Luxury Homes Period Design Classical Plans and Interiors by John Henry Architect
This forum is for anyone interested in discussing domestic architecture: style, interiors, historical development, current technology, new and old world precedent, site planning, geometry, period style applications for a modern lifestyle, gated community covenants, critiques, how to develop a proper design for any size and budget, etc. Post your questions, comments, and experiences here.
Friday, December 25, 2020
What inspired you to be an architect? What keeps you going today?
Owner, John Henry Masterworks Design International (1987–present)
When I was about 16 my parents drove us to a particular archaeological site near the Meander River in Turkey, quite close to the Aegean coastline. We were living in Izmir at the time. In the area of Miletus (the first Greek colonial city built on a grid- now under water) there was an amphitheater and nearby the city of Priene on a high hill. Also close by, was the city of Didyma and the great Temple of Apollo. We spent about an hour’s time in each area. I took photos on my film camera and looked very closely at the details. (many years later I took my young sons back to Didyma and posed them lying in the circumference of the colossal columns).
I had been to Ephesus, just a bit north of these three ancient Greek cities, and walked all over the marble streets and saw the Library of Celsus, in ruins at that time, and other reassembled buildings. One just marvels at handprints carved in the stone, the public latrines and baths, the agora, the amphitheater which was built on the natural curve of the hill.
As a youngster living in a ‘foreign’ land, seeing these amazing relics of an ancient civilization was difficult to comprehend. How do you imagine people living 2,800 years ago, and here you are walking the streets, touching the stones, feeling the Mediterranean sun, and trying to put it into any context at all. What was life like that long ago? What were people’s concerns, how long did they live, how did they die, what were their families and day to day life like?
These archaeological sites were the first images and impressions about architecture that informed my later thinking and approach. I suppose that if I had been born in New York or Paris, I would have been exposed to glass and steel high rises or Beaux Arts concoctions and French Renaissance palaces.
At that early stage in my life, I had not made any decisions about my future. I had a family friend who was an architect and maybe that planted a little seed. But it was after I grew tired of chemistry, physics, calculus, and political science - during my first two years of altruistic direction in college - that I knew what I wanted to do. I realized I was capable after only one year of design studio and some encouragement. After reading Frank Lloyd Wright’s Autobiography and glossing over his exquisite renderings I was totally hooked.
But it was something about that day spring day in Priene, where the tumbled marble columns lay warmed by the sun, I found a lovely stone carving crashed to the ground from high above and admiringly ran my hand over its delicate features, that something grabbed my artistic sensibility… I’ve never forgotten that moment.
What keeps me going is the chance to recall ancient wonders and combine them with modern practicality, into houses especially, that evoke something beyond a simple abode. I still design facades and interiors by hand and I think certain architectures must be created in this way. What keeps me going is not just an award or recompense, it is knowing that I have helped someone fashion a vision from paper into three dimensions, that they are pleased with the work. That sense of knowing you have fulfilled your duty to your client and that something out of the ordinary was created.
Fabulous French Luxury Home in Bonita Bay, Naples Florida Gulf waterfront
John Henry Architect is completing drawings for an 11,000 SF French styled luxury home on four levels in the Bonita Bay area north of Naples. The nearly 70 foot high structure will be built with concrete block walls and concrete floors on the first floor and wood frame construction on the upper levels.
The graceful horseshoe stairs lead to the main entry under the four columned portico on the second floor. This level includes a Grand Stair, Reception tower sitting, Formal Dining, His and Her Studies, large Kitchen with Pantry and setup area, Formal Living, Breakfast -- the latter main rooms overlooking a pool below connected via spiral stair and gulf views. An elevator connects all three levels. There is a Family Stair as well connecting four levels, the fourth being a lookout with Bar and Balcony. There is also a Guest Bedroom Suite and Laundry on the Second level.
The Third level is exclusively the Master Suite with large Bath and Closets, Spa, His and Her toilets, Laundry, and His and Her Dens. A catwalk offers views below and access to another round sitting area in the Tower.
The First or Ground Floor contains a complete living Suite with Kitchen, Dining, Family open to the pool deck, Exercise Room, Study, and two Bedrooms with baths ensuite.
It is with a great measure of ambivalence that I
write this.The reason being: I grew up
in a fascinating land rich with ancient archaeological treasures, and my
university training taught me to follow and love only Modernist tenets.I appreciate both sides of this polemic.I see great and poor design on both
sides.But over the years I noticed an
extreme bias of one side against the other and only in the past few did the ‘disenfranchised’
side respond with intelligence and force.This mirrors our current political stasis where one side, “tolerant”,
actually does not wish to hear at all from the other.The side marginalized for years and years may
now even see legislation supporting their view and preference.
