Please help identify the architectural style of my house.

come on, eke. surely you know that neither the designers of 1920s builder houses nor the designers of today's builder houses were trained at all. they're not - and weren't - architects!

my house - built in about 1918 - was a developer/builder house, cobbled together from builder knowledge and images of craftsman houses that might have actually been by architects - or not. still, it turned out pretty well because materials and methods weren't yet standardized to lowest-common-denominator level, fit for the untrained laborer.

the difference in design quality over time is a difference in education and the triumph of mass production (unrelated to the bauhaus' goals for mass production). those making houses have slowly - over decades and decades - lost any regard for architectural quality and have figured out how to dress up cheap construction in gewgaws to help them sell. 

Jan 10, 13 6:52 pm
Erik Evens (EKE)

I don't agree.  The house in the initial post is not the way it is because of the "old fashioned ways" being obsolete.  The builders techniques of the 1930's are not that different from how houses are built today.  The difference is that the architect of the 1920's knew about traditional proportions and detailing, about "the way a proper house should look", and the architect of today's builder's house has no clue about that, because the school they went to did not consider any of that important.

Jan 10, 13 6:53 pm
Erik Evens (EKE)

BTW, I worked for years for a firm that pretty much all we did was design production houses for builders all over the country, so the statement that today's builder's houses are designed by untrained people is not correct.

Jan 10, 13 6:56 pm

the house builders i know didn't go to school to learn anything about how anything should look, modern or otherwise. they learned how to buy the stuff the building supply places sell and install them quickly. it's a tradition, of a sort, but completely unrelated to our understanding of design traditions or modernism. it's a new vernacular.

Jan 10, 13 6:58 pm

eke, you're saying 'designer.'  steven, you're saying 'builder.'  we should come together on that one.

my house is 1947 in all its post-war glory.  i believe this was the beginning of spec housing, where they dropped a bunch of copies of the same house (in 3 styles) down the street and the people to live in them came later.  they didn't know how to do some of the short-cuts common today, but you can kind of tell they were thinking about them.

also, no plywood.  and no romex. 

Jan 10, 13 7:40 pm

The house in the original post looks the way it does mostly because of Post-Modernism. And house building techniques pre-WWII and house building techniques post-WWII are different. From 1958 to 2006 I lived in a rowhome designed and built in 1938. There were parquet floors in the living room and dining (standard) and all hardwood upstairs--all floors shalacked (sp?). The walls were composed of very strong, rock-hard sheetrock (literally) with a coat of plaster on top. I now live in a house designed and built in 1975, and the space and quality doesn't even begin to compare--all done via mass-production at the lowest common denominator level.

Jan 10, 13 7:49 pm
Sarah Hamilton
Well this thread got interesting. I can see validity in both sides of this argument. Why don't architecture schools require at least one semester of beaux artes training? We certainly learned about it in history classes, and I don't think it would hWell this thread got interesting. I can see validity in both sides of this argument. Why don't architecture schools require at least one semester of beaux artes training? We certainly learned about it in history classes, and I don't think it would hurt. As much as architects and students love the sleek glass and square design of today, there does seem to be more demand for the "traditional" house.
Jan 10, 13 8:07 pm
I'm not of today's schools, but we DID learn to design in a historical manner. Correctly. It's about as popular to work that way as it is to design modern houses.

The buider market is not about traditional/historic at all; it's about familiarity and the illusion of luxury. More stuff, more 'curb appeal'. As efficiently and cheaply as possible.
Jan 10, 13 9:23 pm
Erik Evens (EKE)

What school did you go to, Steven? I graduated from school in 1982, and the only education on any classical design precepts I received was in history class, that boring class in the evening where the professor drones on about an endless series of slides.

Jan 11, 13 12:21 am
Erik Evens (EKE)

I think that the builders market is about producing buildings that appeal to people in the marketplace, instead of buildings that appeal to other architects. Instead of looking down on those people and deciding that they are pursuing mindless faux luxury and familiarity (as if that were a bad thing), I think we would be much better served to try to understand why these buildings, as poor as they are as architecture, appeal to people, and try to meet that need. Otherwise this profession will remain forever estranged from the public it professes to want to serve. My 2c

Jan 11, 13 12:29 am

@steven:  cheap and efficient is also due to (government subsidized) sprawling infrastructure - which opens up more "urban" amenities to more properties and land area - so we're building a lot more individual houses than we used to proportionally to the number of people - which I think is the major contributing factor.


we can lament all we want about how stuff back then was higher quality - but really it's mostly due to bad policy - if you go to places where there are functional limits on where someone can build new development (meaning, the developer has to foot the entire bill for putting in roads and other services), invariably the quality of work and "aesthetic" of the building is much higher because more people are paying attention (and there's more demand for higher quality skilled craftsmanship).  once you spread everything out, less people are paying attention - and I think it diminishes a particular set of values on aesthetic - houses become more a representation of function and maybe some vague allusion to aesthetic.

