- - Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Washington area may be home to Democrats, Republicans, independents and Libertarians, but no matter what their political persuasion, local residents more than likely live in a conservative home.

“D.C. is pretty traditional architecturally,” said Bill Millholland, executive vice president of Case Design/Remodeling in Bethesda. “Colonial-style two-story homes are the most common, although we do have a few Craftsman-style homes, Tudors, Cape Cod-style homes and even some contemporary homes.”

Mr. Millholland said, though, that even homes with a dominant architectural style often include a blend of features of more than one building tradition.

“Most of the homes around here are mutts rather than purebreds,” he said.

Homeowners often know what they like in terms of exterior appearance without necessarily knowing the name of the architectural style.

“Homeowners can look at style books, but they are not always correct,” said Jim Rill, principal of Rill Architects in Bethesda. “A well-educated architect will know the elements that go into a particular architectural style. What really matters, though, is getting the style and proportions right when you are remodeling a home.”

Mr. Rill said architectural styles influence a remodeling project’s details — such as windows and exterior trim — as well as the design of an addition.

“If you want to be consistent in a style such as Greek Revival or Craftsman style, you need to be careful of the roof slope, the windows, materials used and the types of columns you use,” Mr. Rill said. “Sometimes it’s easier to contrast an addition and be playful, as long as you have a transition and something that ties it together with the rest of the property.”

Mr. Rill said, for example, that if the proportions and the roof overhang are right, a contemporary addition can work on a traditional home.

“You can do an all-glass addition in the same shape as the original home or do a link or breezeway of some sort between areas that have a different style,” Mr. Rill said.

If your preference is to match your renovation or addition to your home’s current style, you can consult one of Andersen Windows’ new Home Style Pattern Books. While others are in the works, the company currently has a pattern book for a Craftsman bungalow and for a Georgian/Federal style home. The books include illustrations and descriptions of architectural elements that make up the featured style, such as windows, doors, proportions, trim, hardware and color schemes.

“People often choose a home based on their taste or lifestyle, whether it’s a Craftsman-style home or a contemporary-style home,” said Jay Libby, manager of marketing services for Andersen Windows in Bayport, Minn. “Understanding what it takes to make a style helps you explain what you want when you are remodeling a home.”

Mr. Libby said many homeowners want to blend different styles in their homes, such as a ranch-style residence with Craftsman-style detailing.

“When we approach a project, we try to be respectful of the existing home by doing things like recessing an addition so it doesn’t hulk over the rest of [the home], Mr. Millholland said. “Stylistically, if the home has tall, narrow double-hung windows, we’ll use the same style of windows.

“You want to be careful not to harm someone’s investment. We look at the existing situation and improve on it while blending the old and new so you almost don’t know which is the new section.”

Homeowners today want everything as low-maintenance as possible, Mr. Libby said. Modern technology enables manufacturers to create high-performance materials that replicate the look of older materials.

“Homeowners want the performance of the newest technology along with a historic look,” said Stacy Einck, manager of brand public relations for Andersen Windows. “With our pattern books, we’re trying to make architectural style attainable so that homeowners can see the details that come together to make a style. For instance, painting a Craftsman-style home all white would look very different than the quintessential earth tones these homes usually have.”

Mr. Libby said many homeowners are interested in restoring a particular style to their home while upgrading to low-maintenance materials.

“Back in the 1960s and 1970s, homeowners who remodeled may have compromised the visual integrity of their homes with what I call a ‘re-muddle,’” Mr. Libby said. “Homeowners today want to get back that original charm and historic integrity.”

For example, a Craftsman-style home typically has dormer windows on the second floor, groups of double-hung windows, windows flanking the fireplace and special feature windows, such as a picture window with a decorative panel and flanking windows.

“The name of the style of home you have doesn’t matter nearly as much as listening to the house and what it’s telling you,” Mr. Millholland said. “You need to pay attention to what looks right with brick or stone, what fits with the current roofline and the cadence for the windows. Details like whether the windows have shutters or mullions or not matter, too.”

Mr. Millholland said homeowners and their remodeling contractors can pick up cues from neighboring homes, too, to blend in rather than contrast with the community.

“You need to think of the property as a whole, including its relationship to the surrounding trees and landscape,” Mr. Rill said. “If an addition ties into the grade, it can become part of the garden, which makes it easier to transition from one style to another.”

Mr. Millholland said the vast majority of homeowners are using synthetic materials instead of “real” materials these days.

“Synthetic used to mean cheap vinyl, but now fake materials are more expensive than natural ones,” he said. “Things like trim made of PVC for moldings and corner boards feel, sound and look like wood but never rot or warp. They look totally natural but are low-maintenance.

“The key is to pay attention to the details like the front door and the light fixture outside your door. You have to choose the details carefully if you want to reinforce the architectural style of your home.”