Preparing for the Historic District Commission meeting

In old cities and towns across the country, the Historic District Commission (HDC) exists to protect the historical homes in the community.


When I have a client, who lives in the HDC, we know that it will cost more to design and take 3-6 months long go get approved and we need approval before going through the permitting process. I fit in the required board approval process as early in the design phase as possible in order to gain approval before we fine-tune the design throughout the schematic phase.

This project is located in the HDC of Portsmouth, NH, and we are proposing an addition off the backside of the house. The addition will include a master suite on the second floor, a great room and renovated kitchen on the first floor, and a family room, mudroom, bathroom, office, and storage on the ground level.

In order to get this passed, we had to go through the following process and select materials.


  • Brought an additional roof off the main ridge.
    • We are trying to get a master bedroom on the 2nd Since the existing structure is low w/ knee walls, it is difficult to bring it down any lower and still gain the space we need.
    • The addition is 6 feet smaller than the existing structure.
    • The additional steps in 12” on each side to help lower the roof and scale down the addition.
  • Created screen porch to repeat the existing covered porch look and help with massing.
  • An office and storage are located at the ground level under the deck. We would like to retain the deck on the path side of the property to maintain limited water views.
  • We are repeating the exact same side and scale of the existing dormer.
  • Rooflines are designed to replicate the existing structure on a smaller scale. The mudroom entry door off the left elevation will have the same hip roof with brackets and we propose to repeat the brackets of the back hip roof over the screen porch.


  • Proposing to replace existing aluminum siding with wood cedar clapboards and repair / replace the existing.


  • We are proposing new windows that are Marvin Ultimate 2/1 SDL with the black exterior to replace replacement windows from the 1990s. This is the same window used across the street at 39 New Castle Ave that still has the original windows.
  • There is a small fogged up window in the stairwell on the left elevation that we would like to replace with a traditional double-hung.
  • Mullions 5/8” – double glazed, Marvin


  • We are proposing a new wood front door with glass (similar to the door approved at 69 New Castle Ave with seeded glass for privacy). This door would also be used as the mudroom door on the left elevation and as a french door with sidelights in the family room off the back of the home.
  • Also, on the front elevation, we propose to change the entry door to a wood dutch door with glass.
  • The door to the screen porch would not be very visible to the people on the path and we are calling out a 9’-0” three-panel sliders.


  • On the left elevation or driveway side, we will be retaining grade as well as under the mudroom door roof in order to create an entry area that blends into the sloping grade.
  • A brick raised bed that steps down as the grade drops will offer an opportunity to create a landscaping buffer to break up the house elevation.


MATERIAL: Using inspiration from other houses in the HDC

  • Screen for AC – Replicate the one from 17 South Street w/ conduit to run up the wall inside the 12” in-step between the addition / existing structure.
  • Railing System – mahogany rail and treads, white risers, newel, and balusters
  • Vertical finish under staircase/deck out of 1” x 4” wide with ½” gap between.
  • Brick foundation
  • Lighting – will assure that it is dark sky compliant


It was a long and arduous process and the best use of my time was preparing by watching hours and hours of recorded HDC meetings. When this sweet house is complete, it will be absolutely stunning. Stay tuned and watch as it all unfolds!


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