Curb appeal describes the general attractiveness of a house—from the sidewalk or the street—to a prospective buyer. Often used by realtors trying to sell or evaluate a piece of property, the term also carries importance for homeowners who have no intention of moving. Exterior upgrades can range from inexpensive touchups, such as a paint job, to a complete change in architectural style.

Home facelifts provide owners an opportunity to improve the functionality of their living space as well. Transforming the exterior of a house can redirect foot traffic through a new entry foyer or bump out an interior area to refine circulation. A makeover can even repurpose unused space to create additional room for parking, storage or entertaining guests in an outdoor living setting.

Each of the winners in our annual Master Design Awards for an exterior renovation modified the outside of a home to boost curb appeal. In the process, they also adapted living space to enhance the everyday life of their clients, who continue to benefit from the project. Their design solutions give other remodelers an example of how they can effectively plan and execute their own facelift.

Lift Off

Photos: Lauren Hagerstrom/Hagerstrom Images

In 2012 Hurricane Sandy damaged many homes in Mantoloking, New Jersey, a coastal borough in Ocean County. FEMA flood maps, as a result, changed to include areas that had not been in a flood zone. Even if a house does not sit on the ocean, it still needs to comply with the new flood regulations when the owner pursues a renovation worth more than half of the value of the home.

“The existing floor of a house might be in violation of that flood requirement by an inch or two,” says Richard Bubnowski, owner of Richard Bubnowski Design, a residential firm based in Point Pleasant. “If you do nothing to the house, or if you’re just doing some very minor cosmetic work, you don’t have to lift the house. But the basic rule is once you exceed 50 percent of the assessed value of the house, you then have to comply with FEMA regulations and update building codes.”

A client who purchased a home across the street from the ocean hired Bubnowski as a consultant before buying the property. Because the remodel surpassed half its value, the house needed to be raised only 2 or 3 feet to satisfy the new flood zones. Bubnowski, nevertheless, encouraged them to raise it high enough to produce the requisite space for a new two-car garage and some storage.

“I tell clients, ‘If you have the ability financially to do this, and it’s not creating a height issue or a variance on height, you may as well raise the house up high enough where now you can create some garage space on that ground level,’” Bubnowski says. “You can’t do habitable space on the ground level, but you can do storage space or outdoor living space. Everybody along the shore, they’ve got bicycles, surfboards and sailboats and all kinds of things that they need storage for.”

The firm ended up lifting their home nearly 10 feet, which gave the owners enough room for not only a two-car garage and storage but also a rear outdoor living area. An original front porch had been on the left side of the house at grade level, so Bubnowski designed a new elevated, covered porch along the street façade that takes advantage of east ocean views as well as natural breezes.

“We didn’t want to start messing with the structure of the main body of the house too much, but we went through quite a few aesthetic studies on the front of what the porch would look like,” he explains.

Bubnowski used the front porch and western red cedar shingles to transform the dated 1960s residence into a classic Mantoloking beach house. “They get people all the time who stop by and compliment them,” he notes. “We did something that fit into the neighborhood contextually, and the scale was appropriate. The neighbors are complimentary of the project—and that says a lot.”

Soft Welcome

Photos: Anice Hoachlander Photography

Within the Village of St. Martin’s Additions in Maryland, a home built in 1938 underwent renovations to its kitchen and family room areas in the back of the house. The front formal spaces such as the entry and living and dining rooms, on the other hand, were not adequate for a modern family. As a result, the owners wanted to make them more livable as they updated the exterior of their home.

“Because they began to work on those areas that were more formal in the front of the house, that also led to an opportunity to work on their curb appeal,” says Donald Lococo, AIA, NCARB and principal of Donald Lococo Architects in Washington, D.C. “One of the biggest things was that they couldn’t even get a bed up to the second floor. They had taken drastic means of going out the back, sometimes in back windows, to get mattresses of adequate size into that second floor.”

