Our 2021 Idea House team shares their tips for bringing historic character to a new build.

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2021 Idea HouseLouisville, KY
Credit: Marta Xochilt Perez

When he started sketching an initial concept for our Kentucky Idea House (which was drawn on a napkin, in fact), Atlanta architect Brandon Ingram of C. Brandon Ingram Design envisioned a cottage that would evolve with a family through many stages of life. From this design came our "forever home," a 5,545-square-foot property that was built to serve a family's needs today and for years to come.

We wanted to create a smart layout that accommodated aging in place as well as housing multiple generations under one roof. The floor plan sets the main bedroom, a mother-in-law suite, and primary gathering spaces (like the kitchen, laundry room, and living area) on the first level.

Another crucial element of constructing a "forever home" was designing an exterior that looks like it's been a part of the property, well, forever. Ingram considered the location—beside the Ohio River in Louisville, Kentucky—and pulled inspiration from a range of architectural styles. "There are Greek Revival and Maryland tidewater influences. Louisville is about as far north as you can go and still be in the South, so we did draw a couple of subtle Northern precedents," he says. Here, the team shares tried-and-true design tips for giving a new home historic charm.

Blend Familiar Features

Ingram balances touches of Northern architecture, like the wood shake shingles and a gambrel roof, with Southern hallmarks like a stately front porch and exaggerated windows. "The fluted Greek Doric columns make the house feel old and grounded," the architect says. "The wood shake roof adds character and texture to the home," adds builder Jason Black of Artisan Signature Homes. Ingram notes that it's the thoughtful, familiar details that gives a home curb appeal. "It's things that remind you of great old houses you've loved throughout your life. With this home, it's the combination of the shutters and their hardware and the scale of the porch and the light patterns in the windows. It's a polite house that feels friendly and welcoming," he says. The team gave the exterior a classic color palette, pairing Sherwin-Williams' Snowbound (SW 7004) on the siding with Sherwin-Williams' Roycroft Bottle Green (SW 2847) on the shutters and garage doors.

Consider the Details

Ingram advises to never scrimp on doors, windows, or hardware. "Get the parts of the house right," he says. Even the smallest details can add age to a brand-new home, and these are also elements that will stay with the home forever.

Let Nature Lead

"The house feels like it's been there forever, so we wanted the landscape to have a similar feel and charm," says landscape architect Josh Myers of Myers + Co. Landscape Architecture. "In the rear yard, there is a beautiful Oak tree that was preserved during construction that adds so much character," he adds. His team chose plantings and hardscape details that complemented the traditional design of the house. "The large American Boxwood and manicured Boxwood hedges with layered plantings give the landscape a classic Southern charm.  The pea gravel motor court with cobblestone edging out front also makes the house feel like it's been there forever," he says.