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There are some basic exterior design lessons that everyone should know about. Image Source: Cardello Architects

While we all want a spectacular home that stands out amongst the rest; we also want a home that blends with its surroundings and neighborhood.

Designing the exterior of a home can be a complicated process of color choices, materials, balancing shape and lines— it is not a job for novice designers.

Do you ever wonder what makes a home exterior visually appealing? Why are there certain homes on the street that make you stop in your tracks and gawk in awe of its beauty?  It is more than likely that those jaw-dropping homes have followed some key design principles.  Yes, every design, interior or exterior, needs to follow some simple “rules” of design in order for the final outcome to be visually appealing.

Let’s look at 10 basic exterior design principles that will help make your home a haven:

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Follow these  basic design principles to achieve an amazing home exterior. Image Source: Vanbrouck

1) Balancing Shapes With Symmetry

Like in all types of design, balance and symmetry play an important role in achieving a well-designed space. The facade of every home needs some semblance of balance and symmetry in order to appear pleasing to the eye and properly designed.

Whether it is the eye-catching appeal of a symmetrical Georgian home, where the door is centered and the windows equally flank either side, or a home where the balance is achieved through pointed roof lines or dormers that are equally placed among the exterior.

There are numerous ways to achieve a proportional home exterior—some through obvious symmetry, while others are not as apparent. Either way, a properly designed home has  an exterior that is proportional and balanced.

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A home exterior should be properly balanced. Image Source: Highmark-Builders

2) Form Follows Function

Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright’s mentor, coined the phrase, form follows function. Essentially, this means that the purpose of the building should be the starting point of the design.

What is the purpose of your home? What do you plan to use your home for? Consider all your families needs and then decide what is required in your home in order to accommodate those needs.

The exterior of your home will mimic the form of the interior designs that you have chosen. Maybe you are an artist who chose large windows because you need natural lighting to paint/create. Maybe you needed a granny suite over the garage, so the exterior of the home has a dormer in order to make the window in that room look balanced. Always remember that your interior design affects the exterior one, as well.

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The form of your interior design will always drive the exterior design. Image Source: Avalon CBG

 3) House Materials and Textures

With the plethora of options, it is very difficult to decide what materials we should use on our home exterior. Between cedar shingles, vinyl siding, aluminum, brick, wood, stucco, steel…how do we choose?

It is best to balance durability with aesthetics. Of course, you want the exterior of your home to reflect your personal style— are you a country guy/girl? Then you may want tumbled stone and cedar shingles. Are you a modern minimalist? Then you may prefer the lines of sleek steel or simple wood panels.

In order to avoid costly mistakes, it is always best to consult with a skilled design architect. There are also a lot of online visual tools that can help you see what your material choices will look like before you make that final financial investment.

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This house is a nice mix of stone, stucco, roof tiles and wrought iron. Image Source: Steigerwald-Dougherty

4) Exterior Color Combinations

Oh, the cornucopia of color choices! How do you decide what is the right color for your home exterior? Do you go bold or basic? As in all decorating, color choice is vital—it can hide flaws or when done poorly, draw attention to flaws.

Sherwin Williams suggest that a safe and effective approach to color placement is to select two tints or shades from the same color strip a few shades apart. Either the lighter or the darker shade could be used for the body and the opposite for the trim. The a third contrasting accent color could punctuate the door.

Color can play up so many features of your home exterior. Paint your front porch a bright fresh white to draw the eye to the cozy entrance, or make your too-tall home look shorter with a dark color on top and a lighter color on bottom. The ways that color can trick the eye and play up the positive are endless!

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Try choosing 3 colors or shades for your home exterior. Image Source: Sortun-Vos

5) How to Choose the Right Roof

A durable roof is imperative—choosing a roof for your home is more than just deciding upon color and aesthetics.

There are so many building options, with varying costs and life-expectancies.  Material like slate and tile may seem ideal but remember that they are very heavy, so be sure your home can carry the load.  Asphalt shingles seem to be most prevalent due to their lower cost and easy install. Surprisingly, wood is also a viable option with the same life expectancy ( 25 years) as asphalt shingles. Slate and metal are costly and heavy options, but may work for some designs.

