New Trim Fit for an Old House
A traditional porch project offers lessons in style, proportions, and seamless transitions.
When I bought my 1926 Sears kit house in 2011, I was mentally prepared for dealing with the perils and pitfalls that come with owning an old house, and confident in my ability to tackle any major challenges. What I didn’t anticipate—and something that owners of newer houses don’t usually understand—is the feeling of responsibility that came with every design decision I made. I was the new caretaker of a house that had been occupied by only one family since it was built 90 years earlier, and which had clearly been handled with extreme respect. So, when I decided to add a covered porch to the back, I wanted to make sure it would be a good fit for the house. Having seen a lot of bad entries, porches, and additions over the years, I was concerned about ending up with something that looked like a thoughtless bolt-on. I was determined to make the porch look like it had been there all along.
I knew the best way to tie the new porch into the old house would be to make it match. By simply extending each element of the existing trim package to include the porch (or extending them onto the porch), it would appear as if everything were built at the same time. But if additions were that simple, we’d have fewer ugly additions in the country. The truth is that blending the new with the old is a balancing act, and there are a lot of aspects to consider.
If you have any hope of blending new with old, you first need to understand the architectural roots, proper usage, and ideal proportions of each element. Then, you have to be willing to compare this idealized version with the often less-than-ideally designed trim of your house,…