Homes by the numbers
Dr Anton Tantner, a history lecturer from the University of Vienna once said, “without irony, it is possible to call the house number one of the most important innovations of the era of Enlightenment, a century that was virtually possessed by order and classification.
Tantner’s work on the history house numbering might seem very academic, but it does highlight the importance placed on house numbering and the universality of the development of methods to identify houses and homesteads around the world, almost simultaneously, if not in a parallel manner of development.
It occurs for hundreds of years and even features in traditional myths and legends in the stories told in various cultures. Even today, as road names are changed, and suburbs grow and shrink with urban sprawl, gentrification, and development, the display of a number outside your home to show people which house is yours is something most people strive for, whether they live in a humble shack, or a mansion.
Even businesses use the numbering of their premises to reinforce their company brand, with some taking great pride in not only the number but also the name of the road in which their building is situated, proudly displaying it an elegant font on their road facing wall, gate, or signage.
As with other types of home decoration and adornment, the home numbering methods and fashions have changed over the years, from rudimentary numbering painted onto doors or walls, to the high tech digital signs and even glow in the dark signs that can be found today. If you follow a few basic rules you can have a house number which is both functional and decorative.
Dos and don’ts for house numbering
- Do ensure the number matches the overall design and ‘feel’ of your home.
- Don’t paint them on the front of a post box but rather on the side of the box that faces oncoming traffic.
- Do make sure that you house numbers are not obscured by trees, overgrown shrubs or other objects such as parked cars by displaying them clearly on the house (at eye level or higher), on the post box and even the kerb, so if one number becomes obstructed the others will still be visible.
- Don’t try to be too fancy with a font style in which the numbers aren’t clearly distinguishable or might be mistaken for other numbers. Also avoid Roman numerals which most people won’t be able to decipher.
- Do choose large numerals which are easy to hang, bold and wide enough to be noticed from a car driving towards your house on the street from either direction.
- Do choose solid materials. Most house numbers come in all-weather finishes and are sealed with lacquer or glaze.
- Do keep your house number in good nick following basic maintenance and repairs when needed.
- Don’t hang numbers too close to a light source that might outshine or overshadow them or opt for brass or bronze numbers if you can help it as they tend to become ‘invisible’ no matter what kind of light shines on them due to them blending in with any background.
Tips to make your numbers stand out
Stencil them onto a wall in reflective paint or commission a graffiti artist to paint a mural which incorporates your address.
Numbers don’t have to be horizontal, consider running them vertically, or in a stepped pattern, especially if your numbering at road level indicates the entrance to a home upstairs.
If your front door is close enough to the street, paint the number directly onto the door in a contrasting colour to the door.
‘Imprint’ the number of your address into concrete while it is still wet.