As I mentioned last month, the detailing of your house is extremely important because the details of your project can tie your rooms, site, and overall design together. The goal is to design the details to reinforce the overall concept of the project; to create a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. To accomplish this you want to have a consistency of materials and language throughout the house. Whether your house is traditional or contemporary, use regionally appropriate building materials and respect the natural qualities of the materials. In the Lowcountry, a stacked stone fireplace and chimney look out of place because there is no local stone. Likewise, materials that try to be something that they are not scream at you. An example of a confused material that is often seen in fast food restaurants, is a brick shaped floor tile with a wood grain pattern.
A holistic approach to detailing also simplifies your design decisions. When choosing your hardware, decide on a finish that will be carried throughout the house. You might choose oil rubbed bronze or stainless steel, but you should almost always use the same finish on your door hardware, bathroom faucets, bathroom accessories, metallic finishes on light fixtures, window hardware and cabinet hardware. Similarly, you will want the door and window trim to be the same throughout your house.
Staircases, both interior and exterior, present an opportunity to create a sculptural focal point in your house. In one project the clients’ had a collection of Pacific Island art, objects and furniture, to build on the island concept we used bamboo flooring and designed a custom stair rail out of bamboo with leather lashing at the newel posts. In another project with a grand exterior entry staircase, we designed a custom iron railing with a cascading fountain along one side. The glass tile surface on the fountain sparkles with the water.
Fireplaces are another major sculptural element in many houses. Consideration should include not only the form but the materials of the chimney, the height and width of the firebox, the height of the hearth, whether there is to be a mantel and what is it’s material. The interior firebrick is a material that is often left to happenchance. All fireplaces have to have noncombustible material around the firebox; stone slabs, brick, and tile are common choices.
The exterior and interior detailing of your house should be harmonious in order to bridge the connection. For example, exposed rafters in an interior room should continue to the exterior as exposed rafter tails.
The details are what make a house a exceptional place. The best description of the importance of details was by the architect, Jeremiah Eck, “Details transmit an enduring sense of quality, warmth, and character.”