ERAERA JustinERA Justin Realtyhistoric homehome improvementhome repairJennifer Darby Metzger October 31, 2013

ERA Justin Realty Shares Do’s and Don’ts of mixing architectural styles

Jennifer Darby Metzger, with Lifetime membership in the NJAR Distinguished Sales Club for more than 10 years of Bronze, Silver and Gold NJAR Awards and being a broker co-owner of ERA Justin Realty shares her outreach to the National Trust for Historic Preservations, evident in her report on mixing architectural styles.

ERA Justin Realty Shares Do’s and Don’ts of mixing architectural styles

Most of us appreciate the aesthetic value of historic homes, and have even been known to fall in love with them from time to time.

Jennifer Darby Metzger, ERA Justin Realty Broker co-owner is partnered with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and has increased her educational outreach centering on the preservation of historic properties. Having this designation makes her familiar with architecture that spans more than three centuries of history, ranging from stately Federal mansions and handsome Italianate row houses to modest Queen Anne cottages and modest bungalows.

She stated, “As reported in Inman News, not long ago, in a pleasant, sixties-era neighborhood of California ranchers, reporter came across a renovated house that looked all too familiar. The owner had replaced the original front doors, all the windows and the garage door in a style that could most kindly be described as Home Depot eclectic. To begin with, there was a huge, modernistic vinyl picture window. A few feet away were a pair of casement windows bordered with those now-inescapable craftsman style ‘simulated divided lites. The garage door, meanwhile, was topped with a row of little Colonial sunburst windows, while the front doors boasted an elaborate Frank Lloyd Wright pattern done in beveled glass. Just about the only style that was absent, in fact, was that of the original California rancher. Setting aside the wisdom of trying to transform one architectural style into another, any one of these motifs might have worked had it been used consistently and alone. Combining them all together, however, simply yielded a stylistic hodgepodge.”

Metzger Continued, “It’s amazing how a single motif can call up a whole architectural style. Motifs act as a kind of visual shorthand — when we see fishscale shingles, we think Victorian. When we see zigzags, we think Deco. When we see curlicues, we think Spanish, and so on. But this same suggestive power can cause a lot of trouble when it’s not used carefully. Few motifs, for example, could be more at odds than those New Englandish sunbursts being played against the jagged lines of Prairie School glass just a few feet away. Probably the most clear-cut dividing line between irreconcilable motifs is the one between traditional and modern architecture. There are always exceptions, but in general, traditional and modern styles spring from diametrically opposed philosophies, and seldom the twain shall meet. This realization might have discouraged our exemplary renovator from mixing in a little Ben Franklin with his Frank Lloyd Wright.

Is all this just stylistic nitpicking? Sure — but nitpicking is what makes for good design. Nor are such clashing motifs something that would only bother an architect. Lately, more and more homeowners come primed with an impressive grasp of architectural styles — due, no doubt, to This Old House style TV shows and instant Google searches. Lots of people are able to sense when things don’t seem to fit together right. So unless you aim to be eclectic, try to limit yourself to a few favorite motifs, and apply them consistently. If you use segmental arches, for example, don’t mix them with round ones — the first speaks Italian, while the second screams in Spanish. For similar reasons, don’t mix double-hung windows with sliders, Art Nouveau with Art Deco, divided lites with glass block, and so on. All of these pairings come from very different eras and sources, and they’ll get along none too happily in one facade.

If you’re not sure which motif goes with which style, consult some books on the style or period you’re interested in. Find five or six examples of buildings you really like, and take note of the motifs they have in common. Then, pay equally close attention to the things you don’t find, and you won’t be confused by those mixed-up motifs.”

ERA Justin Realty has been recognized by multi-thousands of buyers and sellers since 1950 as their Realtor of choice and is noted as an area market leader. They proudly received the prestigious ERA 2003-2012 Commitment to Excellence Award, a premier ERA award and selected from approximately 2,600 ERA firms from across the nation. For these reasons ERA Justin Realty should be your buying and selling Realtor of choice. They also offer their publication Real Estate Results in Writing featuring more than 700 reviews from their buyers and sellers about their services.

Jennifer Darby Metzger and the entire ERA Justin Realtor salesperson team can be reached at either of their two Rutherford offices at 118 Jackson Avenue and 57 Park Avenue, by office phone (201) 939-7500, (201) 438-0588 or (201) 438-SOLD. Also view 1000’s of homes at their websites at and