Despite out best intentions the traditional buildings that are being constructed today do
not always feel ‘right’. They fail in the small details- the proportion of a window, or a
badly –detailed door surround or in a short-sighted choice of material.
For too long we have built for today with no thought about tomorrow and what would be
timeless and sustainable. As my friend, Steve Mouzon, would say, “We have not only
failed to speak a common language – the
language of classical architecture and design – we have failed to learn the language at all.”
The same mistakes have been repeated so often that they are now thought of as correct.
But just as the ear recognizes the error when subjects and verbs disagree, the eye
recognizes error when rules of architecture and design are not followed.
Even if we can’t
explain what is wrong we know “something” doesn’t ring true.
I have to be very careful here not to use local examples and get myself in big trouble so I am borrowing from several other sources who are saying what I want to say but using pictures from other states. Thank you Lindsay Daniel.
DO ~ Heavy millwork (mouldings) around the window is used even with brick siding, and these mouldings give the appearance of 4 supporting columns and an architrave making this window proportionally correct as well as “feel” correct.
DON’T ~ The Brick here can not physically or visually hold up this shaped opening as in the historical method of structure. Proportionally the flanking windows are too wide, there is no visual column support evident, and the lack of the Architrave (or beam) makes this all look false, like it might fall down soon. It is also missing the elegance of the real form.
Or how about this…
Shutters too wide for window
shutters too skinny for window
Please tell me that I don’t even need to comment here!
Study historical buildings to get it right.
And my personal pet peeve ( I really would get in trouble if I used pictures here so use your imagination).
If you are building a 2,500 sf house set back 50 feet from the street PLEASE do not flank the drive with giant lions.
Love the lions but they are reserved for the 30,000 sf house with the half-mile driveway.
There are some great books out there on proportion and scale.
Buy one. Choose a building to analyze and begin to train your eye.
And if you would like to say, “That was fun!” at the end of your project contact me at