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10 ways to create luxury home oomph. Part 1: natural materials

timber cladding

1/10 ways to create luxury home oomph: natural materials

What does your dream luxury home look like? Chances are that if it is a contemporary house you are after some wow effect. But there are dozens of ways to do it. In this series of posts I will try to cover 10 ways that really make a modern house stand out.

I will start today with one approach – combining natural materials with strict geometry of the building.

In this duo geometry comes first and serves as the background for the natural materials. The reason is that these materials often create some rhythm because of the format in which they come. Think timber cladding for example. To really bring the rhythm to the foreground all the rest has to be toned down and very much under control so as to make a backdrop for the nice changes in shape or even texture that happens in natural materials.

So what is this strict geometry? How do we put in under control? Well, the first thing is to look at  the junctions of the walls and the roof. The fewer details there, the cleaner the form. Traditional gable roof with a barge board adds extra details that may detract your eye. In fact, all details that are there to cover, like bargeboard, fascia or, for that matter, any external embellishments, really work against the sleek effect that we are trying to create. This is why how roof meets the walls becomes very important and may actually bring some cost at design and construction stage. However, it pays off if you want to have this visual orderliness.

modern house timber

Tutukaka House in New Zealand by Crosson Clarke Carnachan Architects

Secondly, windows become extra important. Even though it is hard to underestimate the role of windows in any design, in this case they become part and parcel of the whole look. There are two main options how to resolve windows: they can be set back into the wall so that they are not in the same plane as the wall, or they can be brought forward and have a large tree-dimensional frame around them.

modern house timber cladding

Timber cladding by www.imbercladdingmelbourne.com.au

As you can see the idea is to make the plane of the wall pronounced and uninterrupted – in the case of a sunken window. Alternatively, if you have to interrupt the surface of the wall, it has to be emphatic and the window is brought forward significantly. It again makes the wall look as an independent surface.


modern house timber balcony

Tetris Social Housing by Artist Studios 51arch

In the examples above you can see that natural cladding can be used in three ways. One is to make in one and only material for the exterior. That may be expensive and require some upkeep so it is really an important decision.  Using cladding throughout makes a very strong effect especially if you mean it – like in timber shutters made of the same material. These shutters can open and reveal windows or even a patio behind.

luxury home timber shutters

Torquay House by Wolveridge Architects

Another way is to clad only part of walls like in this example here. In this case all the rest has to be toned down so as not to argue with the cladding. It means that other surfaces should be flat and have no detraction. This is why, I think, brick to ground floor and timber cladding to first floor never achieves this effect. The reason is, face brick and timber start talking too loudly at the same time. There is a difference in patterns, difference in texture and often, difference in colour. The result is often not bad, but not something we are discussing today. For this reason, if you are a great fan of natural timber  cladding, think about your other materials carefully.


modern house western red cedar

Western Red Cedar in a self built house in Nortumberland. Photo by Silva Timber products www.silvatimber.co.uk

The third way of using timber cladding is just to trim your main focal points, for example, large windows, or entry porch, or a pergola. Again, the rule of the background is true in this case as well.

For example, you can use natural materials in your landscaping feature, but then it should be designed at the same time as the house so that they together make a composition.

Yet another approach is to bring some of that natural material seamlessly into the interior, but I will cover this topic in a separate post.

An important thing to consider when you decide to use natural material is the texture. There are dozens of types and each creates a particular effect. If you want a very warm and homey feel you might choose timber with a fair bit of grain and knots. It looks busy but so tactile and inviting.

modern house timber entry

Timber cladding to entry by Resolution: 4 Architecture. Peconic Bay house

The form and size of the cladding also will play a great role in the overall effect. You can vary the size or use the same format everywhere – either way will help you to tell your story but you want to know what you are trying to convey at the very early stage of design. This is why it is important to talk to your designer not only about your dream house but also about yourself. An attentive designer will be able to elicit your story from you.

To wrap up, I would like to reiterate that natural cladding may be expensive but even if use sparingly can help to create a very strong impression.