When embarking on a new custom home project, homeowners are not necessarily focused on incorporating element of architectural whimsy into their home. However, their building partners, the architects, builders and designers embrace the unusual or unexpected design element that makes the custom home truly unique. They provide an opportunity for creative expression for the artisans as well as the homeowners, a celebration of the true meaning of custom.

An architectural whimsy may be present in many forms and functions throughout a custom home, in both the interior and exterior. By definition, “whimsy” is not meant to be functional; the key function is to provide the unexpected, a design element that deviates from the regular contours and flow of the home. The purpose of the whimsy is to create an interesting diversion for the eye, add an unexpected punctuation mark to the décor theme, incorporate a personal piece of tradition or history, and/or infuse some personality, to make it truly one’s own.

An architectural whimsy can range from crooked chimneys or patterned roofs to gargoyles on the exterior. Some architectural additions, such as cupolas, are primarily incorporated to add interest and character, yet are also functional. Cupolas in particular have evolved artistically over the centuries and provide important ventilation to the home, preventing mold and mildew issues, rotting wood and peeling paint. Many custom lake homes today have borrowed this traditional architectural element commonly incorporated into coastal homes.


With the interior, staircases seem to be one of the most common architectural elements used to create a statement. The linear symmetry of stairs can lend the adaption of a sharp dramatic accent in contemporary homes with clean lines, in both the interior and exterior:

By contrast, the timeless and classic architectural style of traditional lake homes often incorporate sweeping central staircases, with bannisters winding upwards with the symmetry of a nautilus shell. The following two homes offer breathtaking examples of what an impact such staircases can make, and a fine opportunity to draw the eye to a unique focal point.

Incorporating elements of the original home (if one existed) is a meaningful way to add architectural whimsy to the home. The couple below achieved just that by building their new lake home around the original historic cottage on the property. The image below shows the hallway leading into the home’s entertaining space, which is the original exterior of the cottage.

Custom home builder use of reclaimed materials.

Homeowners that wish to infuse some whimsical elements into their home but are hesitant to make too much of a statement may instead have more creative expression in outbuildings (garden sheds, guest cottages or boat houses) or within the gardens on the property. This blue boathouse and attached garage both offer lovely examples of classic and whimsical architectural touches.