Vertical Siding Makes a House Look “Modern”

August 3, 2016

If I told you that these two houses were essentially the same house, what would you think?  Would you say “no way!”  They don’t look anything alike.  One is quite pretty and contemporary.  The other is dated and very ordinary.  Anyone can see that they are very different.

Are they not stick built boxes with low pitched roofs and asymmetrical street elevations?  Do they not have two stories with horizontal siding on the upper level and garrison style colonial shapes?  Are they not about the same size and maybe even construction quality?  Are they not basically the same?

What makes them look so different? Why does the green house appear modern and relevant and the blue one look like a 1965 colonial tract house that has seen better days.  The answer is more simple than one might think, which is encouraging because it means that there is a fix.  It is about the finishes.  Before going there, let me say that I have no idea about the origin or remodeling history of these two houses.  Whether the finishes are newly added or original matters not at all, as it is about the materials that were used and how they were applied.

If we make a single list of materials that are different on the  street elevation of both of these houses we end up with some vertical siding, white shutters and paint.  Really, that’s all!  Can such a small kit of parts be applied with such divergent results?  The answer, of course, is yes.  Consider, for the sake of discussion, what would happen to the blue house if we threw out the shutters, added a contrasting color to the “pop out” dormer and  and reversed the first floor siding so that it was vertical instead of horizontal.  Anyone brave enough to undertake it, could end up with an amazing update.

Oversimplification?  Perhaps! It does, though, drive home the main reason for this discussion, which is that vertical siding makes a house look modern.  Most architects will say, when used with care, it confers a stylistically modern persona and reinforces an up to date image.





  1. “Oversimplification” indeed. The vertical siding is barely discernable in the photos; try the massing, garage conversion and horizontality. OR if you ‘have’ to pin it on any one feature, pick on the windows.

  2. I get your point about the windows and would agree except they are not consistently modern looking. Only the windows on either side of the front door are asymmetrically divided. The rest of the windows are sash windows and the ones on the driveway side of the lower level actually have mullions, which by the way, I think adds to the charm, as the vertical lines in the siding read as geometry, suggesting cubes instead of colonial imitations.

    Likewise, although understated, the geometry is strong enough to minimize the fielded panels on the colonial looking doors and, if not for the driveway dead ending into the house, make me actually question the garage conversion.

    A walk around the neighborhood provides a good comparison as most of these houses have reclaimed what, I have since found out, was a carport and installed all horizontal siding with pretty dreary outcomes. As far as the massing, don’t you think that a suburban box can go in pretty much any direction? I maintain the vertical siding gives this place a stylistic push, something sadly lacking in most suburban environments.


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