It’s All in the Details for Transitional Elevation Design

Filed in Design by on June 21, 2018 1 Comment

The art of new home design has always been a continuous process of innovation and evolution, driven by changing consumer preferences and advances in building materials and technology.

Traditionally, home design has been driven by historic precedents that pull from European roots: styles such as Tuscan, Spanish, Italian, etc. Similarly, colonial architecture, the American farmhouse and mid-century modernism all have influenced our built environment.

The latest step on this journey is transitional design: homes that reference a familiar aesthetic but take it in a new direction with cleaner lines and purposeful details.

Mastering this next step in architectural evolution means understanding new ways to employ the foundations of design: form, massing, details, color, and material.

Traditional Spanish architecture. Photos by Chris Mayer.

The images below explore the details that bring this architecture to life.

Traditional to Transitional

Details that reference the historic Spanish architecture aesthetic seen in the traditional example in the first photo on the right — stucco, arches, balconies and iron — remain in the updated expressions below.

Incorporating transitional elements.

Further along the design spectrum, as shown in the next photo, transitional elements such as the banding corner windows, the geometric forms around the entry, and a negative arch, start moving the elevation away from the traditional while still holding onto the roots.

The last picture shows a design that has fully transitioned away from the traditional.

Transitional design with Spanish elements.

Windows are grouped around a corner and tied together vertically in a contemporary pattern that also allows natural light to reach the interior.

Similarly, the standard trellis above the windows morphs into an eyebrow. Even the massing changes: Rather than the gable end, the parapet wall reinforces the strong corner forms and accentuates the difference between solid and void.

New Thinking

Don’t get trapped into thinking that a traditional plan must have a traditional elevation.

In the two photos below, both elevations have been extruded from the same 40-foot-wide, 2,800-square-foot plan.

Photos by A.G. Photography

The traditional elevation on the left relies on decorative elements and familiar forms, while the modern elevation draws its sculptural expression from the interplay of solid and void, as well as linear planes. There is also continuity in this expression from front to rear.

This post was adapted from an article by Steven Dewan in the Spring 2018 issue of Best in American Living. Read the issue for more examples and images of traditional design elevation details and other great articles. Steven Dewan is senior principal at Bassenian | Lagoni.


Comments (1)

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  1. Bill Watt says:

    Steve, I appreciated your comments on Transitional Elevation Design. I like the notion that “Transitional” design can provide the freedom to innovate in terms of the functional aspects of design. It seems to me that too many designers are throwing “modern” elements at their elevations without any functional logic, let alone aesthetic sensibility. I suspect many of these stylized elevations will go out of style in a big hurry.

    Your comment that a traditional plan need not have a traditional elevation is right on. That said, a traditional plan can often be improved by simple things like window placements, etc. Design elements that improve function are always well received in the marketplace.

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