A non-conforming front stairway did not allow them to make the turns necessary to transport a mattress to the second floor. Lococo had minimal space to meet their requests for an entry hall, new stairway and second-floor playroom because of the established front building setback, so he designed a gambrel roof on the front that added a modest 221 square feet to the interior footprint.

“It could have been a gable or a square or more moderate if we were doing the whole front,” he notes. “But because the existing house had a gambrel roof down the two side yards, and it was in a neighborhood that was pretty traditional, we used those as a cue to add a gambrel on the front. The gambrel shape leans to what was going on in those side elevations. We modified it to give a little more of an aesthetic feeling to the proportions of the slight bends in the corners of the front.

“It gave it more of a welcoming and softer nature,” he adds. “Instead of a portico that came out, we created a portico that you go into. So, you’re standing out of the rain, but it’s not something that was added on in front of that second-part gambrel. You’re underneath the existing; I think that’s part of the charm of it. You’re nestled and also sheltered when you knock on the door.”

Relocating the stairway provided an opportunity to create a spacious entryway that adds height, breaking the continuous low ceilings in the house. Lococo added much-needed storage, some of which are touch latch panels under the lowest part of the stair to utilize every inch. The solution integrated the home into the neighborhood heritage and resulted in a lower-than-expected budget.

“The thing I love about this design is that there’s so much that was existing,” he says. “Those two windows on the side flanking the first floor—the two windows flanking that new gambrel—and the two dormers are all existing. In fact, we kept the existing roof material. The old slate roof that was on there, it sort of gives a little bit of a patina and doesn’t make it feel like it’s entirely new.”

Methodical Approach

Photos: Ron McCoy Photography

When homeowners in Tucson, Arizona, could not find a lot in a location they liked to build a custom house, they opted for a full exterior remodel instead. After previously adding a master suite on the other side of the garage to give them more livable space, they felt the addition did not tie into the rest of the existing home and stood out like a sore thumb. It also made the existing garage feel out of place.

“The addition was a flat roof, whereas the original house had a tiled roof,” says designer Bry Pavlov, owner of Deluxe Designs of Arizona in Oro Valley. “It was also recessed back pretty far with an exterior door that was closer to the street than the front door. Visually, it looked a little disjointed; functionally, they would get packages delivered not to the front door, but the door on the addition. And, a lot of people would walk up to that section, mistaking it for the front door.”

The owners hired Pavlov to blend the addition with the existing house and help redirect the flow of traffic to the correct entrance. Originally an L shape, the addition made the home more of a T shape with the garage protruding farther from the center of the house than the other areas. Pavlov added a private patio off the master bedroom to pull the area forward and make it more balanced.

She pulled the courtyard forward as well with an angled entry to redirect the flow of traffic and make the house feel visually more connected and uniform. The material selection for the exterior facelift presented a challenge because the clients wanted the new selections to fit with the ranch-style architecture of their existing home while also giving it a more modernized look.

Pavlov opted for a standing seam roof, which fit well with the ranch style, and selected the color black to give the house a modern flair. The firm repeated this material and color combination in several other architectural details such as the awning and gates to help everything feel cohesive.

“There are a lot of Southwest [style] homes in Tucson, where it can sometimes be challenging to make a house feel more modern without completely changing every aspect of the home,” Pavlov notes. “The homeowners were already in need of a new roof, so we used this to our advantage and changed the roofing material. This, along with the integration of the brick and metal accents, helped us to achieve our goal without a major demo.”

The homeowners had believed it would not be possible to get everything they wanted with their current design. They were blown away with what the firm accomplished, especially at the price point. Thrilled to be able to keep their existing location close to family and friends, they have told Pavlov how much they enjoy showing off their new home to everyone in the neighborhood.

“Their brother hired us to design an addition, and their father hired us for his backyard remodel,” Pavlov says. “Two neighbors also asked them for my contact information after seeing their remodeled home, so we have received several new projects just from clients reaching out to the homeowners to ask who they’ve worked with.” QR

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