Even Minor Exterior Alterations Need Drawings: Before and After

Even Minor Exterior Alterations Need Drawings: Before and After

While helping my mom add a new portico to her front entry, I learned a valuable lesson about exterior home renovations and the importance of drawings—even in minor alterations. So, I thought I would share that lesson with you!

My sister’s backyard

My mom (and my sister Elizabeth and her husband) own a two-acre property on the edge of the little town we all live in. It’s at the end of a quiet dead-end street, right up against green fields with a backdrop of beautiful hills and blue, blue sky. When they bought the property there was already a house in place for Elizabeth and her family, so my mom had this sweet little carriage house built in the backyard.

This was what the exterior entry to the house looked like when it was first built. My mom is modest about how she lives her life so she chose a plan that was really basic and simple. No portico, no front entry.

There’s a very inadequate coat closet inside her sitting room, but that’s not actually in (or really near) the entry. When you step into her little house, you’re just four feet away from walking upstairs and the entry is just four feet wide before you have to turn left into the kitchen or right into the garage. Tiny, tiny entry, just a little wider than a hallway.

And because of the floor plan design, there is no room to make the entry any bigger on the inside of the house.

For three years, my mom has been talking about how she would love to add two things onto her little house—a sunroom onto the back of the house outside the sitting room, and most importantly, an entry onto the front of the house with room for coats. Since she moved in, Mom has been living with guests standing out in the rain as they wait for room to step into her house and how everything from the outside gets tracked into the inside.

So this was the year we tackled those two projects. I’m showing you the entry portico in this post and in the next you’ll get to see the sunroom that is making my mom so very happy, which makes me very, very happy.

Adding a new exterior portico entry

Since I’m the designer daughter in the family 😉 I was charged with the task of finding the right person to help us. I found a builder who builds sunrooms using pre-fab panels and could build the right kind of foundation base, add all the rainware (guttering, downspouts, soffits), and top everything with a weather-proof roof.

He could even build a new entry portico and promised to send a drawing of what it would look like when we decided what we wanted.

Let me just say that being a colour expert and designer/decorator doesn’t mean I am any kind of architectural expert. So I was about to learn some really important lessons about the process.

I was most concerned about the look of the entry because it needed a proper portico to suit the existing style of the house. However, Mom wasn’t interested in spending money on something fancy—she wanted functional.

“A place for coats, Maria,” she said, “and cover for my guests so they don’t have to stand in the rain and can wipe their shoes.” Then she gave me her big smile, which always makes me want to give her everything I can to make her happy.

After the original two small steps were removed and the platform built for the new entry, my mom held up a coat to demonstrate that this would be the perfect spot for a little closet (below):

The builder drawings

So we went with a simple design and the builder, as promised, sent along a drawing.

And when I got the drawing, I moved from being concerned about the entry to REALLY WORRIED that in the end, it would just be bad because I couldn’t picture what it would look like once it was built and in place against the house.

I was confident that all the colours would be perfect and “pretty.” But what I couldn’t sort out was if the actual portico would look balanced and well proportioned in relation to the rest of the house.

But we moved ahead because it was the least expensive way to achieve what my mom wanted. I just crossed my fingers that it would look beautiful with the house.

And in the end, to my great relief, the new portico entry works really well because the windows relate to the rest of the windows on the front exterior (below):

We also had a concrete driveway installed. And before the concrete was poured, I asked MaryAnne White (our resident remote landscape designer) if the front flower beds needed to be redesigned.

She immediately sent me a drawing with the new landscape design along with the most important part of the plan, which was creating room for a foundation planting in front of the new entry (below).  

Ultimately, this makes a huge difference in the look and feel of the entry area. Because without my or MaryAnne’s input, my mom would have simply had the concrete driveway installed right next to the new structure.

There would have been no room for foundation plantings. And well, we can all imagine how not awesome that would have been.

How to use drawings in your exterior project

When you’re working on projects where you’re the expert, you can more likely envision the end result before it’s actually finished. Even if you don’t have the full picture painted yet. Just as MaryAnne has a good idea of how the end result of her landscaping plan will look before it’s planted. And how I can visualize and imagine how colours and furnishings and everything that goes into your home will look together BEFORE it all gets there.

But if you’re not the expert—you’re the client—you need the right kind of help to “see” what the expert can envision or recreate for you.

The basic drawing from the company that installed the sunroom was not drawn to scale, nor was it shown on the house (that’s not a service they provide). The best next step would have been for me to find someone who could sketch (to scale) how the portico would look when it was added to the front of the house by also drawing the front of the house! That would have taken my worried leap of faith and turned it into confidence that this addition would be exactly right for Mom’s house.

In the end, all was well. The entry scale works with the house. The windows look just right too (even though I wasn’t sure when I looked at the drawing). The new portico looks like it belongs to the house and her existing off-the-shelf stark white siding matches perfectly with the stock white sunroom panels. 

Elite Solariums

Then, once the entry was done, we added boxwood and colourful flowers! My mom believes the more colour, the better! And after the entry was installed, I arrived one afternoon to find her sitting in her camping rocker chair enjoying the new space and protection from the sun and rain (below):

I chose the composite deck material that best coordinated with my mom’s flooring inside her main floor (above).

Read more: How to Choose the Right Colour Vinyl Decking

You can see the closet through the window it’s not in stock anymore but it’s metal so it works outside | Similar here

Let’s see the before and after again shall we?



After (Lucy was with me when I took the photos)

Here’s why even minor exterior alterations need drawings

So here’s the point of my point and why I called this post, “Even Minor Exterior Alterations Need Drawings.”

When you’re not the expert, make sure you get all the information you need in order to “see” what you’re going to get. Think of drawings as a communication tool—it’s a common language between you and your builder to help get your design vision right.

In this case, if I would have gotten the right drawings, I would have had confidence in the scale and proportion of the entry design. And, without a drawing done to scale, there’s a much bigger chance that you might end up with something functional but not pretty at all. 

This lesson applies to everything else in colour and design, too.

When it comes to design and decorating, use mood boards to show how everything looks together. We do this in our eDesign department all day and all night. And I teach you how to create them in my Shop Online course here.

When it comes to choosing paint colours, make sure you can “see” what the new colour will look like by getting neutral undertones and white gradations right, using large colour boards in the right way and in the right places. 

Related posts:

My Mom Needs a Solarium and I Need Your Help

How to Choose the Right Colour Vinyl Decking

I Didn’t Follow my Own Advice and the Colour was Wrong

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