Principle #2 – Context

Weaving Coherence Between Your Home and the Adjacent Neighborhood …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..


The newest renovation on the block never fails to elicit emotion from everyone. Some projects seem just right, and others seem, well…wrong. To avoid what we call “Archi-Torture,” the project has to be undertaken in the context of its environment and use. A renovation planned with context in mind doesn’t cost more—but does significantly increase the value of the home.

What is wrong here?


1. Context of the Site

Orientation to natural elements – When planning a renovation, take the opportunity to coordinate the new design with the orientation of the sun. Living spaces on the south side of the home feel better. Can the kitchen be located on the southeast side for breakfast sun, living space on the southwest for evening light? Is there an opportunity to create a sunny space protected from northwestern spring and fall chilly winds?

Entry – Older homes built with restrictive budgets, on difficult sites, using pattern book plans, often still bear scars. Nowhere do they show more than at the entry. Entrances on the wrong side of homes … shared driveways … unusable front doors. Context involves asking yourself what the natural direction of travel is from the street to the front door to create an inviting entry.

Surroundings – Consider what’s around you before embarking on your renovation. Locate outdoor spaces where you can have auditory and visual privacy. Take advantage of view—will a second floor addition let you see the skyline? Look at your neighbor’s landscape and harmonize your design with theirs—continue a planting bed, for example, to avoid the postage stamp lot effect.


2. Context of the Home

Why some homes look just plain wrong – Homes built prior to the 1940s builders, owners and architects followed classically derived rules for design and the use of materials.  Today styles are mixed and materials used according to what sells or to create a look that is locally in fashion.  We contend that when the design and material concoction goes too far beyond its classical origin the emotional response is that the house is inherently wrong.


Does this house fit in?


Establishing your home’s style – Jones Pierce uses a wide variety of references, from general site surveys to monographs, to assess features of the home and recommend what root style is most appropriate. Our knowledge of the “rules” of each style lead you to informed decisions about how to do an renovation that looks original.

It’s not preservation, it’s transformation –
Creating a distinctive look and feel for a house that previously had no soul is achieved by choosing a prevailing style to govern our recommendations. Once that decision is made we can add life to the homes soul by customizing it to our client.   We think you need to know what the rules are before we can break them, it’s easy to decide what to retain and what has to go, and what can be added to take advantage of the opportunity to transform your home.


Virginia Highlands Atlanta home renovation design by Jones Pierce Architects

A Jones Pierce transformation that stands out while fitting in.


3. Context is Value

Location, Location, Location! – That well-known phrase translates into Neighborhood, Street, House. In that order. If your renovated house isn’t in keeping with first two “locations,” the result will be less-than-full value for your effort.

Intangible benefits – Of course all value is not monetary. A thoughtful renovation with careful attention to context is more than a great investment. It’s your chance to create a home that is a reflection of you, your family and woven into the adjacent neighborhood.



Further Reading:

Vitruvius:
Our human sense of proportion

For light reading about how and why it was built in “the day”; that would be the Roman day.
The 10 Books of Architecture:

Review of the book:
A Field Guild to American Houses

Learn more about The Pattern Language approach:
A Pattern Language

A Jones Pierce favorite reference book:
Get Your House Right


Contact Jones Pierce:
bryan@JonesPierce.com

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