Author Archives: alanna

Enlarging a Dutch Colonial


First, it’s important to know something about this style’s history. Dutch Colonials (1890-1930) are a sub-group the Colonial Revival style (1880–1955), which is the single most popular architectural language in the United States. The word “Revival” refers specifically to a fascination with early American English and Dutch design that become popular in the late 19th century and continued to generally influence the housing landscape in the period after the World War I. Hence, this style has been revisited by popular culture many times, and retains its value precisely because there is agreement over what elements must be retained, and where there’s a license to personalize.

The hallmark of the style, though, is its practicality. Dutch settlers, in fact, often built homes out of the very bricks they had used as ballast in their voyage over from Europe. Remnants of these one-story structures, built as early as 1625, are still found in parts of New York.

The universally distinguishing feature of A Dutch Colonial is not its siding material, but its roof: specifically, its trademark gambrel roof. Sometimes called a “Dutch roof” or “barn roof”, the design forms a pentagonal gable defined by of a pair of comparatively flat slopes that descend from either side of the center ridge and fan out into a pair of lower steeper slopes. Some historians say Dutch Colonial style is derived from the Flemish farmhouse. In event, by the mid-18th century, the gambrel roof was commonly employed in all sorts of non-Dutch settings.

The reason, again: practicality. Homebuilders found that Dutch Colonial homes were notably economical to build since an entire second floor of usable rooms could be contained under the generously spacious gambrel shape—thus, eliminating the need for a full two-story elevation topped by an attic. Enthusiasm for this advantage, fueled the style’s broader acceptance; eventually even Sears Roebuck offered a “Dutch Colonial”-style kit house.

Elaborating a Dutch Colonial Addition

With a front-facing addition it is critical to avoid excessive massing. Architecture is about scale and proportionality, so an addition that doesn’t respect the pleasure an eye derives from the measured variance of shapes and forms can quickly devolve into a kind of faceless monolith.

On this point, I recommend that you allow the existing house to remain the dominant visual form (mass) and establish the addition, or wing, as subordinate. This can be done by dropping the roofline over the addition and stepping back its front elevation from the main house. The tactic draws respectful attention to the original house and presents aesthetically pleasing proportions. It’s all about good manners.

Here are some other key considerations:

Roof: Your addition must employ a gambrel roof that follows the pitch of your existing roof form. Matching the roof shape goes a long way toward blending the new and old. If you want more usable space on the second floor you can increase room size with shed dormers, a well-established style variant. A shed dormer’s roof is an extension of the upper main roof.

Cladding: A home clad in clapboard, stucco or cedar shingles should generally replicate those materials on the addition. If the main block of your original home is brick or stone, however, I recommend an addition clad in a more humble contrasting material such as wood or stucco since it reinforces the dominance of the main block. Also, varying the exterior cladding material on your addition adds visual interest.

Doors and Windows: Do replicate the window and door trim of the original house. If your house has wood siding the trim should be in a wide, flat casing. Keep the new window pattern consistent with the existing house; typically double hung windows with six lites over six lites work well. Because you are building a first floor library you may want to maximize incoming natural light by using a nine lite over nine or twelve lite over twelve double-hung window style.

Occasionally the design of the addition can accommodate a few smaller-scale rectangular, oval or round casement windows. However, conservative choices are wise with a front-facing addition.

Summary: Consistency with proportion, materials, window and door style will ensure that your library addition adds curb appeal. Careful planning for your design will add value to your home financially and emotionally. If your home is within a designated historic district study the recommended guidelines.

Bruce Wentworth, AIA, is the principal of Wentworth, Inc a metro area residential architecture, construction and interior design practice. Questions on residential remodeling styles can be sent to

Neoeclectic Homes Mix The Old And The New, But Follow The Rules When Adding-on


Few homeowners seem to know much about post-contemporary homes (even when they live in one), so I am impressed that you can identify a neo-eclectic subtype so precisely. As such, you may be interested to know that this later-day architectural movement remains quite current; in fact, it was only after the many variants of modernism (contemporary, shed-roof, split-level, ranch) had been thoroughly assimilated into the American landscape that architects began probing for ways to reconcile modernist concepts of form and space with specific historic styles.

