Pre-Writing History

August 6th 2015 Comments: 1 Topics: , ,

In last week’s post, I briefly mentioned how we often design with distinct intent to advance a house’s age – a fabricated fast forward of time.
I’d like to expand on that because it’s something we like to call “built-in history”. In other words, we’ll create deliberate situations in our design where it appears a house has been renovated over time or added onto. This immediately gives a spanking brand new building an artificially curated history.

Older houses are like archeological digs – you can explore any ancient structure and see the multiple lives that have played out there. Their DNA is a built timeline of desires, needs and tastes. New homes, on the other hand, are like babies. They’re fresh, unwrinkled and frankly a bit uninteresting in their newness. Give me scars. weathering and road wear any day. This is so much more appealing because there’s always a story there, waiting to be discovered and told.

Let me give you three examples on how we purposefully author a house’s backstory:


The central portion of this house is an stoically elegant stone building, which houses a two story salon and stair. Four tall masonry openings march across the front of the facade – three of which frame large windows while one has been partially and oddly closed in, thereby creating the appearance that one window was done away with at some point. The stone is actually recessed here to further complete the historical illusion. In fact, it was intentional as well as necessary as it allowed space for the stair in the room.


Sometimes a tale can be told in something as simple as a finish application. In this case – a Southern Federal style house with varying outbuildings. Notice that the “main house” is solidly painted white. The paint on the outbuildings, however, “fade” in degrees the further it departs the primary structure. This is a direct allusion to certain historic estates of the Old South. These grand dames, now fallen a bit in grandeur, wear their faded make-up in this manner for a reason. It’s because the once-weathy-now-financially-strapped families could only afford to keep the main house freshly painted. Lowly out buildings were left to weather and sit in decrepitude.


This rambling farm house was designed around an “original” cabin building, To distinguish this building from the rest of the house, we even stained the cedar shingles a moldy green color to distinguish the building from the natural wood shingles found on the rest of the house.

So, if you can’t re-write architectural history, pre-write it!


Greg Tankersley for McAlpine Tankersley

1 comment

  1. Um… you now have me thinking! While I don’t have any outbuildings, I have begun to realize that my 90 year old wood / painted house is looking somewhat weathered as the last paint job is showing signs of oxidation and age including areas where the paint is beginning to peel. Until I can get it scraped and painted, I’m going to pretend I have one of your houses that intentionally is supposed to show signs of age. And to think I didn’t even have to pay for this !!! Thanks Greg for making me feel so much better. Seriously, I love the way you make houses look as if they’ve been there hundreds of years.

Leave a comment