I graduated with a Master in
Architecture from Texas A&M University in 1978. As Rush Limbaugh likes to say:
our ‘minds were full of mush’. Students absorb whatever their professors
espouse. We went to college with hopes and dreams and expected reality to
accept what we had learned and the world to hire us to exercise our newly
acquired skills and theories. This seemed to work (the modern approach)
in the commercial world but not in the residential.And as clinical as my Bauhaus inspired
training seemed to be, there was never a political connection to style or
design.In fact, all personal beliefs,
other than design theory, was not discussed in any of my classes.As we slowly realized, in the art and
architecture world of the 40s to present day especially, things were not as
neutral and antiseptic as we were led to believe.
Architecture was supposed to be apolitical. It
was a process, explained by our Gropius educated Dean, that was a culmination
of analysis and problem-solving.We
never heard it connected with any particular dogma other than purely an
academic development based on technology.
The history of architecture
before the advent of Modernism and the International Style was treated as a
series of notable construction adventures by primitives to fantastical
expressions and devotions to Greek and Roman gods and Caesars, to 17th
and 18th-century monarchs, despots, to Fascists, mixed in with a mish-mash
of experimental classical revival styles, mostly based on the Western Tradition
– but finally abrogated -- that culminated in the most acceptable manner of
building from the 1940s to the present day – namely, Modernism.
It wasn’t clearly explained why
this break occurred, or why the previous 2,500-year culmination of creative
enterprise was abandoned completely except that economics and expediency were
the main culprits. And there was absolutely no return.We never asked why.The previous two and a half millennia were
reduced to museum curiosities, never to be repeated. Or else.
One did not design any building with classicizing
features in the Universities after the theories of a group of European
architects made their way through academia (and were supported by big pocketed
investors/developers). To go classical/traditional was out of style,
backward thinking, against the best theories of architecture; it was
verboten. In fact, only Notre Dame finally turned to a full curriculum
with an emphasis on classical architecture. The frou-frou of traditional
architecture was replaced by a machine ethic expressed in glass, steel and
concrete. It was ‘honest’.
Let’s fast forward to the recent
news that the Trump Administration is looking to put in place an emphasis, and
legislative guidelines, favoring traditional architecture for new government
buildings. While architects in general may find this a seriously rude
signal that would stifle creativity, architects of strong ‘progressive’ minds
are calling this a crusade against the free expression they have enjoyed for so
many years but especially an affront to their beloved Modernist beliefs and
self-declared unassailable conventions.
We have finally confirmation, evident from several
recent politically charged critiques, that Modernism – and its progressive
offshoots – is indeed an architecture of the left. Like the left-leaning
media on which we have accepted as the norm, Modernism and its genetic progeny
have pervaded our environment for 80 years or more, has infected nations
worldwide with its seemingly inert tenets, and is rarely challenged.
Supported by academia and the leftist art world and glossies, it has been the
de facto norm. The inescapable conclusion is that artistic expression,
like political thought, has been governed by the left for decades now.
In a recent U.K. based opinion piece seen on
failedarchitecture.com, the writers claim that traditional architecture is
favored by the ‘European Right’. It follows that the left prefers
Modernism, no? The article goes on to say that “There is clearly a reaction
taking place against modern architecture, led by conservative voices and
members of the New Right” (underline is in the article). The authors
then label right-wing architecture critics as a ‘motley crew’, and consequently
that proponents of classicism are white supremacists. They contrast
traditional architectural expression against modernism, warning that the latter
“…faithfully mirrors the ambiguities, complexities, and struggles of the
contemporary urban experience, to be replaced with a singularly white, European
image of human progress.”
Where have we heard this malarkey before? Why
in our recent Democrat vs. Republican dialogues. The right is racist, the
left inclusive, etc. What we have experienced since the 40s has been an
intolerance of Modernists to accept any argument favoring Traditional
architecture. This is no doubt a parallel of the current political
The web article above is just one
of many recent clearly voiced associations of Modern art and architecture with
the left and Traditional with the right. The left has disguised its
agenda for over half a century in our American politics and public realm, employing
aesthetics and media/education to gently but forcefully assert their nascent
and overt programs which are actually politically charged with clear
This connection occurred to me several years ago
because the arts intelligentsia, headed by the left through any logical
accounting, has marginalized traditional fine arts for years – sculpture,
painting, architecture – in favor of a free form aesthetic that eschews
ambiguity, impressive self-referential theoretics, to nihilism.