Neo-Mediterranean, Neo-French, Neo-Colonial, Mansard and, of course, Neo-Tudor are among the hybrids that emerged, an aesthetic exploration that began in the late 1960’s and continues to fascinate today.

A word of caution though: don’t assume that neo-eclectic sensibilities mean that signature elements from different styles can now be can be mixed and matched with impunity. Indeed, it’s precisely the disciplined search for balance and restraint that makes this school of architecture uniquely challenging and often exciting.

So What’s New?

In architecture, the prefix “neo” signifies “a (new) combining of forms”, or “a recently modified design form”. All of which is often interpreted to mean that a Neo– began as the real thing, but somehow strayed from its design fundamentals, as if heedless (even needless) of the rules. Do not be fooled by such untutored relativism. It’s critical to know everything about the historical context that informs your home’s core architecture, and you are wise to be circumspect about the design considerations you must now confront.

On this point, be aware your almost-new 30 year old home, in fact, draws its style precedents from the handsomely detailed, richly designed Tudors built in the United States during the 1920s–which were, in turn, adhered to an architectural language popular in 16th century England. Moreover, the American Tudor homes of the early 20th century were beautifully articulated, generously proportioned, and constructed of fine materials. Almost exclusively designed by architects, these homes were built for an affluent class, and were often referred to as “Stock Broker Tudors” prior to the stock market crash of 1929.

Hence, the neo-Tudor (by definition) takes a serious, respectful bow to an American classic (the Tudor is often classified as an “eclectic house”), yet also seeks to claim some of the freedoms of contemporary styles: specifically, the open floorplan, the cathedral ceiling, the generous expanses of glass.

So the good news is your proposed two-story addition can be integrated with your existing house provided you’ve educated yourself in Tudor particulars. But be careful. Your addition’s design should elaborate point-by-selective point the home’s Tudor identity–not weaken, or further water-down, the very elements that particularize and distinguish it.

Some other thoughts:

  • Be respectful of the existing home’s Tudor style, proportion, and materials. It will be beneficial to repeat the use of stone and stucco in the addition since your existing house has those materials.
  • The addition’s roof should match the steep roof pitch of the existing home, and employ the same roofing material. Your architect might experiment with simple roof dormers that are specific to the Tudor.
  • If executed with restraint, half-timbering can be an effective way of asserting the style’s roots and its eclectic context. A large chimney might also provide an appropriate visual anchor (and a seasonally-pleasing interior hearth).
  • Ideally, your new rear wing will be part of  an “L”-shaped floor plan with views of your garden or swimming pool.
  • Design the addition’s exterior envelope to be sympathetic to the existing home’s Tudor materials and proportions, and then you can introduce a contemporary look by using large expanses of floor to ceiling glass, without mullions.
  • The use of thick stone walls punctuated by large glass openings will be stunning and appropriate for your Neo-Tudor home. With an exterior that is sympathetically designed to blend with the existing house, you can pursue (guilt-free) your goal for a fully contemporary interior.

Bruce Wentworth, AIA is a licensed architect and contractor. He is the founder of Wentworth, Inc. a residential design/build company. To learn more visit or call 240-395-0705.

Adding on to a Queen Anne Victorian


Congratulations. You are the owner of one of the most expressive of all Victorian styles: Queen Anne. Popularized in the United States between 1880 and 1910, this fundamentally English idiom was first introduced in the US at the Philadelphia Centennial of 1875. That same year, American architect HH Richardson built the earliest commissioned Queen Anne—the Watts-Sherman house—in Newport, Rhode Island.

While the style was occasionally adapted to town homes, its most complete expression is in detached structures that showcase its dramatic sculptural shapes and ornamented skin. These Victorian houses were typically constructed in wood, allowing the architect substantial license to explore the patterns, design elements and fine details that characterize a rich language.

With regard to your proposed addition, you should pay particular attention to massing and scale— as it’s critical to maintain appropriate proportionality when adding on substantial square footage to a Queen Anne. On that score, you will probably want to restrain the new wing by stepping it back from the front facade. Assuring that the original house remains visually dominant preserves the essential historic context. The design should also be respectfully subordinate to the original home’s primary block. I would suggest locating the front elevation of the addition at least 10’ back from the façade; also, design the new roof so that it’s peak is a bit lower than the front-facing peak of the existing Queen Anne house.

