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Additions 101

The do's and don'ts of successful old-house additions.

    Colonial revival additionThere are times in life when it’s OK to break the rules—but adding onto an old house isn’t one of those times. If you flout the conventions of traditional design,  you’ll end up with an appendage to your house that sticks out like a sore thumb. (Don’t believe us? Just check out our “What Not to Do” gallery below!) On the other hand, abiding by the rules will allow you to seamlessly blend old and new to create spaces that fit your lifestyle without sacrificing your home’s charm. Read on for addition advice (including those oh-so-important design rules), plus plenty of pictures of additions done well…and not-so-well.

    What to Do

    Farmhouse addition5 Ideas for Adding On
    Traditional approaches help make additions more successful.
    Stone house additionHow to Create Sensitive Additions
    Understanding some basics about residential design and historic preservation can provide useful guidelines for creating sensitive additions to old houses.
    Tudor additionHouse Tour: Adding On to a Tudor
    A well-planned addition to a 1930s Tudor combines historical character with modern creature comforts.
    Italianate additionHouse Tour: Updating for Accessibility
    An Italianate gets a sympathetic addition, and some thoughtful improvements, to make it more wheelchair-friendly.
    Queen Anne additionHouse Tour: Enhancing the Past
    Architect Anne Y. Decker links new and old with the restoration and tasteful addition to this historical Queen Anne.
    Greek Revival additionHouse Tour: A Greek Revival Expansion
    Architect John B. Murray designs a sensitive addition for a Greek Revival home in Salt Point, New York, in keeping with original vernacular details.

    What Not To Do

    Courtesy of Old-House Journal‘s Remuddling page, we present a small sampling of additions gone wrong. Please, don’t try this at home!


    Scott Sidler September 10, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    The sad pictures of those terribly remuddled houses absolutely kill me. When will we learn?

    Roberta December 16, 2014 at 11:50 pm

    It sounds like the successful additions started out with “We brought in an architect.” I bet the remuddling projects started out with “Your Uncle George is retired from the cheese factory and needs something to keep him busy.”

    catherine February 25, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    i want to add an addition to my house 1820 greek revivial house.
    The footprint is very small, 700 sq ft and single story, it is a gable end and wing floor plan.
    if the suggestion is to make the addition fade into the background with a lower roof line and smaller dimensions than the original house, i need suggestions as to how i can ahieve this if i am starting so small to begin with.

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