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Small Houses 1916

Posted January 22, 2014 by admin with No Comments in Architecture


REASONABLENESS and imagination, recognized by the Mediaeval builders as the underlying principles of all great architecture. should be as inseparably united in the small home of today us they were in the great cathedrals of old. For the little house is an expression of thought, though a very different kind of a one, as well us a cathedral. It is also an expression of art—if beauty be combined with usefulness. Art was born as has often been pointed out, when useful things were accurately and beautifully made were formed with vision. A square box strengthened with iron bands was a useful thing. When the bands were made in graceful forms and the box carved, then it became beautiful—a work of art. When a jar formed of earth to hold water was made in a graceful shape, then it became a work of art, A house staunchly made to defy enemies and shut out the rains was a satisfactory shelter, but it came not under the head of architecture until it was made shapely as well as stout, when doors and windows were set in symmetrical relation and the roof pitched to a pleasing angle. Common sense must go hand in hand with beauty, or as Michaelangelo says it: “Beauty must rest on necessities. The line of beauty is the result of perfect economy

Beauty must he organic, said the old architects. Outside embellishment can easily become a deformity unless introduced in the most sympathetic of ways. This truth seems especially obvious in the small house. Large houses carry adornment better than the small ones, but even they reach to highest dignity when left free from what is generally termed ornament. The very word ornament. Pater points out, indicates that it is non-essential. The small house depends almost entirely upon structural symmetry for its beauty. A little home built upon a common sense floor plan with a simple exterior in which a delicate imagination and sense of proportion is expressed, is one of the pleasantest objects to be seen in the whole world.

There are hundreds of thousands of little homes in America, yet a well balanced, attractive, common-sense one is almost an exception. Poorly formed houses, erratic roof lines, porch pillars heavy enough to do duty as bridge piers, yet upholding nothing but a light support for vines, chimneys of brick laid in a crazy bed-quilt pattern, painted in the most startlingly contrasting colors, make our towns and country-sides ludicrous rather than lovely.

Under the head of “reasonableness” comes an important question —that of the building material. Much has been written upon the economy of permanent construction (though apparently more costly), of the advantages of houses of brick, stone and cement over those of wood. There will always be people who prefer wood above all other house building material. They like its color, its sentiment, its historical association, like the texture of hand-split shingles or the effect of wide clapboards; and there will always be those who like houses of brick, of stone, of concrete, those materials which incorporate the promise of long life. which seem impregnable fortresses against the attacks of the destroyers fire, age and the elements. It is for the benefit of the latter host of home builders that we are presenting an important group of small house plans, plans such as the majority of people are looking for, plans which are not at all expensive, that are practical and convenient within and lovely and charming to look at.

One group of these houses is of that most historic and excellent material—brick. They are unusually good examples of the beauty and practicality of permanent, fireproof, small houses. Brick has been in favor with builders from time immemorial. The Romans as far back as the sixth century used brick resembling a tile somewhat as far as its thinness was concerned. English houses of brick built in twelve hundred and sixty are still standing, testifying to the Roman influence. But they were used even before that date, for in the first part of Stephen’s reign, eleven hundred and thirty-five, the leading citizens of London advocated the covering of houses by brick to lessen the risk of loss by fire, to prevent any more of the disastrous conflagrations that periodically swept London, fed by wooden houses thatched with straw.

Brick in addition to its fire-resisting character has the quality of pleasing color. This twofold advantage puts it high in favor with home builders. Besides its good color it has interesting texture and can be laid in many decorative ways. The crudity of the early hand-made unpainted brick gave to them a varied richness of color modulation and surface texture that was so much more pleasing than those one-toned ones smoothly painted in bright red, neatly striped with white, that modern makers have happily taken to imitating those varying tones of color that time and weather give. These modern brick are made in every possible modulation of reds, browns, tans, terra cottas and grays, and in varying degrees of rough and smooth texture so that the builder of the tiniest of little homes or the tallest of skyscrapers can select a tone and a quality embodying his ideal. These modern quality-brick are especially charming for the small house, for they save it from the raw newness that offends the eye, giving it instead the time mellowed air that puts it in sympathy with Nature.

Small Houses continued here…

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