While there are numerous choices, they do not all work within budgets and home design. Always consider cost, durability, weight, and what suits your homes style best.

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Deciding upon roofing materials and color can be difficult. Image Source: Design Guild Homes

6) How to Choose Your Garage Doors

One may not think of a garage door as part of our homes style statement—but they would be wrong.  Door manufacturer, Wayne Dalton, suggests that buyers go through their online tutorial before choosing a garage door for their home.

Aside from design style, you need to gain knowledge in the doors insulating properties, safety features, material durability spring designs, warranties and cost.

Once you are past the nitty gritty of mechanics, then you can have fun deciding upon the style that best suits your home design.  Whether it’s a clean, classic  steel door or a cozy carriage house design—the options are endless.

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garage doors

Garage doors are a balance of form and function for the home exterior. Image Source: Witt Construction

7) What Windows Look Best

Just like garage doors, your homes windows are much more than functionality—windows are like the soul of your home, shining light onto all the moments shared within those four walls.  We can offer you numerous tips in choosing the right window style for your home.

First and foremost, the windows you choose need to be durable. Secondly, your windows should reflect your homes character. Modern homes look best with large expanses of  floor-to-ceiling windows, while a traditional home may look best with symmetrically placed, white-paned, rectangular windows.

Other factors to consider are: UV rating, privacy, proper ventilation, ease of cleaning and outdoor views. Consider all your options in order to open the soul of your home with durable and aesthetically appealing windows.

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exterior windows

Windows look into the soul of your home. Image Source: DJ Architects

8) Design An Amazing Entryway

The most common question: What color should I paint my front door? As we touched upon above in the section titled, Color Combinations, choosing 2 shades or tints  from the same color strip is best for the main exterior trim and siding colors. Then a third color should be chosen for the front door.

You can go bold by adding a contrasting color that is opposite on the color wheel of your trim and siding colors, or you can choose a third lighter/darker shade that mimics the trim and siding.  In order to make your entry stand out , it is best to choose a darker or bolder shade than the rest of your home.

Aside from color, there are a lot of other features that can freshen up your entryway and speak to your homes style—lighting, plants, door knobs, door knocker, door kick plates, rugs, and porch seating all add to the  overall appeal of your homes entry.

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Make your entryway amazing with pops of color and plants. Image Source: Dennis Allen Associates

9) Landscaping Is Essential

Landscaping your home involves much more than simply plunking a tree in your front yard.  Most often it is well-placed plants that add that jaw-dropping appeal to a home, making it stand out amongst the rest in the neighborhood.

It is difficult to know what plants to choose for your landscape, so we suggest researching local soils and native plants. Greenhouse staff are usually very knowledgeable in plant species; they know what works best locally, and they can even draft a landscape plan for your yard.

Get your green-thumb on and start planning your lush landscape today. Remember it takes time for plants to establish and fill in, so patience is a must. The sooner you begin, the better.

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Landscaping is the final decorating touch for your home exterior. Image Source: Princetonscapes

10) Light Up Your Home

Don’t let your home fade into the darkness. Proper lighting is paramount for home safety and nighttime appeal. Aside from the obvious light fixtures that straddle your doorways and garage doors, there are other outdoor lights that should be placed around your home.

Choose lights that mimic your homes style. Traditional homes look great with lantern-style chandeliers hanging over a covered entryway, or flanking the garage.  Angular steel lights add appeal to the entryway of modern homes. Then you must consider what other features of your home could use some nighttime light.

The picture below  shows a well-lit home; there are lights on the rise of the stone steps that leads to the entry (adding a nice safety feature and visual appeal), pot lights under all the roof lines and lanterns flanking the garage.

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exterior lighting

Light up the night with exterior lighting for your home. Image Source: Stonewood

While the design of your home exterior is a complicated process that is fraught with decisions and choices, do not give up—a well-designed home CAN be achieved with patience and a little help. During the design process, we suggest that you follow all 10 tips offered here with regard to color, materials, form & function, balance & symmetry, lighting, doors, landscaping, windows and roofing.

Remember that there are a lot of online tools available that can show you a virtual picture of what your design could look like—it’s always best to see it and love it before you make the final financial investment.

What exterior materials are your favorite? Do you have any unique materials incorporated into your home exterior?