The more recent ‘progressive’
Modern architecture, since its inception has made a point to stray as far away
from any notion of classicism or cultural heritage or even common conception of
‘building’. From amoebas on stilts to crumpled cans and wavy disconnected
metallic surfaces, with jarring incoherent interiors that appear to be inspired
by ‘20s German film sets (as in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari which was
said to ‘explore the twisted realm of repressed desires, unconscious fears, and
deranged fixations’ – Anton Kaes), the imagery is an anti-architecture in the
traditional sense, evidently against the 2,500-year tradition inherited from
Athens and Rome and then taken up by French and other European royalty and
The left has co-opted the arts,
news, and media in order to overwhelm the sensibilities of our citizenry,
educate our children in the most liberal mores, but especially to crush the
right’s core beliefs. The left’s views on family values, reproduction and
sexual mores, immigration, policing, governance, and politics in general is
reflected in the often-dystopian and bizarre images of architecture for private
and public commercial buildings that have been erected in the last 80 years.
The funny thing is, after
graduating and starting my practice, I noticed how rare modern design was
represented in private housing. I was subconsciously disappointed on one
hand, yet on the other, happy to design traditional houses! (I had to
take on an ongoing research project into the great ‘Western Tradition’ - Classicism,
purchasing hundreds of texts and visiting/experiencing/documenting countless
landmark buildings in Europe and in the United States, as the underlying theory
and proper execution was not sufficiently explained to me and millions of other
architects matriculating under Bauhaus ‘Start From Zero’ design principles.) In
fact, apart from Modern revivals every few years, the preponderance of private housing
– large and small – has been in traditional and regional styles.
Four walls and a pitched roof seemed to be sufficient, from small
Medieval dwelling to early Renaissance palaces.The left absolutely abhors a traditional pitched roof.It really is comical to what lengths they
will go to avoid it.
Like Trump’s large middle-class following and
appeal, the humble traditional looking house with its recognizable (and
endearing) details and proportions is preferred to anything that resembles a
spaceship. The disconnect with Modern public and commercial architecture
in the late 60s was finally answered by the profession’s academic’s
cartoon-like Post-Modern designs. These also failed to hit the mark for a
true Traditional architecture but they could not go back to the origins and
replicate the exact proportion, details, etc. due to an expected leftist ruling
critical media backlash. Beauty and proportion were not in the Modernist
vocabulary. The idea was that anyone could train their ‘eye-mind-hand’
and create suitable buildings and become architects. The notion of talent
was not discussed. Solve the ‘problem’ and the result will have an innate
‘correct’ or acceptable form.
Houses with pitched roofs rarely
have the problems of modern houses with typically flat roofs. Traditional
houses have less window and more wall and thus are more energy efficient.
They have fewer wild intersecting planes and dissimilar structural elements and
thus less prone to long term upkeep and repair; they are easier and more
economical to build. The same advantages are documented in traditional
commercial and public buildings. The costs to build the crazy distorted
music venues, museums, and other privately funded projects is 2 to 5 times that
of a Euclidean design and create a host of problems not found in traditional
architecture including how to build, where to start even, how to seal against
the weather, how to make accessible for long term maintenance, etc.
My idol in school was Frank Lloyd Wright, a fierce
individualist and the model of Ayn
Rand’s hero in The Fountainhead.
Wright was also an avowed socialist. He eventually abandoned his Usonian
houses to beat the Modernists at their own game. He capitulated to the
left. Philip Johnson reintroduced an all-glass house, based on Mies’s
model, and influenced a generation of architects. He then dallied in Post
Modern design, working-in traditional elements to his large projects later in
his career. In the mid-40s however, Johnson was invited by the
Nazis to Warsaw and joined the high brass to watch the city get bombarded and
burn to the ground.Others, like Corbu
were fascist sympathizers.
My first shock that there was no neutral
design world was evident in a photo published in a well circulated trade
magazine of high profile modern and post-modern architects supporting gay
rights in the late ‘70s. I couldn’t rationalize this anomaly, as I had
never read any architect taking such a politically charged stand, and only
years later realized how prevalent leftist liberal leanings were shared by so
many artistic professionals.
Classical architecture has been used by despots,
namely Nazis and Italian Fascists, to impress the oppressed. Classicism
though was adopted by our early founders to express the freedom of democracy
reflected in our greatest and widely recognized monuments and public/government
buildings including the Jefferson Memorial, U.S. Capitol, and White House.
These and other historical forms derived from ancient and European architecture
were adopted and replicated/mimicked by 18th and
19th-century American architects into the fabric of our towns and
cities. They are preferred by many over the completely out of scale and
anti-urban, anti-human scaled Modern monstrosities.
