I’m back with another highly requested blog topic… should the interior of your home match the exterior? That’s the age old question. I think this is another “When is a Room Finished?” type of scenario that really depends on your personal preference, situation, and aesthetic. Of course, I’ll happily share my opinion and philosophy, and I’d love to hear yours as well. I don’t think there is a right or a wrong answer because home should be a place you love. If you’re interested to read about my thoughts… click through!
First I’ll share my standpoint on the matter. If a home has an evident architectural style, I like to see some of those elements repeated on the interior of the home- keeping true to the house and its architectural integrity. I prefer a home to feel cohesive on the interior and exterior, probably because of my background in design. As a designer, it does irk me when I enter a home that feels very disconnected from the exterior… now- that’s probably not the norm, so take that with a grain of salt. Again, this is just my personal preference and opinion.
I think the exterior of a home really sets up the expectations for the interior. It’s the first impression and hints at what you’ll find inside. If your home doesn’t have a strong architectural aesthetic, I think there is more room to play and define as you wish. Whereas, if you’re renovating a historic home- I’m a believer that you should try to do it justice with some architectural accuracy. My philosophy is to keep the “bones” of the home pretty consistent, while taking more creative liberties with things like furniture, decor, paint color, finishes, etc. Let me share a couple examples…
Our previous home, pictured below, was a single story rambler. It wasn’t mid century, it wasn’t super modern, it wasn’t traditional, it didn’t have any striking architectural features, and it didn’t have a dominant style. That allowed me more room to get creative and add minimal millwork, but I still kept it within the parameters, in terms of scale. I selected moulding that was neither modern nor traditional, and it was a modest size to match the scale of the house and ceiling height. It was pretty nondescript, and then I had more fun with our furnishings that reflected more of our personal style.
Our current home, pictured below, has a very specific architectural style… even though it’s not old or historic, it clearly looks like a Georgian colonial and mimics many of those characteristics. Therefore, I have better parameters and “guidelines” this time around (which I actually enjoy), when making millwork and architectural decisions. I was able to go with larger dramatic moulding, I recognized that this house requires hard edges and 90 degree corners (as opposed to arches), and I’m even able to make some design corrections that were inaccurate when it was built (based on the prevalent architectural style). I like having a home that feels cohesive inside and out. If you’ve been following along for some time, you’re probably not surprised based on my personality. I crave order, balance, symmetry, and I’m a rule follower. Can anyone guess my enneagram? Haha!
So- that’s where I’m at with this particular topic. You all sent in some amazing questions that I wanted to answer, as well! I figured a little Q&A opinion section could be helpful and fun…
What if your home doesn’t have a defined exterior style?
I think you’re able to have more fun with it, set your own parameters, and define what you’d like it to look like- inside and out.
Is it possible to insert your personal aesthetic, even if it doesn’t match the exterior architecture?
Absolutely- I feel like your home should always be a reflection of your personal aesthetic, interests, and taste. Do what feels right to you! As the saying goes, “design rules were meant to be broken.” I’m a rule follower myself, but that’s just my personality. If you want to do something totally different inside that doesn’t match your exterior, you should go for it. If you would like the inside and out to look a bit more cohesive, insert your personality with decor and furnishings! One of my good friends has the most incredible home traditional home, but her style is ultra modern. I love her home because it is the very best mashup of mod meets traditional in the perfect juxtaposed way. It feels so designerly and intentional, all while keeping true to her personal aesthetic and the architecture of the home itself.
How do you figure out what style of architecture your home is?
At the end of this post, I’m going to drop some helpful links, books I’d recommend, and additional resources. I’m also borrowing a handy graphic I’ll drop below, from Pop Chart Lab that is titled, The Architecture of American Design- which is based on one of the books I’ve linked. It depicts a ton of home styles that may be helpful if you’re trying to dial it in or do more research.
If your home has a really defined architectural style, should you stick with that inside?
This is 100% YOUR decision. If it were me, I would stick with the existing style. I actually think knowing what style your home is and researching home details that fall within those parameters, makes the renovation process a bit easier.
How do you feel about sticking with colors that are appropriate for the style of your home, inside?
