Making a Statement
Once a nondescript box with no visible entrance, this Newburgh house gets a big boost in curb appeal via a dramatic two-story porch and some judicious landscaping
Outside possibilities Ten-foot deep porches with mahogany floors add considerable living space
“It was a muddled mess,” says New Paltz architect Rick Alfandre, describing a Newburgh house in its “before” condition. Built somewhere between the 1920s and the 1940s, Alfandre guesses, the house was originally a fairly elegant, two-story dwelling, with a gambrel roof and a front porch — the kind of nice house, he adds, that a small-town doctor might have lived in.
Over the years, though, owners had enclosed the front porch and then built a second story above it, creating an odd, top-heavy facade that, from the street, looked like one box plonked atop another — and with no apparent entrance. “It’s an example of what I call design by accretion,” says Alfandre, “where people do things with no understanding of design.”
A few years ago, new owners called Alfandre in to help. “They said, ‘We have a house in the historic district in Newburgh and it has no curb appeal and we don’t know what to do,’ ” he recalls. “The interior had useful spaces and it didn’t make sense to change them, so our main focus was to fix the curb-appeal issue while being respectful of the original structure, as well as to bring attention to the entrance,” tucked away on the side. “The house is also sandwiched between two very grand homes,” he adds, “so it needed some force — it couldn’t be a humble solution.”
The front of the house before renovations (above), and after (below)
Alfandre and his colleague Joe Buglino presented several options to the owners, and, once the choice was made, submitted plans — with details on everything from the style of the roof shingles to paint colors — to the Landmarks Commission for approval. (Building restrictions were clearly not in effect when the box-on-box look was created.)
After approval was granted, work began — and what was once an architectural “abomination” (Alfandre’s word) became a house in a style that he describes as “somewhere between Greek Revival and Main Street vernacular,” presenting a far more dignified face to the world, and with curb appeal in spades.
The dramatic double porch, which is 10 feet deep, not only adds considerable presence, but serves as a balcony off the master bedroom and a comfortable place to watch the world go by on the ground floor. The slender, tapered double columns look both graceful and substantial, add character, and give the house, as Alfandre puts it, “more of a standing-up proud, solid look.”
Once-dreary white clapboard siding got a coat of historically accurate creamy yellow paint. New, architectural roof shingles are from a restoration line that specializes in historic patterns and colors.
The porches’ gable roof aligns with the gambrel of the original roof, restoring some architectural harmony, while the dramatic sunburst is a “bold statement, but not overpowering,” says Alfandre, who notes that there are several buildings in Newburgh’s historic district with the same sunburst motif, if somewhat smaller.
The architects also offered ideas for landscaping to complete the project. The owners added a cobblestone driveway, and a low retaining wall to define the edge of the property. A brick pathway curving across the front lawn to the side of the house leads visitors to the main entrance, which was given some presence of its own with a small covered porch and double columns that mirror those on the front.
Warm welcome: Alfandre drew attention to the main entrance on the side of the house (above) by adding a small porch with pillars that mirror those on the front
Alfandre is known for his commitment to environmentally friendly building practices. “Every project is green to whatever extent we can make it,” he says. “Although this wasn’t green so much in the way of materials, it’s very important that we find a way to reinhabit our cities and villages, to make them livable places where people want to be. Instead of building a new house in the country or the suburbs, these owners decided they wanted to live in the city, and they invested in the community. And that helps.”
As for the bottom line: The final cost was in the neighborhood of $100,000. But given the large new porch spaces, new roof, additional siding, a full paint job, and — of course — a huge improvement in looks, the work “has significantly increased the value of the property,” Alfandre says.
Could your home use a boost to its curb appeal? Architect Rick Alfandre stresses that it’s most important to make your property look cared for, and to keep the exterior finish looking good.
- Clean the windows and gutters, and remove clutter
- Keep the paths and driveway free of weeds, and the lawn trimmed
- Pressure-wash dirty siding and decks; use on walkways, too, to make them shine
- Don’t overlook the mailbox: if it’s rusty, paint or replace it
- Paint the front door a contrasting color from the rest of the house (but leave the garage door the same color)
- Remove or cut back overgrown shrubs, especially those crowding or obscuring windows or doors
- Landscaping has a big impact: break up vast expanses of front lawn by planting shrubs, trees, or flower beds
- Hide unattractive elements such as garbage cans, garden implements, and tools
- Paint window trim white, or a light color, to brighten things up