Prairie Exterior Makeover Packed with Curb Appeal
Before: Plain and Traditional
"The exterior was very modest and traditional with not much detail," architect Shawn Buehler says of this 1963 brick home in a Washington, D.C.-area neighborhood.
After: Colorful Prairie
The new home’s exterior is an illustration of the Prairie vernacular: A hipped roof and deep eaves top the new second story; long banks of windows, lap siding, and a varied paint palette accentuate the structure’s horizontal lines. But in keeping with Prairie style, the palette of five colors includes earth-tone neutrals accented by one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s favorites, Cherokee red.
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The covered front entry gives the house visual interest and draws attention away from the tuckunder garage. "The lower section's dark color was selected to help anchor the house into the landscape, along with the brick piers," homeowner Jonathan Young says. Cream trim marks the separation between the basement and main floor (both original brick that was painted) and between the main floor and the newly expanded attic (covered in preprimed composite lap siding and large panels set apart by trim pieces).
Lever-style hardware in a dark finish feels substantial in hand and stands out on the cherry front door.
Design tip: Repeating a finish on elements -- here, on door hardware, exterior lighting, the address plate -- brings continuity along with curb appeal.
The exterior makeover all started with homeowner Nellie Wild’s attraction to Prairie-style windows. The couple chose a rich red, a favorite of Frank Lloyd Wright’s for the windows and doors as well as gutters and downspouts. Deciding on a whole-house palette early allowed the couple to feel confident in going bold.
Mod House Numbers
A modern address plaque in silver nickel is easily visible. Its Neutraface typeface, named for architect Richard Neutra, is a stylish fit for a home with strong modern, angular elements.
The outdoor ceiling fixture is Mission-inspired, hand-forged metal with glass called “stone” because of its marbled appearance. Beaded board in a clear-coat finish gives the porch ceiling a link to the wooded landscape.
Before: Inaccessible Outdoors
One issue with the old house was that it was difficult to access the backyard. The back of the exterior also lacked depth and interest.
After: Entertainment Central
Below the first floor’s new bump-out, a screened room becomes a part of the basement level and a stone patio naturally extends into the backyard. The boulders at the patio’s perimeter create a wall at bench height -- perfect for entertaining crowds.
The back of the home underwent extensive changes. The first floor now opens to the backyard via a walkway and stairs topped in waterproof vinyl decking, chosen because it allows the space underneath to remain dry. The steps and air-conditioning units were masked with knee walls covered in lap siding, which emphasizes the horizontal lines and helps create the layering effect from the rear view.
Outdoor sconces are handforged, dark-coated aluminum fixtures with marbled glass inserts.
Rectilinear elements such as brick walls and patio stones support the Prairie-style metaphor of the house reaching into the landscape in the same way a tree's roots reach into the ground. Boulders, native plantings, and other curvilinear landscaping elements mark the transition from house to yard.