Jan 11, 13 12:45 am

The architecture of the house seems awesome. Especially it was made of bricks. It looks unique. I hope that all of the materials used have passed the standard quality because nowadays we cannot predict what will happen - just like earthquakes and everything.

Better if you have a garden outside to make it looking refreshing. Just a thought!

Jan 11, 13 2:16 am

All things are relative.  My grandfather’s house from the twenties is so poorly constructed, I’m surprised it still stands.

My Mom’s house was built in ’64.  This house (original post) was completed in 2012.  It is so much better constructed than hers.  Oak flooring throughout, custom cabinets, etc.  But those are the things people see upon entering the house.  How was the house built?  Are there ‘modern day’ shortcuts?  You know it.  Plywood?  Aplenty.  Sheet rock, etc.  The builder builds to make money, not lose it.  There are, however, up-to-date double paned windows, insulation ratings, efficient heating/cooling, and efficient plumbing fixtures, etc. 

Were there better constructed homes in the past?  There is no doubt.  Even my brother’s house, a huge mid-century modern, was built by the architect for his family.  It is built like a Sherman Tank.  Overbuilt to a fault.  It should have civil defense signs indicating it as the community fallout shelter (I’m not kidding). 

I know the previous posts have confused designer with builder.  Knowing this house (original post) was constructed by a merchant builder, it certainly was not designed by any builder.  The interior layout is way too clever to have been done by anyone but a professional designer.  They made excellent use of space.  Is it a true style of anything?  No, it’s a hovel, remember?

BTW, I’m so glad to hear about the houses people here live in.  For a day or so, I had the impression all architects worth their salt lived in an ivory tower (Palladian, no less), and that I should torch my place and find a cave to live in.  That way I could be more in touch with my true architectural self.

Jan 11, 13 2:47 am

My grandfather’s house from the twenties is so poorly constructed, I’m surprised it still stands

i'm pretty sure it still stands because it was not poorly constructed.  i've seen a few houses in my neighborhood where the foundations all but caved in due either to the contractor not quite knowing how rebar is supposed to work (not common anymore) or various water infiltration problems (still common i think).  your grandfather's nearly 100 year old house may be showing a bit of wear, and some of the details may look a little sketchy, but a house that stood that long and been subject to all the weather events of a century is a great testament to good craftsmanship.  i bet the wood floors in a hundred year old house are a hell of a lot better than your new oak too.  they just don't grow trees like they used to.

having said that, i do like sheet rock much better than plaster and lathe.  also, i like romex.  ungrounded knob and tube wiring sucks.  screw in fuses suck too.

i think the motivation behind building a cheap house today is that people want cheap houses.  most people would take bigger instead of better any day, or they would spend extra on the faucet they can see instead of the structure/infrastructure they can't see.

Jan 11, 13 7:34 am

i bet the wood floors in a hundred year old house are a hell of a lot better than your new oak too.

This.  And...

most people would take bigger instead of better any day


Many old houses have true 2x12 joists of old growth wood that is much denser and tighter grain that today's lumber.  You can run plumbing through those old joists all over the place and they still barely deflect.

I for one can just feel it when a house is well- vs. poorly-constructed.  It sounds crunchy-granola-starfire-psychic-friend-ish but the fact is I've been assessing houses rigorously for 25 years and my body can now tell, via sound reflection, air pressure changes, smell, and a host of other tiny sensations whether a building is solid or not.

(You all can do this too.  it's not some special power, it's just something you have to remind yourself to be aware of.)

Jan 11, 13 8:52 am

Knowing this house (original post) was constructed by a merchant builder, it certainly was not designed by any builder.  The interior layout is way too clever to have been done by anyone but a professional designer.  They made excellent use of space.

post plans + pics plz k thks

Jan 11, 13 9:59 am
vado retro

sitting on the sofa with coffee and cats, in the sunny living room of our,what's my architecuiral style? yeah craftsman bungalow circa 1921, enjoying this thread.

