Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Houses in Which We Live No. 1: Cape Cod and Craftsman

Now THAT'S a tree house.
Beaux Arts. Colonial. Gothic. Modern. Queen Anne. Tudor. All names for house styles. Those involved in building design often throw around these words, along with a plethora of others—but what, exactly, do they mean? You may see a photo of a house you like captioned “Cape Cod.” You may think to yourself—“Aha! This style of house must be popular in Massachusetts.” You would be right about that. Just as you would be right in thinking that Elizabethan style homes have something to do with Queen Elizabeth and that Ranch style homes are, quite often, found on ranches. If you’re anything like me (and I certainly don’t expect you to be—I like you just the way you are), you may be curious about the deeper history beneath these labels. Now, I’m sure my History of Architecture professor was thorough, and I do distinctly remember learning about Bauhaus, but a lot of other details from that class have grown strangely fuzzy. And not—“Hey, if I just cut off the moldy piece maybe I can still eat this cheese” kind of fuzzy. More like—“Hey, if I just pull my hat down over my eyes maybe I can have a quick nap” kind of fuzzy. So, I invite you to join me as I refresh my memory, and hopefully learn something new, about the houses in which we live. I’ll begin with two styles that are of particular interest to me—because I’m using them for inspiration in the design of my own house: Cape Cod and Craftsman.  

Traditional Cape Cod style home.
Cape Cod
First built by seventeenth-century English colonists in, you guessed it, New England, the Cape Cod home was originally popular because of its practicality. Although modern versions of the Cape Cod often borrow from other styles, incorporating features like wrap-around porches and more decorative elements, the early incarnations were plain and easy to build. The Cape Cod’s simplicity encouraged a revival of the style after the Second World War and, in the late 1940s, the real estate development company Levitt & Sons began turning out as much as thirty, pre-fabricated Cape Cod houses per day.  (Not-so-fun-fact: The Levitt’s business venture earned William Levitt, one of the “& Sons,” the nickname “The King of Suburbia” and he is often blamed for North America’s current infatuation with suburban sprawl.) Although part of the Cape Cod’s legacy is mass-production, it is still considered a “quaint” style and is popular far beyond America’s east coast. Below is a Cape Cod (and Colonial) inspired townhouse, located in Edmonton’s Griesbach neighborhood. As I already mentioned, the Cape Cod is often blended with other styles to create hybrids (as seen with the Griesbach townhouses). One style that Cape Cod is often paired with—the Craftsman.
Cape Cod and Colonial styles were mixed in the design of
these Edmonton townhouses.

Also known as Arts and Crafts after the design movement that inspired it, Craftsman style celebrates simple forms and natural materials. In late nineteenth century England, the Arts and Crafts movement began as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, when—I’m sure—it seemed as if the evil, evil machines were going to take over. (Times haven’t changed too much, have they?) Arts and Crafts celebrated the skilled artisan and encouraged hand-made over mass-produced.
From the July 1916 issue of The Craftsman.

Over the pond, designer Gustav Stickley adopted the movement in 1903 when he renovated the interior of his Syracuse, New York home. Originally, a “true” Craftsman was built according to plans published in Stickley’s magazine of the same name, but now the term refers to any home that incorporates Craftsman features like triangular brackets beneath the eaves, an exterior stone chimney and a porch with thick, stone columns. Although it’s a bit ironic that the Cape Cod ended up as a symbol of mass-production, its simple beginnings explain why it’s often paired with Craftsman sensibilities. (Click here to read about a traditional Cape Cod home that received a Craftsman facelift.)

Got a house style you’re just dying to know more about? Instead of googling it yourself, why don’t you let me do it for you! (And then synthesize the scads of information generated into an enlightening and witty blog post.) If this sounds like your kind of fun—post your request in the comments!
Cape Cod home before a Craftsman inspired renovation...
... and after.

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