How to Ensure Your Exterior Look Is Cohesive

Home Builder

Your home only gets one chance to make a good impression.


Maybe that’s why so many homeowners struggle with their exterior design. Choosing a siding color, window placement or landscape design are each hard enough on their own, let alone having to make sure none of those choices competes or conflicts with the others.


So how do you ensure your design choices are cohesive? How do you make your exterior elements work in harmony? To get your home on the right track, use these tips to help guide your decisions:

1. Commit to a Style

With so many beautiful, inspirational homes to be found on Pinterest, Houzz or the pages of your favorite magazines, it can be difficult to narrow your vision. However, nothing can derail your home’s exterior like a poorly-conceived mashup of competing styles.


If you’re having trouble picking a look for an existing home, start by taking the architectural style into account. For example, a stately Georgian or Greek Revival home will pair well with classically manicured shrubbery, while a Mid-Century Modern home will probably do better with understated landscaping.


Learning more about your home’s architectural style will help you narrow your scope for every other element of design, from landscaping to materials and color choices to hardware.


It also doesn’t hurt to take a look at the rest of the homes in your neighborhood. While there’s nothing wrong with making personal design choices, deviating too far from the design tone of surrounding houses can make yours stick out like a sore thumb.

2. Pick a Focal Point

Not every element can be the showstopper. The eyes can’t focus on every part equally at once, so decide which part of your property will take center stage.


Will it be a bold front door? Opulent landscaping? A bright copper roof? A wrap-around porch?


Once you’ve picked your star, make sure the rest of your home doesn’t compete for attention. Going for a bold front door? Keep your siding simple and neutral. Want passersby to notice your wrap-around porch? Skip the ultra reflective metal roof and go for subtle shingles or shake.

3. Balance Symmetry With Variation

There’s such a thing as too much of a good thing. Your home needs some symmetry to keep it from looking cockeyed, but too much symmetry can make a home look flat or sterile.


Dormers, windows and roof lines are areas that need a healthy dose of symmetry to look appealing and cohesive.

Landscaping is a great place to play around more with variety. For example, you don’t want to only have tall trees with nothing on the ground, or only stubby ground cover and nothing that extends higher than your ankle. Both of these options will leave your lawn looking two-dimensional. Instead, balance tall stately trees with robust shrubbery and brightly-colored flowers in hanging baskets. This can help prevent visual dead zones.

4. Consider Your Geography

Your home’s location should have a huge impact on your design decisions. For instance, the needs of a townhouse in Colorado will be vastly different from a farmhouse in Oklahoma, and both of those will be completely different from a beach house in South Carolina.


Remember, your house will stand out — and NOT in a good way — if it’s a complete departure from surrounding homes, so let your locale help narrow your options.


The other major geographic impact to consider is climate. No home will look cohesive if it appears Mother Nature chewed it up and spit it back out. You may love certain materials, but if they won’t hold up to local weather, it won’t be a good investment. For example, if your area has high summer temperatures and heavy winter snowfall, a metal roof will hold up better than asphalt shingles in those conditions.


Do you live within a stone’s throw of the ocean? Go with vinyl for exterior needs like garage doors. It will hold up better against corrosion caused by salty sea spray.

5. Get Humble, Get Help

Some people have an eye for color choice, and others struggle. Some have an affinity for landscaping, but others have a chronic black thumb. It’s okay if you’re not an expert on every aspect of your property — that’s what the experts are for.


Start by taking advantage of professionals who have shared their experience with the world. Between the Internet, your local bookstore and your local library, there’s plenty of information to be found for the avid DIYer. You can learn about anything and everything from color theory to properly lighting your landscape.


If you’re still not sure what materials are best for your location or what plants will thrive on your property, you may be best served by a one-on-one consultation. Check sites like Angie’s List for local pros and, if money’s an issue, keep an eye out for deals on sites like Groupon. You may be able to score a consult with a landscaping or roofing expert for a fraction of the cost — and then turn around and use their recommendations to move ahead with your projects.


Still struggling to get the right look? Take a step back from your project and take a walk instead. Stroll through your neighborhood and take note of which houses catch your eye and why. Admiring and analyzing your neighbor’s beautiful home might just give you the light bulb moment you need to make a breakthrough on your own.

Comments (2)

Realty One Group Alliance - San Mateo, CA
Broker Associate & Licensed Architect

Hi James! Thanks for sharing this great tips. 

Oct 14, 2016 06:34 AM
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

James, you have identified many issues homeowners have with color, and great tips! 

Oct 14, 2016 08:12 AM