Great question! Believe it or not- certain colors are also associated with certain time periods, architectural styles, and aesthetics. I’m more about getting the “bones” of a home right, and am comfortable being more expressive with color on the interior of my home. Paint color can easily be changed to match your preferences, while millwork isn’t an easy swap. With that said, I do pay attention to paint color on the exterior.
How do you decide what architectural style to go with if your home is nondescript?
All homes have design. It was rendered or sketched by someone- whether it was a builder, architect, developer, or designer. Even if your home doesn’t have an obvious architectural style, try to point out some interesting features it does have- a pitched roof, multiple stories or levels, balanced window positioning, an arched front door, etc. Are you able to research those interesting elements and expand upon them? Is there a certain style that you really like? How could you translate that to your own home?
I have a historic home and I want to stay true to the house when making updates. I hired a designer and they are recommending I make changes that don’t feel cohesive. What should I do?
First, I would voice my concern and goals to my designer or architect, letting them know that you’d like to restore your home with historical accuracy. If they’re not on board, I’d hire a professional who is. Find someone who has experience with historic homes similar to your own, or is known for staying true to a home’s history, in terms of architecture and design. Just like any industry, some client / designer relationships are a match made in heaven, while others aren’t a great fit… and that’s ok! It’s a big investment and you want to make sure you’re happy with your home once the project has been completed and the dust has settled. Over communicate, find someone with a similar mindset, and keep your eye on the end goal.
What if my home has two different architectural styles because of an add-on? Which one do I follow?
This question actually came up a handful of times. I would ask yourself a few questions… #1) Are you planning to renovate either the interior or exterior? #2) Does it bother you that your home is two different styles? #3) Which style do you prefer? If you’re planning to renovate, you could address the issue altogether, by creating a cohesive home inside and out. If the aesthetic doesn’t bother you, follow whichever style is your personal preference! If it does bother you, determine which style you’d like to move forward with and find ways to make the add-on feel more cohesive (even small updates can help). It’s all about finding a balance or correcting what you can change to create a home you love.
If you missed my book suggestions for our design & architecture conversations, I’m going to link them below. I included a bunch of helpful resources that can help you determine what style your home is, and hopefully help you discover what aesthetic you enjoy.
If you’re looking for some quick and interesting online resources with visuals, check out the following:
- Guide to Residential Styles
- 10 Most Popular House Styles
- Visual Guides to Domestic Architectural Designs
Ok- your turn! Where do you stand on this subject matter? Do you feel like the interior of your home currently matches the exterior? Would you like your interior and exterior to feel cohesive? If not, what is most important to you in terms of home design? I’m so excited to chat about this and am already intrigued to learn more about your design preferences.
PeggiFebruary 10, 2021 at 5:04 am
So much interesting information! I love that graphic. Seeing that a Cape Cod is under “Minimal Traditional” makes perfect sense; that’s how my house feels. I’m on board with each of your perspectives (no surprise, since you’re the expert!). I appreciate when a home’s exterior and interior feel cohesive, but I think that just has to be the bones, as you say. When some tension is created with furnishings and decor, that’s where design becomes interesting. I enjoy seeing modern elements in a historic home and antique or vintage touches in a contemporary space. Having a basic style guide to follow when making structural decisions seems so smart though! At the very least, you can make informed decisions about breaking the rules.🤣 I am loving all of these design discussions and architecture talk lately! I’ll be interested to read what everyone else has to say! 💜
SarahFebruary 10, 2021 at 9:24 am
I thought the graphic was so fun! Big thank you to whoever designed that for pop chart labs! I feel like we’re always on the same page with order, cohesion, balance, and symmetry, BUT with tension, contrast, and some eclectic elements thrown in. Architecturally accurate, but interesting! I’ve also been loving all of these fun post topics. Everyone is submitting amazing design and architecture questions! Let me know if you have any good ideas we can chat about. I hope you’re having a good week :)
PaigeFebruary 10, 2021 at 7:18 am
You nailed it! As a frequent buyer of homes, I always have to price in the fix to make or undo changes. When the bones match inside and out then you just need to decorate which is much easier and can be far more personal.
