The Top 3 Design Mistakes Found in Residential Construction throughout New Orleans

My colleagues, friends and a couple of clients have been known to send me pictures when they see design and construction conditions that they question or know that would make me pause, based on our conversations. While driving around New Orleans or even viewing interior design magazines and images online I am amazed to see in so many buildings and homes moments that make me question the owner, contractor, installer and/or designer to wonder what exactly they were thinking.The following are a few examples of those moments that make me stop and pause as an Architect and question, “What were they thinking?” as well as some of my pet peeves found mostly in new residential construction in New Orleans.
1. Form follows function. Always.
This is THE most important design principle an Architect implements in their work.
– Inoperable shutters are quite possibly the greatest travesty in residential design. Even more so if they do not reflect the shape and size of the window. Shutters were originally designed to protect the opening and you from the elements – installing inoperable shutters is of the contrary and an expense that I can not justify.
– Another expensive mistake is constructing “fake” windows because if one is being constructed to appear so on the exterior to make the facade more interesting, then there are two problems. The first critical problem is that the floor plan must not flow from one space to another. And two, the exterior design and materials should be reevaluated to make it interesting.
– Simulated mutins and stiles, which some window companies lump into one category called grilles, on windows are another added expense that make an overall home appear less expensive and from nearly every angle appears fake. Mutins and stiles were critical parts of a window design to help distribute the lateral load above and subdivide glass panes. The design also reveals the leading architectural style of the time.
– Faux anything should just be eliminated from any design. It amazes me to see beautifully (expensive) cypress wrapped elements at an interior ceiling that are spaced many feet apart, hence because of their expense, because they are serving no function what so ever. Rafters should be spaced no more than 24″ apart (that is with no special loads above) and any wider spacing should make anyone question much greater structural issues.
2. Use of Materials
Why would one dedicate so much of their budget installing stucco on their facade only to install vinyl soffits?  And, I should mention, that there are numerous materials, vents and overhang designs to choose from when it comes to your overall facade. Consistency is also key when designing and materials in general should work in harmony not against the overall aesthetics. Of course budget is paramount, but an Architect is there to help navigate your options and provide pros and cons for your final decision.
3. When in Doubt Reflect on History
New Orleans is a colorful city, literally and historically. Knowing the history of the Crescent City and having a historic preservation background like my myself is critical when renovating or construction new homes and other commercial buildings in our area.
– Exterior Color Schemes – Shotguns were painted in distinctive colors even though typically their neighbor’s home was built at the same time, same design and layout, builder and materials. Off hand the most successfully painted entirely white residence I recall is the “Wedding Cake” residence on St. Charles and Northeastern inspired Colonial homes with dark shutters. These days when I see residences completely in one shade of white or off white, my immediate thought is that it was a design build, completed without an Architect. So why do contractors proceed with one shade? The simple answer is: cost. With today’s paint spray technology, painters can completely paint a home in a couple of days when not worrying about trim much less accent colors. And I have not even mentioned different paint sheens…
– Columns – Considering using columns? The order you select will have a huge impact on the overall design. Your Architect should be able to tell you the history and help you select the proper type and scale based on your overall facade proportion and design.