Archives For -Laura & Ken’s New House

Original First Floor Plan: Blue Denotes Main Family Living Spaces

Laura and Ken picked out a lovely open floor plan for their cape cod style house. I like the mix of a more traditional house (and who doesn’t love dormers?) with an open floor plan for modern living. The one thing that didn’t seem to make sense was the kitchen layout. Although open to the main living/family room, it still seemed separate and a little hemmed in, definitely designed for 1 person in the kitchen. Also the diagonal sink (which I am not generally in favor of) was causing us problems because it didn’t work very well with the farmhouse sink that Laura really wanted. But there was one really nice feature of the kitchen plan (that I am totally jealous of), the separate pantry. I feel like this is a major trend that we are going to see a lot more of (especially now that kitchens are being opened up into family spaces). A generous pantry to hold all of the stuff that you don’t want on display, but want close at hand. Even the latest kitchen on This Old House  is installing a large pantry.

First Floor Plan After Kitchen Changes: Blue Denotes Main Family Living Spaces


-Removed the wall between the Kitchen and Family Room
-Removed the peninsula and angled sink
-Added a large island for seating and cooking
-Squared off the corner of the Office
-Created a shallow counter/cabinet area for small appliances (and a place to mount the microwave)
-Moved the sink to the outside wall and added a window
-Move the door to the Screen Porch to maximize dining seating
-The rear wall of this area was also pushed out 2′ feet to give them more space in the dining and family areas

Here is a side by side of the 2 kitchens:

Kitchen Before

Kitchen After

I really like how the plan looks now. I think the kitchen will feel much more open and light. Looking back at the original plan, I think it would have felt very dark with no windows and a lot of upper cabinets.

One of my favorite things is how well zoned the kitchen is now. It has 3 distinct areas.

Zone 1: Main open cooking and seating area. The person cooking and using the sink is in the main space.

Zone 2: The workhorse area where the small appliances and fridge are located. This area is still convenient but is not in the main line of view.

Zone 3: The pantry with the less used items. This is especially helpful when you have limited upper cabinetry elsewhere in the kitchen, as is the case here.

For the rest of Laura & Ken’s house click here.


I have been working closely with Laura to make the kitchen just right. We actually did a pretty major redesign from the original builder plans and now have a more modern open kitchen design with a large island. If you follow me on Pinterest you will see that the board related to the kitchen is filled to the brim with ideas and products.

I will put up a separate post later this week detailing the layout, but in the meantime I thought I would show the current mood board. You will see that there are still things to be added and refined but you can start to imagine the feel of the kitchen. It currently has a very clean white and gray palette. Fortunately they are leaning towards using a contrasting reclaimed oak flooring for the whole first floor. This should really help to start to bring in some warmth.

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Rendering of Laura and Ken's House

Laura and Ken have narrowed down the exterior house colors and shingles, so now it is time to focus in on the front door. The front door is such an important part of the house, it is not only where people first come into the house (and wait while you open the door) but it is also something that you touch. I have a general rule that the closer something is to you, the better the quality should be. So in our case the door is important. The style also sets the mood for the house. Fortunately now doors come in all different shapes, sizes, glazing and colors. I am a fan of a bright colored door to welcome someone!

Here are a few that I found via Pinterest:

1. Yellow door w/ transom and sidelites

2. Red door w/ sidelites

3. Aqua Door w/ transom & sidelites  via pinterest 2. via pinterest 3. via pinterest

Since we were looking primarily in the gray range for the house, we looked at 3 colors for the door: yellow, red and blue/aqua. All would pop against the gray house and white trim. Once we decided on a painted door instead of a natural finish, it then turns to deciding on what type of door. Their builder recommended Therma-Tru, which is one of the largest manufactures of doors in America. Fortunately they make a fiberglass entry door system, which is great for several reasons. Fiberglass is quite strong but unlike steel doors it won’t rust and doesn’t require a thermal break. It should stand up well to lots of use without getting dings and it also takes paint well and doesn’t expand and contract like wood. It also helps that the options in fiberglass are quite good now! They also offer the complete system with the sidelites and transom (glass above the door), so that will help to make sure that the joints are tight which will help keep the weather out. Another option  for fiberglass doors is Jeld-Wen but I couldn’t seem to find sidelites and transoms on their website.

Here is the configurator options for the Therma-Tru Smooth Star Entry Door Collection:

Therma-Tru Smooth-Star Door Configurator

As you can see the options are quite extensive, from traditional to arts and crafts and ranging from no glass to almost all glass. They also offer a more traditional panel look or a beadboard style.

After reviewing the options, Laura and Ken selected a model with more glass, to help bring light into the space. They are fortunate and the entry is a double height space, so they can take advantage of the light from transom above the door.

Therma-Tru Smooth-Star Door: One Panel 3/4 Lite w Sidelites & Transom painted a creamy yellow

I think it will be very welcoming! I would finish it off with a number like this in paint or vinyl (idea originally from the first issue of Blueprint Magazine) in black just below the glass.

