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October 2022

Coordinating Exterior Finishes

Coordinating Exterior Finishes 1359 975 Tessa Maristela

The potential of architecture to transform experience rests on factors such as form, function and an aesthetically competent design. Texture is one aspect that can amplify a building’s dimensionality, visual character and marked singularity by introducing understated integration of elements. Like painting on canvas, we refer to texture as an optical palette of exterior finishes that are remarkably distinct but can simultaneously achieve material congruity when applied on a building’s facade, expressed in a symphony of colors, patterns and panel layering of assorted scales. While there are no strict architectural guidelines on combining exterior finishes, too many textures can look cluttered and engulfing. Focus must be directed to a larger purpose of building a sound and cohesive combination of textures while committed to the virtue of simplicity. Materials such as timber, metal, bricks, glass, stone and fiber cement, artistically and intelligently combined, create contemporary and modern expressions that are convincing and refreshing.

Elevating an otherwise flat and dull field of broad surface with an interesting spectrum of textures inspires visual variance, accentuation and transition of space. For instance, the warmth of organic materials like wood complements the industrial appeal of metal. Layering of materials such as stone, glass and vinyl perk up the dimensionality of space by producing notable visual distinctions.

While abiding by the design principle that form must follow function, it is not to say that visual interest must be sacrificed. The objective is to balance the mix of materials to maximize design performance. Consideration must be given to realistic outlines such as durability, sustainability, cost efficiency, even the integration of materials to fit the site and its environment. As an example, corrosive-resistant materials such as stainless steel endure for decades. Stone has inherent texture, is durable and timeless, cost effective and requires low upkeep. Incorporated on a building located in the coastal regions of California or Florida where the air is moist and salty, the combined use of stone and steel makes for the desired balance in design performance.

We share a few photos from Substrata’s album of completed projects, illustrating versatility in the mixed use and allocation of diverse materials that adhere to unity and balance in design.

Mercer Vine on 3rd Street

Drawn to the existing urban fabric of 3rd St, the Mercer Vine exterior adapts the physical texture of the city embodied by the industrial overtone of teak wood sidings, brick subways and storefront glass. A few shades lighter from each other, the brick subways on the ground level terminate with teak wood sidings above them. The two textures do not confuse but complement each other. Projected as a distinct volume, the storefront glass invites into the interior a view of the cityscape.

The Ashby on Hobart Street

Black and gold decorative Art Deco stones highlight the entrance of The Ashby on Hobart Street, while the wall siding pursues a slight transition of two-tone colors separating the ground level from the upper floor.

Malibu Residence

Configuration of volumes decisively breaks down the scale of this residence in Malibu with multiple dimensions of vertical glass panels and horizontal wood cladding, punctuated by grey horizontal panel boards above and below it.

Malibu Residence Poolside

The exterior of this Malibu residence poolside articulates the contrast between the warmth of horizontal wood paneling against white stucco field walls.

Superba Residence

The Superba residence employs dark molding accents to trim around windows and doors, coordinated with dark metal roofing, railings and exterior metal sconces. A simple colored accent like this interrupts the austere simplicity of plain, white hardie-plank sidings.

Design by Architect Susan Nwanka Gillespie

Pitch roof lines of the Curson residence are defined by charcoal tones that also trims around the entry and glass-paneled doors, matched by a tapered chimney with complementing dark grey subway tiles. The entry door with a light finish unique from the rest of the exterior stands out. Minimal application of color contrasts transforms the traditional look of this 1920s house with a refreshing contemporary statement.

Exterior of a Proposed ADU on Hoover Street / Rendering by Nwanka Design

Designed by Architect Susan Nwanka Gillespie, a palette of varying textures on the exterior of this proposed ADU breaks the scale of a single volume to outline the layout of the house, conventionally defining the living/dining areas from the sleeping quarter above it. Vertically suspended above the glass panels, a warm wood layering creates a striking contrast against the transparency of the glass panels and opaque, charcoal grey horizontal hardie-plank cladding. The connection between the three elements (wood, hardie-planks and glass panels) provides an asymmetrical balance in design, achieving different visual weights in composition and texture placements.