My Three (Distinct Yet Often Overlapping) Design Personalities

Now that the pecan tree is gone from our front yard, and the house is more visible, I’ve been dreaming about how I want the front of the house to eventually look. I show this picture quite often, which was done for me by a reader who is a retired architect.

The overall look is what I want – the extended front porch, the double gable roofline. But because I hadn’t made any decisions on exterior finishes at the time, she used the existing stone and siding combo that we currently have, and just changed the colors a bit. And the free trial version of the program she was testing had limited options for columns, so she used Craftsman style front porch columns. I would opt for something much more traditional in style, like this…

Anyway, I’ve mentioned before that one reason I have trouble making design and decorating decisions on this house is because I like so many different styles, and it’s hard for me to narrow down exactly what I want into one cohesive look.

Interestingly, as I’ve been looking, and thinking, and dreaming about the exterior of my house these last few days since the pecan tree was cut down, it’s helped me narrow down the design struggle that I have. I seem to continually have three different and distinct design styles fighting for top place in my mind, and unfortunately, I like them all equally, so it remains a constant struggle for me.

First, I love classic, traditional design. And in my mind, when it comes to exteriors, nothing is more classic and traditional than a red brick home. The photo above is a perfect example, and this is also a classic…

Obviously, that house is a just a tab bit more on the “grand” side than my house. 😀 But red brick is classic, and I love it. There’s a new red brick home that was built just a few streets over from my house in the last few months, and every time I drive by, I slow down and stare. There’s just something about red brick.

And when you combine red (or reddish) brick with a German smear technique…wow. It doesn’t get any more perfect than that in my opinion.

Everything about that last house is perfect, in my opinion. The charming curved sidewalk, the huge trees, the landscaping, the brick, the shutters — it’s perfection.

So that’s my classic traditional side, summed up with red brick either with or without the German smear over it, although I really do prefer it with.

And then there’s the bright, fun, colorful side of me that’s always fighting to come out. That can be summed up with colorful siding, and yellow is my favorite.

There’s just something so happy and cheerful about a yellow house. But while I’m partial to yellow, I like other bright, fun, happy colors as well. I remember seeing the most perfect very light aqua house a few years back, and I could kick myself for not saving the picture. But just about any happy color is fine with me. I don’t think I could ever bring myself to paint my house pink, but I certainly admire the person who can, and perhaps I even envy their fearlessness.

And as if it weren’t enough to have my classic, traditional design side continually competing with my colorfully colorful design side, I also add one more into the mix.

I love contemporary design. I’ve always admired it, and while I know myself enough to know that I could never live with/in it, I still find myself drawn to it.

But what I really love are elements of contemporary design combined with traditional style. In interiors, that may manifest itself in a traditional style coffee table painted in a super high gloss black lacquered finish. In exteriors, that may manifest itself in a traditional style house painted in a very high contrast black (or very, very dark) and white.

So those are the three styles or elements that always seem to emerge when I’m looking for inspiration, or trying to make a design decision — classic and traditional, bright and colorful, and influences of contemporary design . Those three things are always competing for top place in all of my projects. I know that I can learn to merge the three in the interior of my house. It shouldn’t be difficult to add classic, traditional elements with a bit of bright, fun colors and a touch of contemporary here and there. That’s definitely doable when decorating a room.

It’s not quite so easy on the exterior of a house, though. I don’t see any way to combine classic red brick with a German smear technique with bright, happy colors, and high contrast black and white on the exterior of one house in a tasteful way. And even if it could be done, I probably wouldn’t like it, because when it comes to these styles, I like each one to stand alone on an exterior. So that means I’ll have to choose. And right now, that seems impossible.

Thank goodness I’m not ready to start on the exterior immediately, so that means I still have a while to decide. I’m really hoping that one emerges as the front runner over the other two in the next six months or so. If I were forced to make a decision today, I don’t think I could. Or I’d change my mind on an hourly basis. 😀

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  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    September 9, 2016 at 10:13 am

    Good morning Kristi,

    While I love hearing about your future plans, I have to say I was hoping for an update. You’re probably saying I haven’t done enough yet. With the weekend coming I would have preferred ” I working to do this & that to be able to start this “. I know you haven’t been twittling your thumbs. Just want you to know how much we enjoy your journey.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      September 9, 2016 at 10:30 am