It is time to Make Architecture
Great Again. If Traditional architecture represents the Right and we have
been made to suffer for so many years by the insipid and overbearing blank and
scale-less buildings ascribed to Modernism and thus the Left, then the public
deserves a reconnection to a historical progression of the fine arts
exemplified in government buildings and other monuments, that was severed
after the industrialized building systems (though well employed at the time) to
quickly rebuild the catastrophes of two world wars.
Is this payback, is this
retribution? Is it time to get even? Perhaps. But I would
call it a long-awaited correction and a Return to Tradition to establish a more
human connection between buildings and the people who must occupy and be
inspired by them. We have had enough of ‘Federal Modernism’,
deconstruction and its cousins, and are tired of having our sensibilities
ordered by the left without question. A push towards an at least
acceptable option of having period style historical buildings erected by our
tax dollars is not out of the question.
But there should be no question
at this point, that the architecture of the left is a social and political
statement, namely Modernism; that like ‘blue state’ politics, it represents
liberalism socialism, and tends towards even communism.Traditional architecture is then deduced to
be supported by the right, or conservatives.In this country, the blasphemous arts and modern architecture are
Democrat supported media platforms.Republicans, on the whole, support traditional forms of art and construction,
prefer it, and should have the right to build the same for public installations.It would be nice if the Antifa - left art
critics were to shut up for a protracted period – and get out of the way.Executive Order is welcomed.Mr. President: like the fake news, we are
tired of being served Fake Architecture for so many years.Let’s achieve a more fair and balanced
distribution of design theory and practice.
What would a world where
beautiful buildings predominate look like? Something like this:
The painting above is by Michael
Gandy, 1820.It is a landscape
representing English architect John Soane’s unbuilt work.Can you imagine an alternative universe built
solely of Modern style buildings?I
would fear it.
Henry is based in Orlando, Florida.He
holds a Bachelor or Environmental Design and Master of Architecture from Texas
A&M University.He spent his early
childhood through high school in Greece and Turkey, traveling in Europe --
impressed by the ruins of Greek and Roman cities and temples, old irregular
Medieval streets, and classical urban palaces and country villas.His Modernist formal education was a basis
for functional, technically proficient, yet beautiful buildings.
drawings and work above were all designed by John Henry, drawn by hand, except
as noted otherwise.
Orlando has six Historic Districts. Any new construction or remodeling has to be presented to the Historic Preservation Board for review in order to judge compliance with regulations on style, colors, massing, setbacks, permeability ratio, fenestration, etc.
John Henry was asked to design a 2,800 sf bungalow Craftsman style home on Fern Creek Avenue in the Lawsonia Historic District. This is a narrow rectangular but deep lot just west of downtown Orlando. It is flanked by similar period-style homes.
The contractor, Main Street Builders Construction, requested a front porch (which can project 8 feet into the front setback) and a two-story symmetrical design that mirrors the majority of Craftsman-style homes that were built in the area and around the country. The garage is set back behind the house.
The house has an Office, Master Suite, Kitchen, Dining, and Family Room on the first floor with three bedrooms upstairs, two with a Jack and Jill bath, plus a Bonus Room. The color scheme was an all-white siding and trim with black window frames and slate-colored roof.
The requirement was to prepare and submit these Preliminary drawings to the Board within a 10-day deadline in order to meet the monthly review schedule. This was done and the product is as shown.
There are some compromises to make when you build on a narrow lot and have to work with symmetry. For example: all the front rooms MUST have equally sized windows to match. Even upstairs and around the sides of the house you should have vertically oriented windows of the same proportion. In this case there were four windows to size between the Foyer, Powder Room, Master Bath and Closet. Then on the second floor windows must line up as well! You have to have egress in case of fire so a 3 ft by 6 ft window set at 8 ft off of the finished floor gives you a 2 ft wall to climb over.
Period houses like this were built all over the country at the turn of the century and went far into the 50s. They also include other styles that are regional or European inspired. One aspect about the Craftsman style is a broad front porch with round or square columns on pedestals. The color combinations are endless with lap siding and trim boards. There were stucco and brick compositions and some were assymetrical. They had large windows for their time and the Preservation Board looks for a minimal 'transparency'.
There is a quixotic appeal of the wonderful dwellings, villas, and palaces that originate in the lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea by American homeowners, architects, and builders. In most cases, the simplicity of form and geometric integrity, clean and bright harmony of color, and earthy materials seem irresistible -- to love and emulate.
While these houses originate in a warm dry climate, they are reconstructed in spirit from the sunny humid climates of Florida and Texas, to the drier states of Arizona, New Mexico, and California. And they have been found in the rainiest and coldest of areas as well.