To assure that the two-story addition complements the existing Victorian home, replicate the slope of the original gable roof. Since your house already has a spacious front porch, it is not necessary to make a strong visual statement with the roof lines. In any event, a conservative reading of the applied architecture is best when elaborating historic homes. If budget allows, match the original roofing material. Also, Queen Annes often have roof lines with spacious dormers, a design device well-suited to scaling back the massing effect of a sizeable addition while creating valuable second floor ceiling height and usable interior space.

Windows should always be stylistically consistent with the original house. To preserve curb appeal, use slightly smaller front-facing windows on your addition than are found on the existing façade. Most Queen Annes have either double hung or casement windows. If your Queen Anne home has decorative windows with distinctive window mullion patterns (diamond or orthogonal) recall these elements in the new wing. If you want maximize glass or selectively employ a more contemporary design vocabulary, place the style variants on the rear of the building so as not to compromise the home’s perceived historic character. When you are elaborating a classic Victorian, it’s important to work with someone well-schooled in style-sensitive options.

New and old siding material must always be complementary. Occasionally, one can utilize a more contemporaneous, clean-lined exterior cladding material, but such considerations must be deliberated cautiously if the plan is to preserve and enhance the Queen Anne. Painted wood clapboard and/or painted wood shingles are usually the best choice in local Queen Annes I have seen. Selectively recreating front façade ornamentation offers a subtle– and often undetectable– way to integrate an addition. If your house has a brick foundation (as many local Queen Anne’s do) be sure the new addition has one as well.

Finally, since your plan calls for maximizing natural light you’ll be glad to know that the proposed addition is optimally sited. Tall south-facing windows and east- or south-  facing skylights not only augment available light, but provide potentially valuable solar energy benefits. This is an option worth exploring further.

Bruce Wentworth, AIA, is the principal of Wentworth, a residential architecture, interiors, and construction practice. For question about architectural style considerations in the greater Washington area, consult our free resources at or call 240-395-0704.

Preserving A Classic Italianate Style Home


You’ve described a “flat-front Italianate”—a Victorian-era home usually classified as a “Romantic House.”  Interestingly, Italianate architecture began in England as a reaction to 19th century architectural formalism. Inspired by Italy’s rambling farmhouses, the look showcases informal detailing. Of the many Victorian-era subtypes represented in our historic neighborhoods, Italianate is one of the most passionate — a feast for the eyes characterized by its distinctively romantic detailing.

Some Italianate Characteristics:

A period Italianate home is usually two-stories, though there are many surviving variations from three-story detached homes with towers and cupolas to town houses such as yours. The town houses feature wide projecting cornices with heavy brackets and richly ornamented windows, porches, and doorways. Most American Italianate examples mix elements from rural models with the more formal renaissance detailing.

Brick and wood clapboard are the most common siding materials used in Italianate design, though brick is decidedly more expensive. Ornamentation is usually wood; still, one can find cast iron window and door hoods on a brick Italianate home.

Italianate roofs are low pitched, sometimes with a square cupola on top. Projecting eaves with large brackets in a variety of shapes and spacings dominate the cornice. Arranged singly or in pairs, the brackets are usually underscored with wide decorative bands and further elaborated with panel moldings. The decorative cornice on your home was probably designed to conceal a low-pitched roof.

The glazing in Italianate window sashes is mostly one-over-one or two-over-two. (Large window panes were becoming a status symbol in the period when your home was built.) Also, Italianate window trim can vary widely. U-shaped crowns with brackets, for example, or pedimented crowns with decorated hoods. Arched and curved windows (now considered quite elegant) were popularized in America by the Italianate architecture trend.

Italianate doors occur in variety as often as Italianate windows. Paired and single doors are common, often announcing themselves with elaborate hoods supported by brackets. Italianate doors were the first to present large glass panes in the door itself as opposed the prevailing mode: side lights.

When an Italianate house includes a porch it is subdued in size and detailing compared to other Victorians– and usually one story only. The most common Italianate porch column is a 6-inch square post, with beveled or chamfered corners.

