5 Design Flaws That Drive Me Nuts

By Scott Sidler October 9, 2017

confused man Some many elements of our homes today are not real. Fake, faux, pretend. It’s a big illusion to make homes today look like the real McCoy of yesteryear. Why have shutters that actually function or balconies that can fit a human when we have pretend little versions of the real thing for cheap.

These faux houses have driven me crazy enough that I decided it was time to lay out the five things that absolutely drive me nuts about these fake homes struggling to make themselves look like the real deal.

Shutters

If I see one more shutter glued to the side of a house that is too small for the window it’s meant for I may loose it. That means that my next trip to the suburbs will likely be fraught with freak outs.

Let me make it simple. Shutters must do only two things:

  1. Open and close
  2. Fit the window

If you can’t manage to install shutters that accomplish those two things then you are missing the point of having shutters and shouldn’t buy any.

Balconies & Porches

What’s the purpose of a balcony or porch? No, it’s not to dress up and adorn the outside of your house. Tell me, if you have a balcony that can’t fit a single person is it really a balcony at all? How about a porch that doesn’t provide enough space for people to gather?

Architecturally speaking there is a general rule that a porch should be at a bare minimum 6′ deep, but actually 8′ deep or more is what makes it truly functional. Once you put furniture on these faux porches that are 4, 5, or even 6′ deep the space is completely consumed and leaves no room for anything else like, say…I don’t know…people!

Do us a favor builders and residential architects, leave room for us people on our porches.

Voids & Masses

This is an architectural term for the way buildings are laid out on the exterior. Walls are masses and windows and doors are voids. The voids serve to break up the visual monotony of the mass of the structure and create visual interest.

Sadly most builders have forgotten this and only add voids to serve the interior needs of the floor plan which has no relationship to the exterior design. The fronts of most suburban homes are proportioned decently enough but the sides and back are usually as awful as architectural design gets.

Gable Vents

This silly little thing drives me nuts. Gable vents were installed in older homes to allow ventilation into the attic. It allows air to pass in one gable end and out the other, thus keeping the attic cooler.

Most homes today use roof vents combined with soffit vents to ventilate the attic and these gable vents have fallen out of use. So, what do builders do to break up the massing of the gable ends? They slap a fake gable vent on the wall. Nice. Nothing better than spending time and money on a peel and stick vent.

Windows

Where do I even start about the myriad of replacement aka “fake” windows on the market today? Some work some don’t. Some are expensive some are cheap. But all are ugly!

If you have original windows save them! If you are building new construction then at least use high quality windows that have some dimension and depth to them instead of the 2 dimensional cheaply builder grade pieces of junk most homes get as an after thought.

Hint: If your muntins are peel and stick or little pieces of plastic between the glass then I’m talking about you.

 

15 thoughts on “5 Design Flaws That Drive Me Nuts”

  1. Out of curiosity, just went outside with a tape measure and measure my 1918 bungalow wrap around porch and it measured 87″. That’s 7′-3″ deep.
    As far as the shutters, I learned their functionality very well when I lived in Florida.
    I’m glad I still have original windows. I took a window restoration workshop at the local historic preservation society Historic Columbia and another about energy eficiency in older homes and learned of the value of keeping and maintaining older windows. That the house does need to breath, but aside to do your best to properly maintain your windows, properly sealing the top (attic, roof) and bottom is the best course of action. They did one of those blow tests in onw of the historic museum homes where they seal the doors and put a blower and with a thermal reader you can see where were the points of air exchange.

  2. So I do agree with all of these points, but I want to raise a question. Take shutters for example. I could see how glued or bolted shutters could improve curb appeal if done semi properly (semi because properly would be fully functional but perhaps one could save money the glued way but look functional). You could even argue decorated half porches offer some curb appeal (again not the same as a well done fully functional porch) Thoughts?

    1. David, I’ll agree that there are varying degrees of good and bad. For instance are operable shutters that are falling apart better more attractive than properly size but non functional shutters. Not sure.

  3. My house is a 1930s farmhouse, and all but 4 of the original windows are intact, but they are in horrible shape. My husband wants to replace them with new, but historically accurate windows. Do you have any sources that prove old windows can be just as energy efficient as new windows? The efficiency aspect is his main argument for replacing rather than restoring what we have.

  4. Interestingly, even my 1892 foursquare porch isn’t wide enough! Don’t know what they were thinking, but I wish it had been constructed another 2 feet deeper!

  5. Reglazed many of our 27 windows in our home of 93 years young. Built in 1925 with expert craftmanship. I have replaced window cording on most of these wondows when the 94 year old cprding gave wsy and dropped the wimdow weights. Love the wavy glass pattern. By the way these standard windows are huge and have a much thicker glass.

  6. I just finished reglazing the original windows on my 1920s cottage home. Most panes still have the original “wavy” glass. They really look nice and it really was not hard to do.

      1. NO WAY! I’ll bet a restored window would actually cost less than a replacement?

        I did our three front living room window storms last Spring – with the guidance of you and your blog – they’re not perfect, but they are better than they were (with replacement glass). I’m so busy at work, I can’t make time for lunch some days, so I don’t think I’ll get to the windows themselves till NEXT Spring.

        If you COULD help, I think that would be completely awesome. I live in PA, outside of Philadelphia.

  7. I see this all the time here in northern Florida where the shutters are half the size of the windows and nailed/screwed to be merely a visual ornament.
    But the real ire should be directed to the architects that design these idiotic plans. Go to almost any website showing house plans and look at the single story ones. In every design, whether the interior height is 8 to 10 feet, the roof is a massive creature all it’s own extending upwards 30 feet, or higher. It is only when you get into the multistory ones do the roofs begin to flatten out, some. Then you get into the multiple gables with or without real functional windows that have no relation to the floorplan.

  8. As a child of suburbia & the 80’s housing styles, it absolutely blew my mind when I realized what shutters were actually meant for; that they weren’t just window “dressing” nailed to the siding. It was something I’d never given any thought to really (because what kid goes around thinking about stuff like that?) until I moved to Charleston, SC and hurricane preparations became a thing and I saw shutters that actually moved and did what they were meant for all along. With fresh eyes I looked back over the neighborhoods of my youth and .. mind blown.
    Also, amen to the porches part. I tend to alternate between silent sneers and silently sobbing when I see those.

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