Hector Manuel Sanchez

When it comes to exteriors, look to the past to create an instant sense of place

New houses are being built to seem like they’ve been there forever but with some modern twists. “We have people who call every week requesting white siding or white-painted brick with a steel front door and a few earthy accents to keep it warm,” says Benjamin Lavine of Stone Acorn Builders in Houston, a Southern Living Custom Builder member. Today’s most in-demand details include board-and-batten cladding, shingles, steel windows and doors (or wooden ones painted in deep Charleston green, warm dark gray, or charcoal black), standing-seam metal roofing, painted and heavily mortared brick, and gas lanterns.

“The things my clients seek now really are the traditional must-haves that many Southerners have been drawn to for centuries: authentic details such as great hardware and exterior lighting or properly designed and operable shutters—especially louvered ones,” says architect Brandon Ingram, who notes that new twists add a relaxed feel. “I’m seeing a trend toward playful touches like window boxes, doors in exciting paint colors, and whimsical accents like chinoiserie and treillage detailing. Also, Southerners continue to see the magic that a beautifully designed and proportioned front porch can provide.” 

WATCH: Before and After: Farmhouse Renovation

If you want to give your home the farmhouse touch, start with paint. “White can be too stark, so an off-white like Sherwin-Williams Alabaster (SW 7008) is a good alternative," says Randy Schiltz, president of t-Olive Properties, a Southern Living Custom Builder member. Be sure to add warm accents like containers and a bold front door to make your farmhouse update stand out.