Think of your repair as a restoration. Consistency with materials and details are critical to success. Repair whenever possible, replicate when necessary; consult with your local preservation representative. Remember, retaining beauty is about care.

Bruce Wentworth, AIA, is the principal of Wentworth, Inc a metro area residential architecture, construction and interior design practice. Questions on residential remodeling styles can be sent to



The Georgian style, with its long history in America, is among our country’s most consistently popular architectural styles. Admired for its symmetrical design, classic proportions and decorative elements, Georgian architecture is commonly associated with the reigns of England’s King Georges, I through III. However, in reality, Georgian design is directly tied to the work of English architect Sir Christopher Wren. Unequivocally the dominant architectural style in the colonies between 1700 and the Revolutionary War, Georgian architecture’s popularity slowed dramatically as architectural tastes began to change with the establishment of the United States and the emergence of our American Federal style.

In the more prosperous northern cities of Boston, New York and Philadelphia, early generations of Georgian buildings have generally been lost to development. The best remaining examples of original Georgian architecture are in eastern seaboard cities such as Annapolis and Williamsburg, where a less affluent economy helped protect them from being demolished.

One of the best examples of the Georgian architectural style in Greater Washington, D.C. is Gunston Hall on the banks of the Potomac River in what is now Lorton, Virginia. This Georgian building was built for George Mason, one of the nation’s Founding Fathers, whose work greatly influenced the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Mason moved into Gunston Hall in 1759.

Much of the inspiration for Gunston Hall’s Georgian design came from pattern books brought over from England. These books were an early species of how-to manuals imported from Europe by colonial builders at a time when professional design advice was scarce. Such manuals played an enormous role in spreading the Georgian style throughout the colonies.

Typically, pattern books focused on the Georgian architectural design details for windows, doors, fireplaces and molding elements, which were adopted or modified by the builder. With only a few professional-looking flourishes, colonial Americans could greatly enhance the appeal of their simple Georgian buildings. As the practice evolved, colonial builders gradually learned how to arrange and mass building forms as well.

The basic Georgian proportion was typically geometrical, with the main block of the building frequently augmented by   hyphens and wings. The axial symmetry of the Georgian style will always be a safe design approach. However, this static configuration does not necessarily optimize the actual functioning of a home. The somewhat less symmetrical Federal style that followed is likely a response to this problem.


The Georgian style utilized many of the hallmarks of Renaissance design. For example, Georgian homes and buildings often had rigid symmetry in building mass, in window and door placement and even in the layout of interior rooms.


Not surprisingly, interpretations of the Georgian style tended to vary with locale. In northern states, it was common to use wood with clapboard or shingle cladding in Georgian homes and buildings. Occasionally the corners of the building were decorated with wooden quoins to imitate stone. Sometimes stone and stucco were used instead of wood.

In the South, Georgian houses were occasionally constructed of stone and stucco, but Georgian style usually meant brick. The brickwork occasionally incorporated a horizontal belt course between the first and second floors. A classic example of a Georgian home with brick detail is Westover Plantation in Charles City County, Virginia. It is a Georgian house of exquisite proportions and detail built on the bank of the James River in Charles City County. Locally, a modest example of the Georgian architectural style built in the 1920s is found at #10 Kalorama Circle NW.


A hip roof, sometimes with dormers, typifies the Georgian style. Because of Georgian architecture’s relentless symmetry, a more asymmetrical gable roof would be noticeably inappropriate. The hip roof was popular with Christopher Wren and all those who admired and emulated his rules of architectural design. When variations were sought, a Georgian roof would sometimes sport balustrades further embellished with decorative moldings and trim.


Typically incorporated as a stylistic embellishment, double-hung sash windows along with small panes or lights, usually 12 over 12 or 9 over 9, were the standard variations used in Georgian architecture. Georgian homes and offices built of wood often had decorative pediments over the windows, while brick Georgian buildings had decorative brick headers above a window.


As a vehicle for decoration, Georgian entrances were often fitted with pediments, broken pediments, arched tops and ogee caps. In the North, wooden pilasters often flanked the entrance to a Georgian home or building. In the South, Georgian doorways were typically enhanced with tasteful brick patterns.