• Angie Lane

Architecture Mullets: Traditional in the Front, Modern in the Back

Updated: Aug 27, 2021

I have to admit, I love the term house mullet. Yes, "mullet" instantly conjures up visions of Billy Ray Cyrus and my prom date but house mullets are scads more cool. And mullets aren't just for houses, buildings are getting some really amazing ones as well. For buildings, i've broadened the mullet definition a bit to basically include a really striking juxtapostion of old with new.

Architectural mullets are such a genius idea. If you've ever seen an older building get an addition where they tried to make it look like the same style as the original but you could clearly tell it was an addition at a different time period. It's extremely difficult to make new look like old. The methods and materials are just so different. But one thing I've learned along the way in this journey of design is that typically, if the design solution is unnecessarily difficult, it's the WRONG solution. Why make things harder for yourself? And the best solution to an addition on an old structure is to make it clearly modern. You can still address the design elements of the old, respect the quality of the old, and create something cohesive. Trying to blend new with old can bring about the need to destroy large portions of the old to get a suitable starting point to add the new. Oftentimes, the mullet approach preserves so much more of an old, probably delicate and difficult structure.

Keep scrolling for some great mullet examples...for some reason lots of them involve Corten steel. #hmmm Guessing it has to do with Corten's ability to be strikingly modern but with the patina of old so it already has an innate blended quality.

This one is a striking contrast (gorgeous project by Architecture For London) but the low key materials and simplicity, in a weird way, blend effortlessly with the brick row house. Like it's a contrast but not...?


Pretty traditional, classic front...

I like how this addition is well proportioned and still rather classic looking but definitely a departure from the front.


Quaint cottage front...

Completely different massing materials. High contrast!


Tradtional Tudor style in the front...

I love how this one references the massing and shapes of the front but it's a totally different aesthetic.


The simplicity of this one really works here. The contrast in volumes, cladding, and colors is a really efficient transformation.


This one is extra clever being that it is in a Historic District and had to deal with strict aesthetic regulations. I love how the volume shapes changed but they still mimick the front with a lower volume and a higher volume.


I love how graceful this addition is. It's so respectful of the original shell. It makes a huge impact without being heavy handed. Gorgeous!


Another beautiful crumbling shell repurposed with a nod to it's former shape.


This one is more of a top /bottom mullet but still. The shell is in great shape but instead of working within the confines of matching the existing style, the top went rogue.


I LOVE how this deck addition just spills out of the old box towards the sea. What a perfect mix of old and new.


I'm tellin' ya. Corten steel nails it every time. Dramatic but not showy and totally in character with the existing building.


Another Corten steel mullet for good measure. This one is a stretch as mullets go, but the balance of old, unused structure with the new use and form is just too great.


There is something so graceful about this one. I feel like the design problem was "How do we get extra space and yet touch the existing structure as little as possible?" Success.


Just a rendering but a damn fine example of preserving the crumbling shell. I love how this one spills up and over.


This one also had some good bones to work with to begin with. I love the simplicity of the addition as well as how it keeps with the industrial feel.


I like how the existing structure is like a base, then the modern addition pulls back as a middle, then pushes forward again as a top. A clever twist on classic architecture.


This one is so fantastic. A simple gesture, with minimal intervention that makes a huge impact. This is a public building but I think this is a great strategy for a dramatic home entry as well.


A building mullet can also be a small moment. These contemporary windows bring this old infrastructure up to date.


If you're considering an addition and you own a traditional home or building but you love contemporary design, a house mullet is for you!

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