Monday, October 19, 2015

House numbers

Getting ready for Open Studios last week, I realized that when we painted the house this summer we removed the house number and had not replaced it. Seemed kind of important for helping people find the studio.

When we moved onto this house (which, by the way, was 7 years ago yesterday) there were no numbers on the house. I hope you all know that, in case of emergencies requiring ambulances or fire trucks, it is really important to have a visible house number on your house. So I started looking for numbers that I liked and wouldn't cost a fortune. I'm fussy. Not just any old numbers would do. I wasn't finding anything I liked. One day I got a FedEx delivery and the driver snarled at me, "no HOUSE number!" So I made some numbers to use until I could find my mythical "perfect" numbers. I had a sheet of sticky-back black craft foam and I cut numbers from that and put them up above the garage door, and they stayed there until last spring when Ray peeled them off and started painting. Who would've guessed they would last that long? And, I have to say, they looked pretty good. And I still haven't found the perfect ones. So, off to Michael's for a sheet of sticky foam.

Using Illustrator on my computer, I found a typeface I liked and typed my numbers.


Two things I learned from my first round of home-made numbers:

  • Numbers that slant to the right are harder to place evenly with the slant angle matching. This time I picked a face that is vertical.
  • Numbers with perfectly straight lines and sharp corners are hard to cut perfectly. This time I picked a face with a hand-drawn look—slightly wobbly lines and rounded corners. Besides, I like this one and think it has a hammered iron look.

I enlarged the letters to the size I wanted, turned them into outlines (not necessary, but it saves ink when you print) and flipped them to mirror image.

Then I printed it out, glued it to the peel-off sheet on the back of the craft foam and cut each letter out.


I laid them out and arranged them so they would look good, then measured the arrangement and found the center point.


Then I took my letters and a stepladder outside and starting from the center I started peeling and sticking the numbers very lightly to the house. I stood back, looked hard to decide whether everything looked centered, even and correctly spaced, made some final adjustments, then pressed them down hard.


Ta Da! I like them. Maybe someday I will find those perfect, gorgeous house numbers. Maybe not. Either way, these, at about $1 total cost, do the job nicely.

PS, I know someone will ask why I didn't use contact paper or black tape or paint, or something else. I love two things about the foam. It has this velvety, unshiny matte texture and it has dimension, being about an 8th inch thick. It really could fool you into thinking it is cast or forged iron.



  1. I put up new exterior lights a few years back. The lights have hues of black, brown with a gold undertone. The house numbers are brass. I liked my current house numbers and was not happy with the typeface or the quality of any I found in the store. Sooo, I went to Home Depot and bought two colors of paint. I painted my old numbers to coordinate with the lights. To add extra dimension when installed, I placed washers behind the numbers to raise them off of the house.

  2. And another thing to like about these is how long they last! Metal numbers would have melted off before the plastic sticky one even look tired! You're a graphic designer through and through! Love this idea.

  3. Ingenious. I can't afford the Moderne numbers I need for my midcentury house. A perfect graphic designers solution. I'm off to Michaels.

  4. Good for you! Hope you get lots and lots of happy visitors. I do a fair amount of work with a dog rescue organization which means I do a fair amount of looking for house numbers that aren't there. And it's often even worse when looking for a business. I can really sympathize with the snarling of the Fedex guy.

  5. I love your house numbers! I do have a question; however. :)

    I'm the "Ordinance Enforcer" in my little boro (read: Mayor w/ no police force -- go me!)

    Does your area have an ordinance that states how large your house numbers must be? I have my boro's ordinance memorized: at least 4" tall, at least 1/2" thick/wide and in Arabic script (numerals, no words) in a contrasting color to the background.

    It looks like your numbers meet all of my borough's requirements .... but curious minds want to know.

    AND ... how many of your readers know that their borough might have a similar ordinance?