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More Craftsman Homes
Floor Plans and Illustrations for 78 Mission Style Dwellings
By Gustav Stickley
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1982 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
A WORD ABOUT CRAFTSMAN ARCHITECTURE
FROM the beginning of my work as a craftsman my object has been to develop types of houses and house furnishings that are essentially cheerful, durable and appropriate for the kind of life I believe the intelligent American public desires. It comes to me every day of my life that a home spirit is being awakened amongst us, that as a nation we are beginning to realize how important it is to have homes of our own, homes that we like, that we have been instrumental in building, that we will want to have belong to our children. And, of course, this means that the homes must be honest and beautiful dwellings; they must be built to last; they must be so well planned that we want them to last, and yet they must be within our means. The delusion that a really beautiful home is within the reach of only the very rich is losing ground, as is its sister delusion that only by the slavish imitation of foreign models is aesthetic satisfaction to be achieved. People are also awakening to the fact that beauty in a building is not merely a matter of decoration, a something to be added at will, but is inherent in the lines and masses of the structure itself.
The point of view of the New England farmer, whose instructions to the architect were: "I'll build my house, and you fetch along your architecture and nail it on," is no longer typical. Today if you find a farmer who is thinking about building a home, the chances are that he and his family and the town builder spend a lot of evenings around the farm dining table, poring over plans and blue prints, and probably sketches which the farmer himself has made. There is no suggestion about an Italian villa or a French chateau, but the farmer is probably saying, "We want a large room to live in; we want an open fire in it because it looks cheerful and the children like it; we want a kitchen that my wife won't mind working in, and we want the house light and warm and pretty." This is a great change from the old days, and is in line with the theory on which Craftsman architecture is founded,—namely, a style of building suited to the lives of the people, having the best possible structural outline, the simplest form, materials that belong to the country in which the house is built and colors that please and cheer.
The Craftsman type of building is largely the result not of elaboration, but of elimination. The more I design, the more sure I am that elimination is the secret of beauty in architecture. By this I do not mean that I want to think scantily and work meagerly. Rather, I feel that one should plan richly and fully, and then begin to prune, to weed, to shear away everything that seems superfluous and superficial. Practically every house I build I find, both in structural outline and in the planning and the adjustment of the interior space, that I am simplifying, that I am doing away with something that was not needed; that I am using my spaces to better advantage. All of this means the expenditure of less money and the gain of more comfort and beauty.
It is only when we to an extent begin at the beginning of these things that we come to know how much that is superfluous we have added to life, and how fearful we have been to be straightforward and honest in any artistic expression. Why may we not build just the house we want, so that it belongs to our lives and expresses them? I have, all too slowly, begun to realize that it is right to build houses as people wish them, to cut away ornament, to subordinate tradition, and to put into the structure and into the interior finish the features that the occupants will find comfortable and convenient, and which almost inevitably result in beauty for them. It seems to me that every man should have the right to think out the plan for his house to suit himself, and then the architect should make this plan into a reasonable structure; that is, the outline should be well-proportioned and the different parts should be brought together so that the structural perfection will result in decorative beauty. If, added to this simple reasonable structure, the materials for the house are so far as possible those which may be found in the locality where the house is built, a beauty of fitness is gained at the very start. A house that is built of stone where stones are in the fields, of concrete where the soil is sandy, of brick where brick can be had reasonably, or of wood if the house is in a mountainous wooded region, will from the beginning belong to the landscape. And the result is not only harmony but economy. Why should the man who lives on a hillside bring brick from a long distance when the most interesting of modern dwellings, the log house, is at his hand? Or, if the brick could be had from the kiln a few miles away, why seek logs which are made expensive by the long freight haul from far-away mountains, and which would not seem in any way harmonious with the country where trees are scarce?
Once having settled upon the style of house which must suit the lie of the land and the happiness of the owner, the arrangement of floor spaces is next in significance. First of all, do away with any sense of elaboration and with the idea that a house must be a series of cells, room upon room, shut away from all others. Have a living room, the "great room" of the house that corresponds to the old "great hall" of ancient dwellings. This space is the opportunity for people to come together, to sit around the fireplace, for there must always be an open fire. It is the room where people read or study or work evenings, or play or dance, as the case may be,—the place where the elderly members of the family will have the greatest comfort and contentment, and where the children will store up memories that can never die. This great room must be well lighted, it will have groups of windows that furnish cheerful vistas in the daytime, and it must be so planned that seats or divans circle the fireplace and bring, by the very structure of the house, the family into intimate, happy relationship. It is wise, of course, that the entrance to this room from out of doors should be through an entry way or vestibule, in order that drafts may not be felt and to furnish coat room and opportunities for the putting aside of heavy wraps, umbrellas, etc. This should be borne in mind especially in cold climates where the whole comfort of the room may be sacrificed to a too abrupt connection with out of doors.
