Transitional design is about combining traditional and contemporary elements, as in this modern farmhouse, Plan 924-6.
So you don’t want a home design that slavishly interprets
traditional. But you aren’t ready for a purely modern home with unusual forms and a
flat roof. Don’t despair – there’s something in between: transitional design. This quickly emerging style puts a modern spin on
traditional forms. In transitional designs you can still make out the familiar
forms of Prairie, Farmhouse, or even Gothic. But the building materials,
details, and colors have been updated to suit modern sensibilities. “People are tired of the salad dressings – French, Italian,
and Ranch,” says Nick Lehnert of KTGY Architecture + Planning, one of several
architects who talked up the look at this year’s International Builders Show. “They
want something different. We’re seeing transitional design pop up all over the
country, even in baby boomer housing.”
What elements distinguish transitional design? Typically
column, railing, siding, and color details are the important places to look. The
style often introduces industrial elements, such as corrugated metal siding,
steel I-beam columns or metal grid railing. Some decorative elements customary
to a traditional style may get left on the drafting board for simplicity’s
sake. “The effect of transitional design is often an exaggeration
of the original form,” says Architect Ed Binkley of BSB Design, who lists other
elements common to transitional design -- gooseneck lighting, oversized
windows, concrete block, horizontal awnings, and rainscreen walls.
recently completed an illustrative study of transitional housing styles for his
firm -- this slide shows some of his recent designs, including what he calls the "new urban farmhouse."
Demand for transitional design is coming from two
directions. Some people merely want to update traditional styles with new
materials and sensibilities. Other home buyers start from a desire for a modern
home and backtrack into a more familiar building form. Architect Seth Hart of
DTJ, who also presented at IBS, refers to the style as "moderated modernism." Hart looks for cost-efficient ways to achieve the desired
look. He focuses on creating color contrasts and simplifies building forms. “The
thing you don’t want to do is go wild with roof forms,” he advises. “A simple
roof allows you to spend money on other things.”
Another thing to watch out for is dramatically altering the
key component of the architectural style. That means retaining the proportion, massing,
scale, and roof slopes in traditional designs, says Binkley. Then you can focus
on introducing transitional elements that “may add a touch of whimsy,
animation, and perhaps humor,” he says.
Transitional designs are big
in new neighborhoods of production homes. But you see them showing up on house
plans, too, especially on the new wave of modernized farmhouses. Plan 924-6
, below and at the top of this post, is a prime
example of an
American farmhouse form updated with contemporary siding, a
modern window palette, and exaggerated
eaves. Inside, the plan focuses on
providing contemporary living spaces with interior spaces that flow to outdoor
Cottage designs are also getting a makeover. In Plan 23-2308
, shown here, the gables, a distinguishing feature of cottage designs,
were left intact. But
the designer introduced a high color contrast between the building forms, and a
host of non-traditional
horizontal forms -- windows, color bands, and siding.
The slope of the roof, 6/12, also happens to be ideal for another modern touch:
In this updated farmhouse design, Plan 888-1
– uniform vivid red siding in a vertical style
and a standing seam metal
roof – allows the traditional barn form to shine through. But the plan includes
contemporary elements -- a front porch recessed into the building form and
geometric windows – rarely seen on barns. The plan is also filled
old-fashioned creature comforts – a window seat, stair tower, skylights, a
large mudroom and a built-in entry bench.
Some transitional designs are more subtle than others. With
its deep eaves and white massing, Plan 498-18
has the hallmarks of
Spanish architecture, with echoes of the Prairie style in the geometry of the hipped roof.
But the exterior materials have been overhauled. Big
glass picture windows (including a corner window), metal railings and downspouts,
and a brevity of detailing give the home a transitional bearing.