Partners, Articles

Outside In: Exteriors and the Importance of First Appearances

Building Designer
Neil Hipwell, Futureflip

If the home is our castle, then surely its exterior design is the crown. Not only is the exterior of the home responsible for first impressions but it provides all-important street appeal and sets the tone for the design and functionality of the rest of the house.

Neil Hipwell, Australia’s leading design builder and Founder of FutureFlip says there is a lot to consider when thinking about the design aesthetic of your home’s façade. “The façade of your home is a representation of you in your neighbourhood and the first impression for your visitors,” he explains.

However, Neil says the exterior of your home is much more than just a pretty face – there are practical elements that the exterior needs to provide. “The exterior is also there to protect your home and your family from the elements, and to provide thermal insulation.”

Given that the exterior of the home has such an important role to play in any renovation plan, it’s vital that your builder understands your overall design vision.

The easiest way to convey your vision is by creating a mood board. Maria Cerne, Founder of Canberra-based design and styling practice Studio Black Interiors, says a mood board will help you collate your ideas into one cohesive look that can be shared with your builder. You can create your mood board online via a platform like Style Sourcebook or you can use inspiration from magazines and catalogues.

Maria’s top tips for creating a façade mood board are:

Think about your exterior style

How do you want your house to feel – do you picture it making a strong visual statement or blending into the neighbourhood? Should it be modern coastal, box modern, Hamptons-inspired or even ScandiBarn?

Consider your homes location

Are you in the city, the suburbs, a rural or coastal setting? These different environments can inspire your colour and finish choices.

Pick your trio

This is a good rule of thumb to keep in mind of terms of finishes. The idea is to have a trio of main finishes or colours. This may be mix of feature wall cladding styles like James Hardie Linea™ Weatherboard, Axon and Hardie™ Fine Texture Cladding. Base colours should be used on the largest areas of your exteriors such as the walls, roof and the garage door, while accent colours are used on smaller areas such as windows, trims and your front door.

Edit and refine

Maria says, “Look at what is working and what isn’t, and make changes to the mood board until it feels cohesive Try not to use too many colours and finishes on your exterior – less is generally more.”

Now that your vision is clear and your builder knows exactly what look you’re trying to achieve, it’s time to consider the finer details of your façade.

Neil Hipwell, has designed and built more than 100 homes over his 13-year career and has the following advice to ensure your exterior design mirrors the time, energy and effort you’ve placed into your interior renovation:

It’s all in the symmetry

“When it comes to designing a great façade, it’s important to get the symmetry right. Either use a completely symmetrical design or play with the proportions just make sure to keep the overall look balanced,” says Neil.


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Keep it timeless

“Less design is good design, we recommend avoiding things like patterns, bold colours and harsh shapes. Instead, create a modern façade by choosing to create a sense of texture through your material choices,” he explains.

Material choices

“When choosing your exterior materials go for something with long-term benefits. We like the range of cladding by James Hardie as not only is it bush-fire and termite-safe, the fibre-cement formulation is created to withstand Australian conditions and won’t warp, twist or rot.”

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Vertical or horizontal?

“If you are going for cladding, think about whether you after a vertical or horizontal design. James Hardie has a wide range of products that can give the look of timber or render, so the design possibilities are endless,” says Neil. “Cladding is a great choice as it’s quick and easy to install, and it lends itself to different types of design features that can be more difficult to achieve when working with brick.”

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The finishing touches

“Think about the finishing touches to your exterior design like windows, window trims, door hardware, lighting, outdoor flooring like tiles and even your letterbox and house numbers. Also, well considered landscaping will make a huge difference to your façade,” he said.

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Head to James Hardie AU Pinterest page for design inspiration that can help you start your design journey and find images to add to your mood board.

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