      I was sure hoping to have an update today, but just didn’t feel like there was anything exciting to share. Unfortunately, I hurt my back pretty badly a couple of days ago, and actually did lose an entire work day because of it. 🙁 The good news is that it’s all better today, and I’m ready to build my wall for the pantry AND my windows are being delivered today! Yay! So that means I’ll definitely have an update on my next post. 🙂

      • Reply To This Comment ↓
        September 9, 2016 at 12:51 pm

        Ahh, so sorry about your back. Glad you’re all better and feel you can tackle the wall. That means electrical is next ? Great that your windows are going in. That will make a difference. Waiting for next post and maybe a video? Hope all goes well. Take care of your back.

      • Reply To This Comment ↓
        September 10, 2016 at 7:57 pm

        I loved this post because my husband and I bought a red brick house a year ago and I want to give it a German-smear look. It was particularly great to see the photos you selected because I’m very undecided about trim color. I think whatever you post about ends up being of interest and use to some of us. 🙂

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    September 9, 2016 at 10:15 am

    Glad to hear I’m not the only person who loves wildly different home designs, my favorites are Tudor and Moderne. Most of us are only able to do the best we can with what we can afford. That said, I know your exterior will be wonderful whatever you decide to do.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    September 9, 2016 at 10:27 am

    Could you do the smear over your stone? Do yellow siding? Use back accents such as roof, garage doors, shutters and possibly railing and lights? Colonial simple posts? You’ll come up with something as you always do that is unique and tasteful.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    September 9, 2016 at 10:30 am

    Love, love, love the German smear! I would tire quickly of the other styles of homes even though I like them too.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      September 9, 2016 at 12:26 pm

      Well this is too funny…. I was going to post the SAME THING…am I losing my mind???? Did I post this 😉

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Cyndi Longest
    September 9, 2016 at 10:32 am

    I get completely your being pulled in multiple directions. I have the exact same problem myself, so I’m glad that it’s not just me! But you always seem to end up with a beautiful result, so I look forward to your final decision on the exterior. Go with your gut and your heart and it will work out. Have a wonderful day, Kristi.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    September 9, 2016 at 10:34 am

    Those are three tough choices because each one has it’s own merits and they all look great! Why not finish a couple more rooms inside the house and then re-evaluate what would go best with the inside style you have? It’s just a thought from someone who loves your blog. Don’t push yourself too hard until your back is completely healed.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    September 9, 2016 at 10:38 am

    Could you not go for the German smear and add the pops of colour with the door, shutters, garage door, landscaping etc?

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      September 10, 2016 at 2:21 pm

      I like that idea. I loved when Chip did the German smear and have fallen in love with it.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    September 9, 2016 at 11:17 am

    There’s an architect from my hometown who does pretty interesting projects where the front of the house is traditional in a sense that it blends well with the neighborhood, but the backs of the houses are modern wonders of glass providing beautiful, large views (most of the houses are built on the bays or ocean).


    There’s his website if you want to check it out. He’s not the most impressive architect I’ve ever come across but it’s a cool concept.

    If you don’t have neighbors behind you or your backyard doesn’t face south, you could really get the best of all three worlds with your design. Especially with how you’re opening up the rooms.

    I’m with you on the ‘design turrets’ thing though. I love lots of different styles. There is this one road heading into Washington D.C. which has the most impressive array of contemporary, modern, traditional, CASTLES, brutalist, you name it houses all next to each other. I die on that road every time. 🙂

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      September 9, 2016 at 11:26 am

      And now as I look through his website, I can’t find a single example where he does that, but I swear to you he does 🙂

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kristi C
    September 9, 2016 at 11:55 am

    I have trouble with multiple styles also, so I try to go more traditional for expensive and permanent pieces and then add the more fun/colorful/trendy stuff for less expensive and more easily replaced pieces. I’d do the German smear for sure but then have fun with the door and even shutter color, plus the porch accessories like rockers/tables/pillows/accessories. I’d definitely take your neighborhood style into consideration for the major exterior finishes for resale purposes if nothing else.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Laura L
    September 9, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    What about a German Schmear but done in a buttery yellow color? That might tick off a few boxes … 🙂

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    September 9, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    Thank you! I’ve been renovating my house for the past month and a half, and even though I had finished my designing before that, I keep second-guessing myself (“is this really what I like? why? when did I decide it? what if I change my mind?”). I like one style but I also like another, and even if the choice was easy when I was designing, when the time to commit comes, I freak out! Small substitutions I had to make (beige floor instead of white) didn’t help either (even though I am in love with my floor, and I actually had the option to buy its’ white version). Seeing that you have the same struggles is really a relief.

