Remuddles: Back to the Drawing Board, Part 1

A second look at additions that not only failed to improve the existing house, but made it worse—and some suggested fixes

November 12, 2015
Suggested fix for bad foursquare remodel

Some additions stop you in your tracks and make you wonder, “What were they thinking?” Old-House Journal founder Clem Labine calls these “remuddles,” not remodels—projects in which the designers would have done less damage to curb appeal (and resale value) if they had just left things alone. 

Naked Foursquare

The classic American foursquare had its heyday from about 1900 to 1920. The efficient, compact floor plan is symmetrical, except for the front door, which is to one side.

Some people “modernized” the design by tearing off the gracious front porch, but in doing so made the façade look bare. In this example, the owners said yes to a smooth-talking salesman and replaced their stately porch with a wrought iron and fiberglass patio cover, along with the unfortunate “lick and stick” permastone. A few tweaks could restore it to its original appealing character.

Gift From the Sky

At the same time that the affluent middle class were building foursquares, their blue-collar neighbors were building one-story cottages, also with simple hipped roofs and a full front porch (inset, below).

Someone, probably in the 1970s, wanted to add a lot of square footage on top of this unsuspecting brick cottage. In so doing, they violated just about every principle of design compatibility. Maximum space for minimum price, yes. Curb appeal and resale value, not so much.

 

About the Author


About the Author


Doug Walter, of Doug Walter Architects, in Denver, has specialized in residential remodeling for 25 years. He has a long history with Universal Design and aging in place. He helped write the NAHB’s Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist curriculum and holds an ICC Certificate as an Accessibility Inspector.

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