Vinyl House Number

Image from Holly Mathis Interiors

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Rendering of House w/ Tan Siding and Blue Door

I have been working on an exciting new project here! Laura and Ken are building their dream house. They have the plans and the builder and have already broken ground, but they need some help with the details and product selections. So I have been helping to guide them through all of the choices. Today I thought I would show the options for the exterior cladding. The house is Cape style with 3 lovely dormers and a front porch. They would like to use pre-finished Fiber Cement Siding for the exterior. This is a great choice because the fiber cement wears extremely well, doesn’t rot and holds paint better then wood. Additionally the pre-finished siding choices come with a warranty on the finish, including fading, so the house will look great for years to come.

Staggered Edge Shingle from James Hardie

Straight Edge Shingle from James Hardie

We started by looking at James Hardie shingles but now have expanded the search to include Certainteed as well. We are also reviewing the choices in siding styles including shingles and clapboard/lap/plank siding.  The advantage of looking at both is not only to compare costs, but to get a wider variety of color choices. When we had our house re-sided a few years ago we chose the Certainteed smooth lap siding to match the original wood clapboards, but couldn’t find a prefinished color to our liking, so we ended up having to have it painted, but it would have been more cost effective and quicker to install if we had used a prefinished product.



Staggered Edge Shingle in Eaves w/ Clapboards on main body in Sandstone Beige (from James Hardie)

Random Square Staggered Edge Shingle in Pewter w/ PVC trim (from Certainteed)



Shingles have been used on houses in America for hundreds of years. Unlike clapboards they tend to have a more rough hewn appearance, often with the wood grain being visible. Traditionally I think of them being used in New England and in beach homes. Cedar shingles are a favorite in salt air climates, as they withstand the rigors of the weather better than a clapboard that has to be painted frequently.  “Shingle style” architecture had a big resurgence at the end of the 19th Century to contrast the ornate patterned siding of Victorian architecture and to pay homage to the traditional colonial homes.Typically shingles will be more noticeable then a clapboard, since the pattern and texture are more irregular.

Both James Hardie and Certainteed make a straight and staggered edge shingle in the prefinished product. The shingles are more expensive then the clapboards due to the patterning. Both companies also offer fancier half round and octagon shingles for victorian style houses as well as board and batten.

Beaded "Smooth" Clapboard

Beaded "Cedar" Clapboard

"Cedar" Lap Siding

"Smooth" Lap Siding

"Cedar" Finish Clapboards in Sandstone Beige (from James Hardie)

"Smooth" Finish Lap Clapboards in Wicker (from Certainteed)


Clapboards have been traditionally used for hundreds of years. Unlike shingles which were rough, clapboards traditionally required milling to create straight and even pieces, creating a finer profile. In fiber cement shingles both companies offer a traditional lap and a beaded lap (which has a “bead” on the bottom). They also both offer them in a smooth or a wood grain, textured or “cedar” appearance. I prefer the smooth finish in this product and a lapping in the 6″-8″ range. I also think that the beaded detail gives a nice added touch of detail.

Fibercement Trim from James Hardie

Fiber Cement James Hardie Trim



I think that trim is one of the most important aspects of the exterior. If the trim doesn’t look right proportionally I think the rest of the house will not look its best, no matter what type of siding you use. I often think that is why vinyl siding often looks cheap, it isn’t the larger sections of siding, it is the thin trim that often has unsightly joints. For Laura and Ken’s house there are 2 options for trim. One is fiber-cement trim, which both manufacturers make. The other is a solid PVC trim which Certainteed makes as does Azek. In their case I would recommend sticking with the fiber-cement. Larger Fiber-cement trim boards did not exist until recently. We used PVC our our house. My main complaint with the PVC is that its expansion and contraction rate is quite high. Meaning on longer runs (over 15′), you will have joints that will open and close depending on the season. Laura and Ken do not have long runs on their house, but I am still not totally sold on the pvc, especially when fiber cement is now available. I also like sticking with the same material where possible since the texture will match and it will take paint the same way. The fiber cement trim are also available in prefinished which is great. For their house I recommend using a nominal 8″ wide board (typically 7.25″) with a 1″ or 1 1/4″ thickness. This will frame the house nicely and the white trim will contrast with the body color. If you notice, most of the pictures above have thick substantial trim.

James Hardie Color Palette

Certainteed Color Palette


Both James Hardie (ColorPlus) and Certainteed (ColorMax) offer quite a few prefinished colors. However, I often find it is difficult to find just the right color, especially when you will be living with this color for the next 20 years.  For both companies you have to give them your zipcode so that you can figure out what “zone” you are in. Different colors are available in different regions of the country.

So far we have been looking in the gray to blue range for Laura and Ken’s house with white trim. The 2 colors that they are considering from James Hardie include Monterey Taupe (warm gray with a hint of green) and Boothbay Blue (a medium blueish gray). From Certainteed they are considering the Silver Plate (lighter gray) and Pewter (a blueish gray). Of all of the colors I have seen in pictures my favorite is the Pewter, although I would like to see the sample in person. Which one is your favorite?

James Hardie Boothbay Blue

Certainteed Pewter

Up Next:

The front door choices.