Façade Language: Mixing Exterior Materials  

By Fernando Pages Ruiz

Fusion has become the norm in almost all we do, from adding foreign phrases to everyday speech—comprende? To flavoring our food with foreign sauces, such as Chinese Ketchup on French Fries (yes, ketchup is originally Chinese, and yes, they are indeed French, but the combination is utterly American).

So, it’s no surprise that we like to mix and match colors and materials on our facades. To make the mix work as well as fries and ketchup, we need not overdo it and combine it as we do our clothing. A little flair is always fun, but clashing patterns will make an overly busy look.

The photo to the right is of a house in the famous Lakelands neighborhood of Gaithersburg, Maryland. It presents an elegant elevation because all the materials are in their proper place. For example, heavy brick defines the lower level – the base, or foundation of the house – and the red brick color ties in with and accentuates the base through the simple ornamentation of shutters and the metal roofing over the oriel window.

The designers made one small mistake. They matched the color of the siding when installing the j-channel that scribes the trim. When j-channel matches the siding color, it accents an edge that would not occur if the building were clad with wood—the wood clapboard butts into the trim with no special termination.

If the designers considered this aspect and specified the j-channel pair with the trim, the moldings around fenestrations, the freeze and the corners would appear wider, with a delicate, decorative bead along the edge rather than an obvious accommodation to the thermal characteristics of vinyl siding.

This level of attention to detail, such as matching the j-channel color to the trim instead of siding, will elevate the elegance of any façade finished with polymeric cladding.


Homebuilder, developer and author Fernando Pagés Ruiz speaks, writes and consults internationally on how to build high-quality, affordable and energy-efficient homes. A builder with 30 years of experience and an expert on how to cut costs and keep quality when building or remodeling, Pagés is the author of two books published by the Taunton Press: Building an Affordable House: A high-value, low-cost approach to building (2005) and Affordable Remodel: How to get custom results on any budget (2007). He has won numerous national awards including the 2008 “Green Building Single Family House of the Year” and the 2007 “Workforce Housing Award” from the National Association of Home Builders.