Debbie Travis: Modern look with a nod to traditional

Dear Debbie: We are designing a home along a modern architectural aesthetic but are situated in a neighbourhood that has more traditional brick and stone houses. What would you suggest as an exterior cladding that would help to connect these two styles?

I am pleased to hear that you are mindful of your new home fitting into the existing neighbourhood. While the interior design can be as free-flowing and individual as you wish, it’s important to blend in, to a reasonable extent, with the street’s exterior architecture and materials. It might surprise you to think of using board-and-batten siding as this style is generally seen on cottages and rural farmhouses. Board-and-batten is a versatile design that alternates wide and narrow boards. The narrow boards, called battens, are applied over the cracks between the wide boards. The boards can run vertically or horizontally depending on the look you want. Vertical boards emphasize the minimal lines of a modern structure. By keeping the window frames plain, the exterior design remains clean and simple.

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Consider the colour of the board-and-batten siding. Dark gray is a contemporary choice, shown here on a modern residence. The siding adds dimension to the walls while accenting the straight, minimal lines. Note the simple contrast in direction and colour of the wood at the front entrance. Weathered mid-tone greys are reminiscent of coastal homes. A modern farmhouse is often clad in white siding that runs horizontally along the bottom floor and vertically above.

Dear Debbie: Before we put our house on the market we would like to add some detail to the exterior to give it curb appeal. Are shutters a good investment?

Yes, exterior shutters are a very good investment. They add handsome detail and visual interest, making your home look and feel more inviting. So high marks for curb appeal. And as a practical consideration shutters insulate your windows better than curtains or blinds, which is why they were invented in the first place. Board-and-batten shutters are available in many different configurations so you can pick the style that suits your home. Two or three boards fit side by side snuggly and run vertically with battens running horizontally along the top and bottom or on the diagonal. The boards can be shaped at the top or cut straight.

Shutters create a relaxed feel, adding rustic charm to a stone or stucco facade. Typically seen in Craftsman Style and farmhouses, their versatile nature suits any design including bungalows. Take a photo of your house, enlarge it and then experiment with different board designs and colours. Natural wood has its own allure, fresh white paint is a traditional favourite, black or dark gray is more contemporary.

Written by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Send email to

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