Exterior Portfolio by Crane contacted us here at HF to let us know about their revamped online visualizer and see what we thought. They’ve introduced the complete “Dream Designer Program” including the Dream Designer Visualizer, Smart Styles Color Selector, Dream Designer Board, and Exterior Portfolio material samples. As many of you may already know, Exterior Portfolio is known for its maintenance-free building products; everything is made of plastic and plastic composites so it’s not only environmentally friendly, but endures far longer than wood and other traditional building materials.
Exterior Portfolio has taken the design phase to a new level with the Dream Designer Program. Recognizing that
my better half many of us experience a crippling level of fear and anxiety when it comes to choosing colors, textures and details for the home, as well as have great difficulty envisioning the end result, they’ve created a complete design experience which should make the process much less sweat inducing.
(It definitely changed the mister’s attitude around here. No amount of reassurance from me could convince him that a bit of color/panache would not make him “flamboyant” in the eyes of his buddies. All it took was a little design time with the visualizer, a look at the product samples and…voila! We just may be on our way to something a bit more appealing than the beige box in which we currently reside.)
Exterior Portfolio’s Dream Designer Process
The design process is easy. Upload a picture of your house to the site and enable the Dream Designer. You’re prompted through steps which require you to outline/isolate siding, trim and roofing sections of the home. Then you simply click on each area to add/interchange material. Exterior Portfolio offers quite a few nice color options accessible via the Smart Styles Color Selector. Once you land on a combination of colors and products you like, order the product samples and, if interested, the Dream Designer Board. The board costs $20.00.
My Take On the Whole Dream Designer Package
Now that I’ve had a chance to check out the whole package, here’s my take: The Dream Designer Visualizer and Smart Styles Color Selector rock. It’s a lot of fun and gives immediate gratification — very cool to see your boring house transform in a second. The Designer does take a little figuring out though. You have to set points to indicate separate roof, siding and trim areas, which was a bit of a challenge for me, not having used the program before. (The husband stepped right in and figured it out much quicker, which I’d like to note, is NOT an indication of superior intelligence.)
The product samples are impressive. (I’ll admit, I used to be a building material snob. Our house is real cedar siding, and that’s how I wanted it to remain. But after only one season of the most brutal weather conditions I’ve ever experienced, with roof shingles blown over half the county and siding that looks like it’s 50 years old, I’ve seen the light.)
I chose their Cedar Shake sample. It’s patterned from actual cedar and the grain looks very authentic. It’s also really sturdy and rigid. (Editor’s Note: Although it wasn’t clear to us from their website copy or samples, these are vinyl products). Here’s what I also very much appreciated: They sent a good 12″ x 16″, double row section as opposed to a useless “micro swatch.” I think we can all agree that when it comes to making major design and color decisions, we need something more to work with than a Dorito-sized sample chip. When you hold the siding sample next to the house, you get a very clear idea of what the whole thing will look like.
Not-So-Great Features of Exterior Portfolio
With that said, there were a couple of particulars I wasn’t overly thrilled with. Exterior Portfolio says the order will ship within two business days, but it took closer to two weeks before it arrived, and the Dream Designer Board and samples showed up on different days. Not a biggie, but it took longer than expected. I also did not receive the Design Planner Portfolio, which normally sells separately for $14 and change, but was supposed to be included with this order. Eh, I can always go buy a Trapper Keeper if needed.
The 2 x 2 foot Dream Designer Board is pretty cool — but I’m not sure I think it’s $20.00 worth of cool. You definitely get very high-res before-and-after photos of your house as well as photos of the siding/trim of choice. (Larger versions of what you see with the online visualizer.) But…
Colors between the design board and product sample were way off. The color of the siding in the photo looks extremely green, while the color of the sample piece of siding is much more beige-green and a lot closer to what I chose using the online designer. (I totally get that color can change with lighting, shadows and other factors, but the two looked as different as night and day.) Also, as mentioned earlier, the siding sample is big enough to get a solid sense of what the finished product will look like — which in my view makes the 2 x 2 foot design board sort of redundant. My recommendation would be to use the photo on the design board to get an idea of how the siding will look on a larger area of your home, but for sure, reference the siding sample to get an idea of the truest color.
Is Exterior Portfolio’s Dream Designer Program Worth It?
All in all, I think the process is worth it and was I was very happy with the authentic look, quality and weight of the product samples. Exterior also offers a reference list of suppliers/contractors near you. Prices and availability obviously vary, and I
almost passed out was a little shocked at pricing, but the cedar shake siding I chose runs $250/square (1oo square feet) with a two week special order time in my area.