“First impressions count.” (Or so the saying goes.) And
that time-honored concept rings true throughout the home
building and home improvement industries too. Here two
local experts, Kate Schley, a project consultant with
Carmel Builders in Menomonee Falls, and Mike
Slawnikowski, owner of Mequon-based M Design Build, echo
the sentiment, weighing in on the latest trends in
exterior design, building materials and colors.
Schley notes that new home construction has become more eclectic, with
the choice of track or custom homes. “I think people are getting more
adventurous,” she adds. “They don’t want a McMansion in an area where
they have HOA (homeowners association) fees, and they want a home that
will have longevity and (be) low maintenance.”
While character may be desired, Schley says many of those building new
homes in traditional areas are opting for contemporary architecture.
“This trend started in California,” she continues, “but I have also seen
this in Whitefish Bay and Shorewood, where there are historical homes.”
Architectural details, she says, have crept into garage construction,
with carriage-style doors and windows.
Slawnikowski notes that an increasing number of homeowners are opting
for larger windows, including bay windows, to let in more light. They
also are paying attention to their home’s outdoor living potential for
both front and back porch areas, he adds.
“Years ago, especially in more traditional neighborhoods, people hung
out on their front porch because it was a way to connect to their
neighbors,” Slawnikowski says. “Now there is so much more behind homes,
with decks and other structures.”
“Standing seam metal roofs are big now, especially with a push toward
the modern farmhouse look,” Schley says. Rated to last a lifetime and
available in a variety of hues, she says the high cost is not much of an
issue, considering a longtime homeowner may need to re-roof two — or
even three — times.
Add copper to the trend list. Schley and Slawnikowski point to an
increase in the use of copper — be it for gutters, bay window roofs or
valleys on standard shingled roofs.
“A lot of people are going to natural cedar siding,” Slawnikowski notes.
“To me, it makes sense to go with a man-made material that has a
Both experts noted that man-made material, such as pre-painted,
HardiePlank cement board siding, is trending now and for the future. The
key is finding a material that looks like wood but requires little
“I’ve also seen very pricey zinc siding as an accent, with other
materials like stucco,” Slawnikowski says.
Although the use of brick is trending downward, natural and man-made
stones continue to be popular, Schley and Slawnikowski say. It also
helps, they add, that stone offers sustainable options and a wide color
When speaking to color, Schley and Slawnikowski note slightly different
“Gray and dark blue are the new beige or white,” Schley says. Darker
palettes trimmed in white, she adds, provide a classic look, and many
homeowners are still choosing to personalize their front door with a
brighter hue, such as yellow or red.
Slawnikowski also sees requests for more muted exteriors, but notes that
homeowners have traded those eye-popping front door colors for more
emphasize the need for homeowners to let architecture take the lead for
exterior selections. In other words, don’t try to make a home something