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Exterior house design for your home

7 Exterior House Design Guidelines for Anybody Living Under a Roof

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There are some things in life almost all of us relate to pretty much from early on in our lives. They won’t make a long list, I bet! Things like Family, Mom, Love, and Hate and so on usually come to mind first. I think I speak on behalf of all when I say “Home” is a familiar one of the bunch cause poor or wealthy, you have at least some sort of a shelter as your home.

Architecturally speaking, there’s been countless styles and ephemeral trends through the history responding to each culture and climate.

They might seem different in appearance, but the ones worth noting, share a handful of basic principles.

Here’s a look at the age-old-proven principles to design house exteriors and how they are mastered in noteworthy projects.

1) Balance, Symmetry and Harmony

A colonial house in the US

“Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”; we humans are not exempt from this saying.

Proportion and symmetry are intriguing qualities built in our minds. So balance and symmetry play an important role in every human-made shape including exterior house design.

These qualities could be seen in terms of proportion, height, width, harmony and the number of each element throughout any house exterior.

They could either be apparent or less obvious but the bottom line is that they should be of high priority in almost all exterior home design projects in any historical period ever. That’s why the examples we bring here are from a wide range of house exterior styles.

Harmony, symmetry, and balance could also be seen in terms of direction; we have to pay attention to the different layers or the level of depth that a house exterior portrays.

At the same time, it is also important to see if each front of an exterior house design comprises properly multiplied and placed elements.

How the main entry, windows, and the columns in front of it are placed; or how various vertical or horizontal lines all over a house exterior show robust balance and harmony.

An example is as the modern house below shows us how the tall vertical glass-paneled entry intervenes the horizontal concrete wall without dominating the exterior house design of the building.

Another example of harmony and symmetry is in the number of identical elements that repeat quite closely to one another. For example, the number of windows or glass panels can show how an odd number in each of these elements can help build up a stronger home exterior message?

A House Entrance

2) Form Follows Function

Louis Sullivan made this statement around a century ago.

It essentially means that the outer volume of any home exterior should precisely imitate the action that plays out inside.

If what happens inside the shell of house exterior be present at every step of the design, the exteriors will inadvertently resemble the interior circulation.

For instance, excessive natural light for the foyer behind the entrance, designing a home office or a second-floor porch will severely affect how the home exterior will look.

This approach helps appreciate the building better by its exterior house design and gives it a character.

Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye

3) Material, Texture and Color Combination

a modern exterior house design

A lot of especially new practicing architects find it very hard to choose out of a tremendous number of materials available for home exteriors. How do we choose between cedar shingles, vinyl siding, aluminum, brick, wood, stucco, steel or countless other materials?

So, the material you choose goes a long way in showcasing your exterior home design intention. Furthermore, it determines what mixes of color and texture your house possesses.

Here’s the punch line: Durability, aesthetics and the style of your house can usually help you narrow down your choice for your exterior house design.

Depending on your style the range could be pretty wide. Whether you are a country person or a modern minimalist, you may want tumbled stone and cedar shingles, lines of sleek steel, or even simple and crude wood panels.

And of course, hiring a seasoned design architect can also help you avoid costly mistakes. There are also countless online visual tools you can use and see how the material you choose sits next to each other.

An effective conventional way to pick a combination of colors for your house exterior is to choose two main sets of complementary colors. The First one of which is dominating that makes that strong home exterior message, and the second one would prevail the whole face of your exterior house design at the background.

The contrasting colors are perfect for emphasizing smaller house exterior elements like windows, doors and the like.

4) Roofing

ifferent types of roofing on the same street

First, we have to know that prime factors to choose a roof type for your exterior home design, are durability and the load they strain over the building structure.

Options span from the heavy and costly slate and tile to asphalt shingles that seem durable and affordable enough, but might not be as appealing in terms of aesthetics. Options are numerous but you’re bound to work within the budget.

So you might have to break a tie between the budget and the aesthetic constraints choosing the best roof type for your exterior house design.

5) Picking the Right Windows

Mies Van der Rohe’s Farnsworth house

Windows are like a two-edged sword. It’s ironic they can be the source of two very different, opposing forces in any exterior home design.

They bring the outside world in while making your internal place prone to a number of perils. Improper ventilation, violation of privacy in huge floor to ceiling windows, overlooking an unpleasant outdoor view, cleaning complications and the amount of UV radiation are just to name a few.

But on the other hand, windows give your house character and soul and help shed the natural light within your walls.

Modern houses might be more defined with expansive windows while a more conservative approach to design, makes for a stronger, and at the same time smaller windows, repeating all the way round of a house exterior.

6) Sidewalk Appeal

A house entryway

This section could be subcategorized into Entryway, Lighting, and Landscaping.

In the section about the overall color combination, we said it might be effective to use two shades of a dominating color and a complementing, contrasting color that stands out at the first glance of the home exterior.

So the haunting question of “What color would be best for the front door? “Can be easily solved.

In the dynamic mentioned above, the front door could be accentuated by taking the complementing contrasting color. If you think this is too tacky for your taste, you can always paint your house exterior with different shades of your favorite hue and make contrast that way.

A wide front door always gives a vibe of grandeur strong image to your exterior house design. For instance, a wide door flanked by sidelights and a set of columns bearing a porch, create an awning for the front door and can help with a gentler more horizontal façade for your home exterior.

Plants, door lighting, and doorknobs can also help make an impressive entryway.

a Georgian country house with a big lawn

Each day is a golden coin that once flips sides. We might call it a “day” but there is a night too! Lighting makes the real personality of any exterior house design.

Particularly for safety, both the walkway and driveway, and other potential parts of every house exterior should be properly lit. You need to take note that home exterior lighting shouldn’t disturb the inhabitants and cause any light pollution at night time.

One of the best options is lighting sources powered by solar panels. They have natural light supply and can be conveniently installed almost everywhere over your exterior house design.

Your house should be sewn into its surrounding and stand out at the neighborhood at the same time. This could be done by right plants around your home exterior, complementing it.

A house back entry stairway

With a little help from the local greenhouse staff who know what kinds of plants fit the local soil you can simply beautify your house exterior.

But keep in mind that when it comes to plants patience and constant care is everything. It takes time for plants to fill in. So, the sooner to think them through, the better.

7) Multi-Faceted Design

It wouldn’t be too far off to say that we end up using back entries more than the front walkway.

It is true and you know it!

So, an elaborate exterior house design could give these busy ports a nice touch and character.

The designer has to think of the house volume and its exterior display as a multi-faceted shape that can be looked at from different angles.


Balancing among sometimes a very long list of items in design is what makes a good architect.

It’s all about knowing when to insist on a particular attribute of your design and when to stop pushing for another one.

Here, the principles to achieve an appealing exterior house design are not an exception. With patience, hard work and a little help you can make sure your house and its exterior are just as visually appealing as it is effective and responsive to the environment.

Have you ever gone through the same experience? Tell us about it! Plus, you can take a look our works to get you going with some of the ideas for YOUR home exterior.

Mitchel Sardy
Author: Mitchel Sardy
I am a Computer Engineer and an architecture enthusiast, graduated on both majors up to the master's degree from the University of Washington; I'm an advisor to early-stage architecture startups all around the globe; the ones using computer-based solutions to design in architecture.

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