Boston Living: Architecturally Significant Buildings on View

architecturally significant buildings

Famous Buildings / May 27, 2017

No homeowner sets out to willfully adulterate an architecturally significant home (we hope), but many accidentally do.

The examples of period homes corrupted by poor design choices are legion — and costly. A debased home’s value may drop 20% to 30%, according to real estate agents who represent such properties.

“Architecture in L.A. can mimic fast-food culture — there’s often not enough historical legacy to maintain these homes, ” said David Hertz, founder of Studio of Environmental Architecture in Venice. “There’s a sense that buildings are simply disposable.”

Bastardizing a home’s singular style, in fact, is remarkably quite simple. Our advice? Don’t follow these four easy steps.

Switching out the windows

“Windows are almost like the soul of a building, ” said Adrian Scott Fine, Los Angeles Conservancy’s director of advocacy. Fine cites the “flipster crowd” (hipsters who flip homes) as prime window bashers.

“They paint the house white, put up a flipster fence, and then tear out the original wood casement windows and install new vinyl ones, ” Fine said. “If you mess with the windows, especially in a smaller house, you kind of lose the house.”

Fine advises buyers to live with a new house for a time, rather than rushing to “Home Depot or putting in an Ikea kitchen, ” he said. “Get to understand it before you start to take away features you might regret later.”

Modifying a home’s facade

Altering the basic lines of a home’s street profile quickly dilutes an original design. Fenestration — the design and arrangement of windows — is key to exterior appeal, but the wrong door or roof can also sour a vintage look.

Historic Preservation Overlay Zone guidelines suggest that historic doors be repaired or rebuilt in favor of replacing them with copies. Launched in 1979, such zones are designated historic districts, which require review of a home’s proposed exterior alterations and additions.

“Buildings have been architecturally destroyed even with a mere coat of paint, ” said Christopher Carr, vice president of the John Lautner Foundation. “When it’s painting raw concrete we’re talking about, it’s particularly serious.”

Doubling the square feet

Home additions can bury a significant design. A theater and two-lane bowling alley were added to a Beverly Crest estate designed by Paul R. Williams for Bert Lahr, who played the Cowardly Lion in 1939’s “The Wizard of Oz.”