Group with Lakes Sotheby’s International Realty. “This generation of home buyers has enough history they can see how quickly trends change. Today’s homeowner is trying to incorporate all the aspects they like and blend them together to get a totally unique product.”
And that also means not everything is going modern: The house includes a butler’s pantry, a feature that’s making a comeback as homeowners find their large, open kitchens lacking a place to hide food prep mess and dirty party dishes.
Driving these changes as much as buyer preferences is the freedom afforded by advancing window technologies. Modern structural systems allow for more windows to be grouped together with less support, shedding thicker mullions for slimmer profiles. Thermally broken frames and laminated, insulated glass permit larger units without sacrificing efficiency. And in coastal environments, impact-resistant glass is available in increasingly larger sizes, while lift-slide doors such as Weiland LiftSlide units secure tight against prevailing winds and rain.
Architect Marc Camens, principal at Camens Architectural Group, relied on impact-rated glass and the fiberglass cladding of Andersen A-Series windows for a beachfront residence in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. For this project, Camens blurred style lines in the opposite direction, easing his original contemporary design into a transitional space more in balance with the historic character of nearby Charleston.
Accommodating the homeowners’ desire to open the house to the ocean, Camens designed the roughly 5,000-square-foot space in a U shape, with vast lengths of glass connecting nearly every room visually or physically to the outside.
To relax the contemporary feel of the glass, Camens infused warmth via wood ceilings, painted cedar shakes, and wood-look tiles, and he softened the linear forms with details such as woodwork, shapes, coffers, beams, and arches. “If you add texture and you add warmth, you blur the edge,” he says.
Even as designers veer modern, the innate desire for a distinctive feel is not likely to go away, just as it hasn’t for hundreds of years. “Traditional design is from the heart; it’s emotional. Contemporary is from the ego, from the brain; it’s a snapshot in time,” Camens says. “But emotion and heart stay forever.”
To learn more about the design elements of popular traditional and modern home styles, visit Andersen Windows’ Home Style Library.
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