Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Front Facade

Joan from For the Love of a House asked me about the placement of the staircases I showed in the last post when I was whining about my new anorexic porch.  Joan recently did an amazing, large-scale, most likely painful overhaul of her antique New Hampshire farmhouse which is well worth seeing.  I'm taking the slow torture route. 

Anyway, back to the staircases.  The staircases in the photos are secondary side staircases for the owners who are too lazy to walk down their front steps and over to their driveways to get to their cars.
These new photos of the same houses show the main staircase that goes to the front door.  I'm planning to turn what's left of my front lawn into a garden bed... I'll have the same "public" staircase to the front door for salespeople, Greenpeace, etc., who will now be able to see through the new sidelights that I'm avoiding them.  But I'll also have the same little staircase on that far side of the deck that gives me access to the side garden.  So my "lazy" staircase will rarely be used making it possible for some kind of bench or something to be placed there without me tripping on it after a few Cranberry Bog martinis.  So that's my answer to Joan's question...just in case you were wondering too.

The new longer windows have been ordered for the two living room windows.  The door and sidelights are another story.  The stock Simpson sidelights were 12" wide and I have only about 8" for each one.  They suggested a few cu$tom $idelight option$ but my contractor said he's experienced a 12-week turnaround on custom pieces from Simpson so he wants to make them himself.  I'm a little hesitant about it but I'm starting to trust his judgment and since I can't see a picture of what Simpson will make, I think it's a better option. 

The pediment is stripped of the vinyl and aluminum trim and it's happily in really good shape except for one little corner where it looks like squirrels went to work on it.  Retaining all of this trim saves quite a bit of money so even though ripping out all of the extra lathing strips and plaster required extra labor, I still might be able to work copper gutter into my budget.

I think the front facade is looking pretty good.  I'm really looking forward to seeing the porch roof take shape because that will really start to make it look like a Greek Revival house.

The columns have not yet been ordered because they're going to be custom and we want to make sure all of the roof details are perfect before the final measurements are made.  I was fully expecting the columns were going to be made out of wood but the architects and every contractor advised against it.  "The wood today isn't the same as the old-growth wood they used to be made out of." "They'll blow apart in several years and you'll have to replace them."  These are just a few of the reasons I've heard in favor of composite, even from my contractor is the most purist of the bunch. 

He says, "Put about eight coats of paint on 'em, and no one will know."

"I'll know."

"No, I promise.  They'll be fine."

"Well, the day you install them, I'll go away for a few days so you can put about eight coats of paint on them and maybe they'll be fine."

I looked at the price of wood thinking I might just replace them every ten years but at nearly $1800 apiece x 4 columns, the composite is looking a little better. 

We're getting the columns from Pacific Columns (let me know if you know anything bad about them) who has a really neat on-line column builder (aside from the annoying dude that keeps popping up to talk to you).  So the next time you're really bored, you might want to check out their website and build yourself some virtual columns just for fun.  You can really do something crazy like mix a Scomozzi capital with an Attic base.  There's hours of fun here.

I'm very conservative so I'm going with a Tuscan capital (although Roman Ionic would be an adventurous alternative for me)...

...with a Tuscan base...

...a fluted shaft  (mm-hmm, I know; I'm a wild one) ...

...that's 12" at the base (which is 10" at the top to match the width of the pilasters (cornerboards)...

...8 feet tall.  And you're done!

You can submit what you "built" and get a quote from them.  Their turnaround is about 3 weeks (allegedly) and they're shipped straight to your porch.

You can even print out a spec sheet that spells out the dimension of every last facet. 

Now I'm starting my research on shutters.  There are apparently "Boston" shutters, "New York" shutters and even neighborhood variations of each like the "Beacon Hill" version of the "Boston" shutter that has larger louvers.  I haven't found a Cambridge shutter but who knew?  It's crazy. And I'm falling for it.

The "Boston" shutter has "horns" at the bottom like this version above...

...but it should look more like this one.

I'll let you know how that works out.


  1. $o interesting! I dare not show my husband the column de$ign $ite.

  2. hi steve,

    i love any post that mentions joan, $ signs for s's, fluted shafts and avoiding annoying people.

    you really are an artist!

  3. Steve,
    I loved this indepth answer to my question! Thank you!
    (kisses to Janet!)
    Painful?? Oh, you betcha! I still have post traumatic stress (seriously;), especially with the 7 contractors here today to bid on the barn room. I digress...
    I loved your term "lazy stairs"!! And they make the porch seem very user-friendly!
    Ahhh yes, that little bugger called $$. I too am a purist.... up to a point, a dollar point! We priced three wooden garage doors, and all of the sudden the composites looked BEAUTIFUL! Especially since we are here in the NE where the winters to wreak havoc on exterior wood. I totally agree with said contractor- 8 coats of paint and you'll forget about 'em!!
    And, I'm with you- until last Fall when we started to paint the house I had no idea there were so many different types of shutters!
    Now, off to build some fun columns!

  4. I have heard the "old growth" story too, and it's the only thing that ever convinces me that there's a substitute that makes sense for "real wood." If your contractor thinks he can build the sidelights, I'll bet he can--most of the ones I've worked with would try to talk me into skipping them if there was a problem like the one you encountered.

  5. Hola Steve, eventhough I just speak little bit of english and translation is so bad I have enjoyed so, soooooo much reading you that I would love to have a coffe (or martinies) with you and chat about building our homes... there`s so much we would learn from each other!!
    I think you took a great decision about those columns, not because of your contractor´s advice against wood (god!! my home has huge antique wood columns that hold big roofs) but because of the charm those colums have!!!
    Great visiting you.
    maria cecilia

  6. Oh Steve,
    Don't let the columns make you start crunching $$$ columns.
    By the by, do you know the color of the first shutter?
    I have porch envy.