Thoughts on “The Good House”

We were honored recently to be included in a Houzz essay by Tampa architect Bud Dietrich, who pondered the details of what makes “The Good House” conducive to all the family experiences we cherish and remember. Dietrich used a beach house renovation we designed in Delaware as an illustration of his point that a good house should be neighborly, as epitomized by the welcoming entry porch shown in this picture: Cherner-003

The good home should be neighborly. Just as that obnoxious bore at last night’s party made your evening less than ideal, a house that’s ill suited to its time and place can do the same. What is more enjoyable and provides for a better experience is a party where there’s some laughter from well-told jokes and games, some interesting conversations that enlighten and illuminate us, as well as good food and drink.

We love that Dietrich chose to feature this house in his excellent article. A front porch like the one we added is meant to be a welcoming gesture, like someone greeting you with their arms open wide. It extends the private space into the public space. It suggests that its residents are open to engaging with their neighbors.

Here is what the house looked like when our clients purchased it:

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The front door is nearly hiding, and if you look at it from the street, you’ll see that visitors must first walk past the garage—a long way to go for an unceremonious entry.

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Here’s the new facade, with a shingle roof and siding and that porch—enough to make you want to stop and say hello. Why? In part, because the porch roof brings the scale down to our level. A one-story porch on a two-story house is more interesting and welcoming. The scale is less daunting.

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Dietrich explains more in his essay on what makes a house neighborly:

It should both fit in — not be so different from its neighbors — and stand out — by being just a bit idiosyncratic. It should tell a joke or two, have maybe some “off” proportions, as well as be serious, refined and static when it needs to be. And it should offer up some good sustenance in the way it’s detailed so that we aren’t left wanting.

In its former life, the house had some idiosyncrasies that were quite unfortunate, such as a yawning space under the eaves at the top of the stairs:

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Now, this same space has a lot more swagger, and the kids always fight for who gets to sleep there.

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Down in the master bedroom, the layout was positively clumsy:

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We brought the french doors inward, so they would be even with the window, and though the move reduced the square footage of the room just a bit, it greatly expanded its appeal.

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To Dietrich’s point, architecture can quite literally embrace you, and make you feel safe and cozy. We used arches, wainscoting, millwork and built ins between the living and dining rooms that enrich the experience of living there.

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Here’s what it looked like before:

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The back yard was similarly forlorn, even though the pool was a handsome size.

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We added a covered porch in back of the garage, where the lattice gate is above, and balanced the new setting with a pergola and lounge chairs on the other side, turning this somewhat unremarkable back yard into a resort-like destination—the ultimate welcoming gesture.

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Thanks again to Mr. Dietrich for using our design in his article—and to designer Jodi Macklin, who made the interiors so beautiful. We’re quite proud to have turned a tired old Williamsburg Colonial into this handsome—and welcoming—beach house.