Sunday, December 2, 2007

What size home will work best for a period design?

Nearly all sizes of homes, small or large, are amenable for a period look. Of course if you are looking to create a castle effect you should budget for a larger plan. However the fields of France, England, Germany and Italy are littered with small versions of larger palaces, castles, and manor houses.
What is more important is the geometry of the plan rather than the total square footage.
Blocky rectangularand symmetrical homes tend to work with any Renaissance Italian or French style, and these can be downsized to very simple plans. Medieval castles tended to be assymetrical. Brissac was a Renaissance remodeling of an earlier turreted castle.
Plans with several bay windows and reentrant angles would work nice in a Gothic revival style.
I think we can include Craftsman style homes which were rectangular and then made more meandering by turn of the century architects such as McKim, Mead and White whose domestic architecture included very symmetrical and meandering plan layouts.
When building on tight lots it is preferred to hide garages in the rear via a side driveway or alley access as true period style homes rarely had bulky projecting wings forward of the main body unless these were symmetrically disposed and minor in massing relative the center area.

Since most of your experience has been in Europe and Turkey and most of the "Gentleman Homes or Estates" were/are rather large. What about period size? For example, a period dining room at Blenheim is certainly different than a period Banquet Hall, How do you properly size a "period room?"


Actually there is no real set limit up or down regarding the size of a period house or room.
Everything is scaled larger or smaller, which is the beauty of designing a traditional house with period details.
You simply have to know in about which 50-100 years time segment you are trying to emulate.
Of course there are very grand examples of Louis XIV for example, but much smaller homes can adopt this style and general treatment in terms of symmetry, moldings, and general proportions.
There are a few 'ideal' dimensions that the Italians developed based on width and length to height of a room. So a smaller room will have a shorter ceiling. Blenheim has double height rooms based on very wide and long floor areas.
Each room has a scale starting with the doors and windows which help direct the size of moldings at base, ceiling and wall interesections and ceiling treatments, chandelier and torchiere sizes, flooring pattern, etc.


John Henry Architect said...

Building or buying existing house? Most people buy a resale for several reasons: they can see what they are going to live in up front, they know the exact cost, the builder (if a spec) may have an attractive financing plan, the house is in the right place without the option of an empty lot on which to build, time is of the essence, and no experience with the custom design and build process -- perhaps considered too risky.
Those who design/build custom generally have a better credit rating, would rather build exactly what they want in a plan and style where there is no existing stock that fulfills their lifestyle needs, are willing to spend the time and energy to get their dream home, are not afraid to start with an architect through the creative process and proceed through bidding and construction, look forward to an adventure which will be more satisfying in the end!

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