House numbers are an often-neglected detail of a house.
They are the first impression people get of your home. They are crucial for first-time dinner guests, emergency vehicles or Uber drivers to be able to identify the right address. So go out to the street and look critically at your house and see how clearly you can read the numbers. Perhaps you could use something a little more stylish, a little larger, a bit more classic or a little more modern.
“Numbers are the only typography on your house,” says Glenn Milano, who started the House Number Lab in 2011 when he couldn’t find a proper sign for his Wardman-style townhouse on Capitol Hill. “You can put a mindless number up there to get the job done. But you are missing a great opportunity to do something beautiful and interesting.”
Could your numbers use an upgrade? We polled a group of designers about their go-to styles.
Greer often turns to Etsy vendors for interesting house numbers, especially for cottages and bungalows in places such as Takoma Park and Cleveland Park. Here are three:
● Camilla Cotton: She likes these “quirky, off-the-beaten-path” cast-iron numbers to add charm to a small house ($17.50 per number).
● Drop Metal: These painted and distressed aluminum house numbers are colorful and a nice deviation from predictable modern styles, she says ($17 per number).
● Eleven Owls Studio: Greer likes these vintage-style numbers that are painted on wood pallets for use on an alley facade or along a wall (from $24 per number).
For more contemporary homes, Decker is fond of Richard Neutra’s aluminum numbers because of “their clean, modern lines” ($27 per number, dwr.com). She says they age nicely, as they are tarnish-resistant. For more traditional homes, she usually turns to Baldwin’s more classic numbers, ordering them in oil-rubbed bronze or unlacquered brass that will age over time ($12-$13.80 per number, baldwinbrasshardware.com).
Matthews says she has always found it challenging to find simple, classic address signs for her clients. For her own new home, she just ordered a plaque from Signature Streetscapes, whose website lets you customize a sign and has a good selection of choices without any kind of motif (from $29 per sign, signaturestreetscapes.com).
“When it comes to addresses on historic houses or new houses in historic neighborhoods, I try to relate back to when Washington houses were issued addresses in and around 1870,” Jacobsen writes in an email. “I incorporate these house numbers in the transom or elsewhere in the traditional manner. [The House Number Lab] is a historically accurate vinyl decal company that won’t break the bank to bring your house back into historical context where it should be” (from $15 per number, housenumberlab.com).
West loves Chatham Sign Shop numbers because they’re classic and weather-resistant. They are also easy to read from the street. The signs, available with optional designs such as shells or pineapples, are made of waterproof wood composite and painted with multiple coats of enamel. The numbers are 23-karat gold leaf. West has one hanging from his home’s lamppost. “It makes it very simple to find my house, and the pizza delivery guys love it,” he says (from $195 per sign, chathamsignshop.com).