Finding Design Inspiration in Old Houses


My better half and I just got back home from a short trip to the Napa Valley area. We don't really go for the wine, although that's nice too. For us it is really about the scenery. The area really has such a subtle beauty that we just love. On our trips I of course like to see the local architecture. I try to take snap shots of things I see that I might draw some inspiration from later on. Anyway I thought I'd show you an example from this recent trip and illustrate what I am trying to learn.
Here is a snap shot of the gable end of a historic home (the Kelley house) in Mendocino. I love the simplicity in form and the strength of it's details. This is a key to good design. If you have a simple form you need to pay attention to the details. Here are my thoughts:
  • The proportions of the gable are quite nice - neither too slender or too squat with roof pitch neither too steep or too flat.
  • I love the depth of the gable end roof overhang (this is called the rake end). The brackets underneath provide a sense of support for the overhang.
  • The crown molding at the fascia creates additional shadow line and adds a subtle detail.
  • A wide frieze board (that's the white trim on the wall below the overhang) provides a nice transition between the siding and roof overhang.
  • The siding lap is nice and narrow. The proportion of the entire gable would be altered if the siding had a wider lap.
  • I like the narrowness of the windows, and the fact the pair of windows are separated. Look closely and you can see a subtle little "pilaster" detail at the jambs and mullion. Also the trim at the head projects outward creating additional shadow line and interest.
  • One thing I don't care for here is that the upper windows are nearly identical to the lower windows. I would rather see a bit of hierarchy - with the lower windows being a bit larger and more detailed than the upper windows. Another thing that bothers me slightly is the upper window intrudes upon the frieze board. It looks a little "crowded".
All in all it's a very pleasant composition and I can take away some good thoughts that I can apply on a future design.