When one visits Turkey, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, France or Morocco, the impression of smaller houses built next to each other, whitewashed, with multicolored roofs, is simply charming to behold.
But there are differences of course due to culture and building practice, availability of materials, etc. which culminate in a regional or local style. And historically, the further back one goes the more simple and primitive the forms. In the southern and eastern Mediterranean, the roofs are often flat and act as rainwater catches for potable storage. Dwellings are smaller interlocking squares with no pitched roofs. The absence of any color is due to the limewash that maintains cleanliness, is bug resistant, mold resistant, and reflects heat.
On the other side of the Sea, where a more (northern) European tradition of pitched roofs prevail, you have the same small houses, now with single pitch tiled roofs, or sometimes just sloping roofs. Stone walls in many cases have not been plastered but those that are will also be painted. Skipping forward to the Renaissance a new sensibility about design as a philosophical art developed among master masons. They used the same materials to design structures that now were inspired by things they found in the ground: Greek and Roman temples.
These temples became iconic to Western Civilization. The perfect symmetry was mimicked from small rural hamlets to the great churches of the southern European countries up to the northern bounds. The 'Mediterranean' ideal changed bit from region to region depending on climate, materials, workmanship, and level of enlightenment.
Fast forward to the last 100 years in the United States and you will find that stucco, stone, and tile - with wood and iron details - were the basis for small entry level houses, custom homes, and large luxury estates which borrowed exacting details from Italian villas and manors. But they were not all symmetrical. In fact, due to the development of haciendas from Colonial Spanish settlement, these freewheeling asymmetrical working ranches and estates inspired a more relaxed and informal design genre that was picked up in the new California and transmogrified in other southern states especially.
In Florida during the 1920s, Addison Mizner combined Iberian motifs successfully and used his own ingenuity to create magical estates in the Palm Beach area. A little earlier in Newport, Rhode Island, the Vanderbilts asked Richard Morris Hunt to create a replica of an Italian Genovese palace. Other formal Renaissance inspired estates were built on the East Coast and in other areas where Gilded Age millionaires could afford the size and extensive detailing in and out. Often these were clad in limestone or even marble.
While all the Old World prototypes were built of stone walls clad with stucco and roofed with ceramic tile over wood timbers, here in the United States wood framing more often comprises the main structure with a cheaper stucco finish and often concrete tile roofs on wood trusses. In some areas concrete block is used for the perimeter walls, which allows the best bonding for exterior plaster.
Interiors of U.S. custom houses are a smorgasbord ranging from ultra contemporary to select period details in fireplaces, moldings, and some stone flooring. The 'contemporary Mediterranean' style allows a free hand in complex roofing and usually asymmetrical facades due to typically tight urban or suburban lot restrictions. It is very difficult to create a fully symmetrical design with garages and the number of rooms limiting the plan on a smaller lot.
The Romans introduced the arch and this structural element, played against horizontal members, has been called the Palladian Arch. The Greeks employed no arches in their temples. Romans invented concrete as well and were able to build public buildings efficiently with thick brick walls filled with a concrete stubble.
Graceful full round arches are an Italian Renaissance motif and with arched windows below, create an iconic 'Mediterranean' style. Use of columns, not as on a temple, but to frame windows and doors or used rhythmically at the front and rear porches, is the second important motif. These can be simple or very detailed. When they are decorative it is important to wrap similar complex details in the moldings around doors and windows, and as demarcations of floors upon floors on the facade, etc.
Wood rafters and balconies are more a Spanish Colonial motif than an Italian one. In buildings of stature, the entire facade and perimeter of the house were finished in either a stone veneer or lime stucco. Wood rafters under the eaves are seen in all Northern Mediterranean houses and they are often exposed inside and carved in a decorative manner in higher standing villas and palaces.
The ceramic tile of southern European houses is an expensive roofing choice now, supplanted in many entry-level to medium quality homes with similar profiled concrete roofing tile. The choice of color and mix allows the replication of a few hundred years ofreplacing hand worked and fired ceramic tile based on nearby silt deposits at the rivers' edge. Roofs can be open gable or hipped.
Towers and other roof ornamentation is appropriated from larger period villas and palaces, some fortified elements as well. A playful hand can create several different combinations of classical details and simple walls and fenestration (the order and placement of windows).
All together the modern Mediterranean house offers a great palette of design elements, floor plans, interesting facades, and interiors. Certain treatments and profiles are regionally recognized styles. So that we now see smaller elemental designs in starter homes to an eclectic mix of towers, chimneys, porches, arches and columns, etc. for mid-level to upper echelon custom homes. Sometimes the results can be quite exotic!