Drawing on the natural surroundings of your home is a great place to build a strategy for choosing beautiful and practical home exteriors. Here are some examples.
When I built my first house, I chose board and batten siding. The contractor that I’d hired had used it on his house, and I loved it. I was well acquainted with traditional clapboards, having stained enough to cover the 3000 sq ft home of some friends. I wanted something new!
The slats were raw, rough sawn local lumber. They would weather over time to a soft mellow gray. They also accentuated the height of the 2.5 story house.
An artist friend came by when the house was finished. He observed that the vertical lines of the siding reflected the lines of the abundant trees around the house. I hadn’t noticed that, and it surely was not my intention when I opted for board and batten. But he was right, and it worked perfectly! Clapboards would have given the house and the entire property a different feel. The house was soaring in the woods!
Since then I have noticed siding wherever I go. Does it blend in? Does it stand out? How does it affect the home and surroundings? As much as I love a red roof, I am more drawn to homes that are not quite so visible. This home is very reminiscent of mine.
From the mountains to the sea
This house is the perfect example of a home blending into its environs. It was first built in 1814, a time when local materials were the only materials! The stone siding and the height of the building perfectly mirror the backdrop of the Alps. What is not stone is concrete, the gray of which also reflects the peaks.
This structure is part of the plan for an eco-city in China. I’m not sure what it is, but the sections in the water resemble bubbles!
In Portugal, this low slung vacation residence mimics the beach. Horizontal, natural siding and a grass thatched roof loudly say sandy beach. There is no fencing around the pool and deck, which helps maintain a visually low profile. Even the decking is laid parallel the siding to further emphasize the feel of hugging the ground
White siding in a mountainous, winter landscape never occurred to me, but it does work! This home would glaringly stand out in summer, though.
Close to home
Here in the desert, the most popular siding is stucco, either of concrete or very locally sourced mud. If that doesn’t blend in, I don’t know what does! When I bought my low-slung desert house, the concrete stucco was painted a sage green, making it blend in with the sagebrush surroundings. I have since repainted it in an adobe color. It now reflects the ground, not the vegetation.
Taos Pueblo is over 1000 years old. It was built cob-style – layers of mud on mud to create walls. The exterior is regularly re-mudded to protect the building and repair weather worn areas. When you look at it compared to its surroundings, you get the feel that it simply rose out of the earth. The height reflects the sacred mountains to the east.
Right down the road near Santa Fe, the exterior of this home resembles the rocks that surround it on the property. The material is polyurethane, but the coloring and painted-on shadows are pretty realistic. At first glance, it’s hard to tell it’s not covered with native stone.
Environments and home building in the American Southwest
Taos is the birthplace of the Earthship, solar, off-grid, self-sustaining structures of local and recycled materials. For energy efficiency, they are built into a berm, or a berm is created on the north side. This reduces heating and cooling bills, but it also tucks them away into the… earth!
I have visited some earthships that you drive up to from the north side. If you didn’t know where you were going, you’d be surprised to find a building on the back side of that slight knoll.
The big picture
In designing your next home, consider the entire scene. Make the native trees, grass, water, sand, and mud an integral part of your exterior. Or rather, make your home an integral part of the surrounding land. Consider the big picture.