Jan 11, 13 10:33 am

curtkram and Donna, No doubt you are right about the construction of my grandfather’s house.  Definitely right that they don’t grow trees like they used to.  For seven years prior to moving here (Nashville area), we lived in a house on a farm outside Charlottesville, VA.  The main house on the farm, a Georgian Revival, had what could best be described as ‘delicate’ columns – very ornate.  One winter, while the owners were away for the season, the water pipes on the second floor froze and broke, with the water running across the ceiling of the front porch and making a water feature down those columns.  The fella who restored them was very smart.  He knew to only replace the part of the columns ruined by the water.  And he used mahogany.  He knew the columns, that were original to the house, were from old growth wood.  To completely replace them (with new wood) would mean replacing them again in another twenty years.

If you live in a well-built older home like vado retro (certainly to be envied), you have a home constructed of the best materials.  Anything modern day, no matter how well built, is inferior even in the basic wooden components (not to mention the plywood, sheet rock, etc.).

FRaC, unfortunately, I don’t have a floor plan (or even photos) to upload.  I will try and remedy this soon.

Jan 11, 13 1:38 pm

OK, I thought the knocks I took early on in this thread were due to the bastard style of the house -- not due to its lack of having a professional design it.  Of course a professional designed it.  There was never any question of that.  The fella who built this house is pretty good, but he’s in the wrong business if he designed this house, as well. 

As for its lack of an identifiable style, every style took something from styles before it.  I love Craftsman Bungalows, but I’m sure the first neighbors to see one go up across the street wondered where the hell that came from.

People here seem quick to bash Home Depot and Lowes, but where else do you buy materials to build the houses you folks design?  I’m assuming you design houses.

It’s true that the components are not the same as they were back in the day, but when you build you have to use what is available today.  Otherwise, you don’t build and you don’t need architects to design houses that aren’t being built.

And there are different qualities of construction.  Fortunately, we bought from a high end builder.  There’s plywood, but not particleboard.

And if you think this house is cookie cutter, you may need to go back to school.  I may not know architecture, but I can tell you it is not.  If you need me to show you cookie cutter, we won’t have to drive very far for me to show you cookie cutter city.

The last house we lived in was on a large estate with the main house having been designed by George Snell of Boston in the 1850s.  The house we lived in, also from the 1850s, was certainly designed by an architect though I wouldn’t know if it was Snell.  It had tall ceilings, tall windows, a huge front hall, and a handsome portico – and the house was a charmer.  We lived there for years and loved it.  However, if I had to choose, I would take this house.  It’ll never be on the cover of Architectural Digest, but it certainly is comfortable.

I appreciate all the helpful input.  I really only came here to see what the majority of the style in the house was so I could move forward with the yard, and the interior.  And I probably will hire a professional.  I just needed my question answered.  I got beat up a little bit in the process.  You folks obviously are used to rude posts.  Fortunately, I don’t have to stay around here.  Specifically to the ‘grouchy folks’, If I had to deal with you to build a superior home, I’d rather not.  I do pity your clients.

Jan 12, 13 10:16 am

we're a bitter group mdrhea.  i'd like a nicer house like yours, but alas the profession of architecture is not going allow that to happen.

most residential houses are cookie cutter.  it's really harder than you might think to find a house less than 30 or so years old not based on a model house in a development somewhere.  however, most cheap cookie cutter houses would have vinyl siding and a huge garage door right in the front, such as the following stock plans.  yours is a nice upgrade.,+2+bath+Victorian+style+house+plan.htm

in addition to the garden and interior, you can look at a large wrap-around porch to the right.  the wrap-around porch was quite common in victorian houses, which is what i think your house is (i'm going to say victorian wrapped around a ranch floor plan, but haven't seen the floor plan). of course theres probably a bedroom on that side, and if it's not the master bedroom a large porch might not make sense.  it would be nice if your entry walked into a kitchen/dining room.

Jan 12, 13 10:44 am

Wow! Love the architecture. I hope it passes the standard of house construction, the materials and everything. I am now studying about safety engineering one of my reference is I just saw what you have posted here and I relate it to what I am studying right now. Hope you have idea to add here... Thanks..

Jan 15, 13 3:20 am

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