    And by the way, so were the posts about your breakfast floor/ceiling. Even though they definitely weren’t the “oh look, pretty stuff” kind of posts, they coincided with the days when I felt renovation would never end/fail, and seeing your big problems with unknown solutions disappear like this really made me feel optimistic!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Marianne in Mo.
    September 9, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    I too am a lover of many different styles, so it’s hard to narrow down sometimes. I do tend to stay in the more traditional areas though, because I find them timeless. And because my husband is a critic if I want to veer off of what he’s used to seeing. I could be so much more colorful if I didn’t have to please his tastes too! I caved and went with earth tones for our exterior (once again!) and wanted to paint the front door Coral or Persimmon to give it some interest. Nope, isn’t gonna happen, he nixed that. :-/ It’s not worth fussing over, just wish I had one of those husbands who say “do whatever you want” sometimes! After 40 years together, I pick my battles!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    September 9, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    Oh my goodness, same here.
    I love elements of everything and it is hard to rein myself in sometimes. The only room I’m sure of is the bathroom. I do prefer bathrooms to be modern and unfussy.

    I’ve lived in more than 100 year old Craftsman and Victorian, mid-century modern, traditional, ranches, and also Frank Lloyd Wright-ish style houses. I love Craftsman houses but wouldn’t want to live in one again (too masculine and the style is bossy). I love mid-century modern houses but wouldn’t want to live in most of them either. I love ultra modern but then I’d yearn for some homestyle type stuff, sigh. I think Victorians are my absolute faves though with all their nooks and crannys and weird doors and hiding places and gorgeous moldings and huge windows. But then again, the Victorian house is bossy, you can’t put just ANY type of decor and furniture in this type of house.

    I do try and buy big ticket items that are timeless; like Chesterfields and wool rugs. If only I could get the rest of my choices under control. 😛

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      September 9, 2016 at 1:36 pm

      *not quite 100 year old craftsmans, but more than 100 year old Victorians.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    September 9, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    With all the design choices you have batted around, you seem to go with the beautiful and elegant, with color ( hand drawn wall paper, green cabinets.). The other styles are cute, but would they last for you? Once you are finished with your current home, buy a summer beach house and go wild and happy with all those bright happy colors and designs. And don’t forget to invite all of us, lol. Annie

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    September 9, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    Good afternoon Kristie, For me, let me just tell you that I painted my Mansard Roof three story in Boston Pink with white trim and a “Trader Vic’s” front door.

    I love your brick with the German smear as well. The one thing that drives me crazy (yes, I know I don’t have far to drive) it also irritates a lot of builders, is putting up shutters that for one don’t function, and two are the wrong size or shape for the windows they surround.

    If you want shutters, make them sized to actually cover the window in case of a storm, otherwise, skip them entirely.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    September 9, 2016 at 3:47 pm

    There was a house on my street growing up that had German smear and a blue green door, it was beautiful. But maybe you could do that, put the bright on the door, bonus point if you can find a pink that looks good. 🙂

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Jenny @ Words On Wendhurst
    September 9, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    I think you can have all three, just not on the actual exterior only. Blend the three styles by making the exterior traditional, with perhaps a more modern porch railing. Then bring in your bold color and contemporary design in your porch accessories and landscape design.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Lisa E
    September 9, 2016 at 9:09 pm

    Thought of you when I saw this:

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    September 9, 2016 at 11:24 pm

    Hi, Kristi. New subscriber here. What an amazing job you’ve done so far! I especially love your kitchen.