I totally agree with your assessment that anything goes with interior paint, but exterior must match the style. We are currently building in a lake resort community. Modern cottages with a historic reference and feel. All different colors and feels from farmhouse white to gothic cottage in shades of black (that’s mine!), but the few painted “colonial blue” make my eye twitch. That just doesn’t match the time, style, or feel of the homes. I get it feels like a safe choice, but they look like smurfs which of course makes my house Gargamel. Ha!
Have a great day. Loving this series.
SarahFebruary 10, 2021 at 9:22 am
That’s my mindset as well, Paige! Your new build sounds incredible! I love that you’re taking the historic route. One of my favorite designers and developers, who I’ve gotten the pleasure to know over the years, is Pam Sessions of Hedgewood Homes. She is incredibly talented and inspiring, while also sticking to that historic look. Check her out if you haven’t! It made help provide some inspiration :) I laughed at your smurf houses comment. Haha! That sounds like something I would say. Hope you’re having a great week! xo
April BlakeFebruary 10, 2021 at 7:37 am
Totally! That’s why I committed ($$) to replacing our original mid century modern doors on the front and side of the house (they needed replacing, they were not keeping the temp regulated and were cracking in spots!) with similar MCM ones from ThermaTru. You can see one of them here https://theaprilblake.com/removing-the-carpet-to-remove-allergens/ but on the back of the house I went with a plain glass door because it lets in more light. Everyone comments on the MCM doors when they come over when that was a thing LOL.
SarahFebruary 10, 2021 at 9:18 am
I love that you stayed true to your home, April! They’re beautiful :) And YES- when hangouts were “a thing”. Haha! I miss those days!! Hopefully soon (as in, sometime later this year).
AmyFebruary 10, 2021 at 8:30 am
Really helpful! Apparently my 1978 ranch is actually “minimal traditional.” One question – where do I get fabulous tassels like the one you have on your patio door, or similar ones in a smaller size that can go on table lamps, etc?
SarahFebruary 10, 2021 at 9:12 am
Those are actually curtain tiebacks! I just styled them on our doors for fun :) I’m working on sourcing some handmade ones for our shop (of all sizes!). I love the idea of adding one to a lamp.
Jennifer LauraFebruary 10, 2021 at 8:32 am
Oh man you really sent me down a rabbit hole this morning! I FINALLY came to the conclusion that I *think* our house is an asymmetrical brick cottage style home. We’re in an early 90’s neighborhood so it’s a bit cookie cutter, but it’s also before the houses got REALLY bad and super generic. For example all the houses in our neighborhood are similar-ish looking and lots of red brick, but no matching floor plans or exteriors. I have yet to see one house in our neighborhood that looks identical to another, so that’s good. Anyways, I’m probably not going down the right path of decoration…I’m wanting a grandmillenial style up in here…so now I’m questioning everything! lol.
SarahFebruary 10, 2021 at 9:11 am
It’s easy to do when it comes to home stuff! Haha :) I could spend all day looking at these types of things. Very cool that you’ve narrowed it down! That’s a tricky style to define. We’re also in an early 90’s neighborhood (which sounds super similar to yours) and I understand the struggle. I also enjoy being in a space where all of the homes look different. Whether you’re going down the “accurate” design path or not- I vote for creating a home you love! Have a great day!
RaimeFebruary 10, 2021 at 9:24 am
Thank you so much for taking the time to write this piece! We purchased our first home in June of last year and I threw myself into making it *ours* from the get-go. A few months later I read your article on millwork and I instantly felt like I had made a mistake. I highly respect your opinions and style, and it felt like this was a cardinal rule of design I had broken. (It’s the Type One in me too–assuming that’s what you are?) I spent several weeks trying to decipher the architectural style of our home (I’m still not 100% certain–it’s definitely got a nod towards Colonial though), and reevaluating future plans for our home. I am so relieved to hear you take this opinion–that the level of interior/exterior cohesion is personal preference, and to hear that you even admire a friend’s space that takes almost an opposite approach. (I would love to see their space!) It’s almost like I needed “permission” to give myself the freedom to just make our house the cozy mix of modern/industrial farmhouse that I truly love. So thank you for giving me that today! Always love reading your blog posts and admiring your home!
