Last week, I wrote to you about some strategies for keeping your home warm this winter.  One strategy I did not mention, but is all-too-common in this part of Philadelphia, is wrapping your home in a faux-fur coat.  Who would do such a thing?  Observe:

"My, what a lovely hat you're wearing!"

Now, I don't know who the salesman was who brought this material down on the good people of South Philly, but I wish I had him on my team.  This product is also available for taller houses:

"I'll see your two stories, and raise you one."

Now, what do I have against this material?  My complaints are threefold:

  1. Authenticity.  This is metal siding masquerading as wood shingles.  It's not wood.  It's not shingles.  It's also simulating a mansard roof while not gaining the additional interior space one would typically afford.
  2. Color.  In a neighborhood full of mostly red brick and lots of concrete (and too few trees), why choose yet another dull neutral color?  Having such a large area of dark color makes the building feel oppressive.  (Note: while a few examples of this material do exist in red, the overwhelming majority are this same dark brown.)
  3. Message.  This material is dark and is applied over a large area, giving it enhanced visual weight.  It pushes windows back into deep recesses, reducing their ability to let in natural light.  It hangs over the street, encroaching on the public way.  It is metal, masquerading as something else.  It says "Look at me, I'm an oppressive, fake material that does nothing for either the occupants or observers of this building!"

Finally, don't think that this material is just for corner properties:

"Just leave a little up top."

What I find most frustrating about the mid-block example is the way the original cornice is covered up.  (The house to the left still has its original cornice.  For a hint at what usually happens to these old cornices when they become too much work to maintain, see the house to the right.)  More on South Philly cornice hiding in a future post.

Why do I call these Wookiee houses?  Aside from their furry coats, they have a bad attitude and do a poor job of communicating what's really going on.  Sort of like our old friend:

"I'm Chewbacca, and I approved this message."