    As for the red brick, German schmeer, black, yellow… You could have two of those and have your traditional look. Here are some pics that might give you some ideas:





    Note they all have black exterior windows (painted or otherwise). I love the first and last with the black columns. The first pic, with the stone walls and red brick porch makes me think you could do a German schmeer on the exterior walls, red brick porch and black columns and porch railings (like the pic). The German schmeer would make sure the house didn’t look too dark and you’d get all of the elements you said you like except for the yellow. You can do that with flowers 🙂

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    September 10, 2016 at 6:11 am

    Kristi, I sympathize. It’s a good thing I don’t have to design the outside of my house because I’m pretty sure it would give me a nervous breakdown. Don’t forget function also. You know what is needed for Matt for accessibility but one thing I noticed about several of your examples is that they had no porch or covering over the stoop of any kind. I had one of those once and never again. As well as covering the entry think of light placement and the type of lighting you like. Sometimes the smallest things will help crystallize your idea. For instance, if you fall in love with a certain style of exterior lighting for the entrance, that choice may lead you toward the style of the home exterior due to the style influence of the lighting fixtures. The same with railings, columns, etc. You get the drift…My biggest problem is not always the style but the fact that my taste sometimes leads me to choices that my bank account rejects!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    September 10, 2016 at 7:48 am

    Love love your work! Been following you since you did your kitchen! First time I have commented, love the German smear also love dark exterior colors too. I do a lot of diy also, slowing down alittle due to my age. I find women can do anything just research and get in there and do it! You have the best blog on the Internet. Thank you!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    September 10, 2016 at 10:36 am

    I’ve taken all of those “find your style” quizzes and was finally able to nail down my style as a definitive “industrial-farmhouse-traditional-craftsman-mountain-cottage.”


    Your post totally spoke to me and I’m glad I’m not the only one who gets pulled in so many directions. I love your blog and your fearlessness in charging ahead with a design idea/plan only to go “wait, I like it, but that’s not what I want…” I find inspiration and hope for myself in all of your posts and always enjoy seeing how you wrangle with combining three styles. Or six. Thanks for keeping it real!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Susan Davis
    September 10, 2016 at 11:40 am

    Your blog is wonderful and you are wonderful to share all your ups and downs in your life…..I appreciate it so much!
    I love the last house you posted; the black and white one. It is to die for I think. It was done in collabration with Alexa Hampton whose father was Mark Hampton. The front of the house is the deep black and the rear of the house is done in white stucco. She calles the house The Oreo House. The interiors are done in a Swedish style with colors of pale pale blue, lavendar, grey, and creamy white and accent colors of deepest orange, purple, and black.
    I also noted that all your love houses have steeply pitched roofs. Are you planning on ‘raising the roof’ when you do the exterior.
    Oh and my daughter loves all your tutorials too; she is a DIYer big time and refers to your blog ofter! Thanks for sharing and easy on the back.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      September 10, 2016 at 11:55 am

      I do love a roof with a steep pitch to it, but I don’t think I’ll go to the trouble or expense of having our roof redone. That would be incredibly expensive, and I have other things I’d rather spend that money on. I don’t like a low pitched roof, but I think once we get the front redone with the double gable, it might disguise the low pitch a bit.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Susan Davis
    September 10, 2016 at 11:41 am

    Oops! Posted twice by mistake. Sorry to take up space.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kathryn Griffin
    September 11, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    I completely understand your dilemma. All three styles of exteriors are so beautiful and unique all on their own merit. We currently live in a red brick Colonial which I adore. But, every once in a while I drive by a stone and brick cottage combo and I sigh a little happy sigh. Maybe the next house will be a departure for us. Happy choosing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and plans with us. Happy week to you. Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    September 12, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    I’m in the same boat! I definitely like a lot of different styles. Here’s an explanation of mine:


    And here is how I’ve decided how to deal with it:


    I love all of you inspiration pics, but especially the first brick house. I think you’ve done a good job in your front rooms of mixing modern and traditional! I love following your blog!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    September 13, 2016 at 9:10 am

    I’m always learning something new from your posts. I never knew that the whitewashed brick finish was called a German smear. Huh. I like a lot of different styles myself including the traditional, colonial brick. But my favorite has to be the newer transitional Craftsman style with white woodwork instead of the traditional darker stained wood. Since my home is a New England traditional Dutch cape, my furnishing currently lean in the traditional sphere with touches of more transitional to go with the architectural style of my house. I also love rustic log homes, Spanish Revival or Southwestern adobe. The list goes on. Like you, I think contemporary/modern architecture is the one style I couldn’t live in either. Okay to look at in magazines, but too stark and linear for my personal tastes to own myself.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      September 13, 2016 at 11:57 am

      The German smear technique is actually done with mortar, so it’s a little more labor intensive than a white wash done with paint. 🙂