In the planning of this first floor and the adjustment of the spaces I have as few entrances and doorways as possible. They are expensive; they use up space, prevent a look of coziness and lessen the opportunities for building in of interesting fittings. It is also economical and picturesque to group the windows, and always the built-in fittings, the bookcases, the corner seats should be adjusted to the light from the windows as well as the fireplace. But here, as in the outside structure, I find the process of elimination must be always borne in mind. I do away with everything that does not contribute to comfort and beauty. This is a safe rule. The charm of the living room can be greatly enhanced by the alcove dining room, a greater sense of space is added and all the things that are put in the dining room to make it beautiful contribute to the pleasure of the people who are sitting in the living room. Also, the pleasure in the dining room is enhanced by glimpses of the living room, its spaces, its open fires, its grouped windows. This does away also with one partition; it furnishes opportunity for the interesting use of screens, or for the half-partition, on top of which may be placed lines of books or jars of ferns, not expensive ornaments for the house, and adding greatly to the beauty of color and to the homelike quality.
The question of built-in fittings is one that I feel is an essential part of the Craftsman idea in architecture. I have felt from the beginning of my work that a house should be live-in-able when it is finished. Why should one enter one's dwelling and find that it is a barren uninviting prisonlike spot, until it is loaded with furniture and the walls hidden under pictures and picture frames ? I contend that when the builder leaves the house, it should be a place of good cheer, a place that holds its own welcome forever. This, of course, can only be accomplished by the building in of furnishings that are essentially structural features, and by the planning of the finishing of the walls and the woodwork so that they are a part of the inherent beauty of the home, and not mere backgrounds for endless unrelated decorations. In my own houses I study the color of the interior when I am designing the house. I plan the woodwork so that it embraces the built-in fittings, so that every bookcase or corner seat is a part of the development of the woodwork. In no other way can a house be made beautiful, or the architecture of the interior be complete and homelike.
You cannot make your house and your furnishings two separate schemes of attractiveness and expect an harmonious whole. The reason that this has been so much done in America is because people have not owned their homes. Usually their furniture alone belongs to them, and that they have tried to select so that it would be pleasant and well related. They have adjusted it to the houses that they have chanced to live in as well as they could, until they have grown to feel that a house is one thing and furnishings quite another. This is especially true in city apartments, where people expect to remain only a few years before they move on to another set of inconveniences. The furniture which in one house was adjusted to mahogany and green walls is later on adjusted to yellow oak and pink walls. And so families have gone from one set of torturing surroundings to another, until it seems a miracle that any sense of color and proportion in house furnishings should survive.
As for my own houses, I realize that they more or less demand the sort of furniture that I have been in the habit of planning for them. Not because I hold to one narrow outlook of beauty, but because I cannot but see that most of the imitation antiques as well as the types of modern furniture made purely for department store sales are not adjusted to simple practical artistic home surroundings. In the planning of my houses I have so eliminated the superfluous in structure, in floor plans, in interior fittings, that furniture which is not well planned or is overornamented must of necessity seem out of place.
"More Craftsman Homes," which is the second book of houses that I have published, stands for my own ideal of house building. In other words, it shows the extent to which I have been able in my own, perhaps small, way, to achieve beauty in architecture through this process of elimination. It makes clear how I feel about houses which are built on economical principles, on good structural lines, always with the ideal of beauty, always insisting upon the utmost comfort and convenience. The edition (20,000) of the first book, "Craftsman Homes," which was published over two years ago, is now exhausted. And so great has been the demand for a book of Craftsman houses that we have found it necessary, in order to meet the response of the people who are interested in this kind of architecture, to get out within the last few months the book to which this little talk forms the introduction. This book in some respects is scarcely more than a catalogue. It is merely a straightforward presentation of my more recent designs in Craftsman houses suited for building in concrete, in stone, in brick and in wood. Many of these houses have already been built and have been found most satisfactory by their owners. Several of them have been built on Craftsman Farms, my own home place in New Jersey. I feel that every time a Craftsman house is built I verify in my own mind my ideal of architecture; that is, beauty through elimination.
There can be no doubt in my mind that a native type of architecture is growing up in America. I am not prepared to say to what extent the Craftsman idea has contributed to it, but I do know, from a very wide correspondence, that people all over the country are asking for houses in which they may be comfortable, houses which will be appropriate backgrounds for their own lives and right starting points for the lives of their children. It is my own wish, my own final ideal, that the Craftsman house may so far as possible meet this demand and be instrumental in helping to establish in America a higher ideal, not only of beautiful architecture, but of home life.CHAPTER 2
THE RELATION OF CRAFTSMAN ARCHITECTURE TO COUNTRY LIVING
IN THE development of Craftsman architecture I have had in mind especially the need of better dwellings for suburbs and country, and although I have also designed houses for city and town, most of the plans are intended for a rural environment. I believe that on the right use of the land depends much of our national welfare, and that therefore farm life should be made not only effective and profitable but also pleasant. I realize that the normal existence is one which includes an all-round development of the faculties, a wholesome proportion of manual and mental labor, opportunities for spiritual growth; and so I believe that a form of building which makes for simplicity of housekeeping and provides ample chance for outdoor working and living will help to increase the health, happiness and efficiency of the people.
Excerpted from More Craftsman Homes by Gustav Stickley. Copyright © 1982 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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