Matching an Addition to the Original

Learn how to ensure your addition doesn't look out of place with your existing home
Gregor-Ormsby exterior


Gregor-Ormsby exterior

By: Oliver Marks

If you were building a new house—or even completely remodeling your entire existing home—you could let your creativity and personal taste lead you in almost any style direction, from ultramodern to retro, ornate to simple, cottage-y to sophisticated. But when you're adding onto an existing home, you don't have as much choice. To ensure your house "works" stylistically, and to get maximum value when it's time to sell, you need to make sure your addition design blends well with the original structure.

"As much as possible, an addition should look like it could always have been there," says Woodcliff Lake, N.J. design-build contractor Rob Wennersten. So, if your house has casement windows, for example, oversized crown moldings or wide plank floors, you'll likely want to repeat those design elements in the new addition. Also, try to match finish materials, such as siding, roofing and trim.

Still, don't feel like every element of your addition has to exactly match the rest of the house, says New York City architect Dennis Wedlick. "If certain details are hard to replicate—or to afford—it's okay if your addition isn't a perfect imitation," he says. "It's easy enough to tie things together with color and the overall feel of the space."

Plus, if you get too caught up in creating something that looks like it's original to the structure, you can wind up missing out on modern conveniences and features available today. For example, Wedlick encourages his clients to make their additions bright and airy, with large windows and high ceilings—even if the original house tends to be compact and dark.

The secret to tying dissimilar spaces things together is to make the addition humbler than the original structure. "It's always safer to step down the level of ornamentation rather than having it compete for attention with the house," says Wedlick. Plainer trim, for example, metal roofing and stucco siding can give the addition the feel of an original utilitarian wing of the house—or an addition built years ago. Then tie things together with paint, light fixtures and other cosmetic details.

Just where you draw the line between the original details and the new ones depends on the nature of your project. "If you're knocking down interior walls and creating an open floor plan, you won't want mismatched finishes within the space," says Castle Rock, Colo., design-build contractor Dean Bennett. Swap in the new details in the adjoining space too, so that the transition happens at a doorway, not in the midst of the room.

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