SarahFebruary 10, 2021 at 10:49 am
Hi Raime! When it comes to your home- YOU get to make the rules… it’s a beautiful thing (no permissions needed). I definitely have a type-a personality and like things to feel cohesive in my own home. Haha! Nailing down the architectural style will definitely help you make future renovation plans and decisions, if you’re trying to keep things linear. I really appreciate your insight and kind words. I hope you’re having a wonderful week!
TeriFebruary 10, 2021 at 2:51 pm
Great post, and I totally agree with you. (Enneagram 6) And your reader, Peggi is one smart cookie. I enjoy her comments as well.
I’m having a hard time determining the style of my home. My children think its French Country. I think its more Italianate. And (I’m dating myself here), I love British Colonial interior design and you never read about that anymore. I’m off to do research using your links, thank you!
SarahFebruary 15, 2021 at 10:01 am
Haha! Peggi is the best :) All of our friends here are amazing. I live for the comment section and fun connections :)
LaurenFebruary 11, 2021 at 1:31 am
Oh I have waited for this one!! I never felt strongly about this topic until we moved into this house. As an admirer of homes, architecture and interiors, I honestly never could pinpoint what it was specifically that worked for me in some homes, and didn’t in others. Now I know that I prefer homes with cohesive bones. I feel most comforted by homes that have a very strong personal style reflected throughout. The tension Peggi mentioned…that’s the sweet spot! I guess that’s because while I tend to be a rule follower as well, I also have a strong “unique” streak. I love homes that have those layers to them!
Thank you for posting the amazing graphic! Turns out our previous house was a National, almost exact in appearance to the pyramidal graphic! It was fun to dive down the rabbit hole of researching that style, it’s origins, and key features. One of the interesting points I found was that in some states families could build these homes themselves because the cost was much lower, making home ownership more possible. Once when I was mowing the front yard at that house, a gentleman driving by stopped to talk to me. His father had built the house- now that detail seems even more special.
I’m digging the many interesting questions brought up on this topic! I believe it was my question about bringing exterior colors to the interior, and thank you for answering. I didn’t know if it would be odd to see some of the same colors outside and inside. How do I find out more about colors that are fitting for specific architectures? I’ve searched this topic off and on but have yet to find a great resource. I would love to find out what colors would be considered “typical” for our home style, and use some of the ones I like throughout our home.
Sarah there are some amazing discussions happening from these reader request posts, and it has been amazing diving into them! Thank you so much for doing this for your readers and followers! I hope you had a wonderful Wednesday…I’ll catch you again in about 4&1/2 hours! 😝 xo
SarahFebruary 15, 2021 at 10:01 am
I’m with you- I crave that cohesive look. When taking some millwork courses, I found it super interesting that millwork actually makes you FEEL secure, safe- or the opposite… uneasy, out of balance, etc. Even when it’s not structural- it contributes to the safety feelings of a home. I also love that contrast and tension in design :) That graphic was really fun and helpful. I’m glad you were able to identify your previous home. Very cool that you were able to meet the builder’s son! I love your thoughts on a post for colors that match architectural styles or historic homes. Sherwin-Williams and Benjamin Moore both have historic paint collections that are fun to dig through! Feel free to send more post topic ideas my way- this has been super fun and I’m happy you’re enjoying it, too! xox
LenaFebruary 11, 2021 at 6:27 am
I love this post! I read the title of your post and practically shouted “yes” but I understand the point of when your home doesn’t have a distinct style, it isn’t necessary to match. When homes hit the real estate market I tend to gravitate towards the old homes in need of work and I honestly think it’s because the interior matches the style of the home, even if it is dated. We are currently updating our Cape Cod revival and we are in the process of replacing the windows and the window companies cannot understand why I want the more expensive windows. I gently remind them it’s the proper style of window for this type of home.
SarahFebruary 15, 2021 at 9:40 am
So glad to hear that, Lena! I love that you’re staying true to your Cape Cod revival. Amazing work- I know it will be gorgeous :)