Sunday, August 22, 2004

Misguided home makeovers infiltrate suburbia

Some architectural styles best left alone

Thanks to the soaring price of real estate, growing numbers of modest postwar homes are being gutted and rebuilt, not just to make them larger, but to bring them into current vogue as well.

When done with care, such drastic makeovers occasionally succeed. More often, though, they just obliterate the very traits that give a home character, replacing them with a confused muddle of real estate sales clich├ęs.

The reason most makeovers fail is simple: Architectural style resides in the very bones of a building, not just on the surface. A home's original style can't just be stripped away and replaced with another one, as you might throw a slipcover over an old sofa. Like the sofa, the basic form beneath will always show through. The proportions of windows and doors, the pitch and style of the roof, and even the way a house occupies its site are all integral to its style, whether it be Victorian, Bungalow, Mediterranean or Rancher.

Short of eradicating every trace of these features, it's no easy task to credibly transform one style into another. Nor is there much point in an exercise, which, at great expense, usually sacrifices a home's long-term timelessness for a few brief years of fashion currency.

Read more at Citywide Services

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