American Country Houses of the Thirties: With Photographs and Floor Plans

American Country Houses of the Thirties: With Photographs and Floor Plans

by Lewis A. Coffin


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486455921
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 02/02/2007
Series: Dover Architecture
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 321,101
Product dimensions: 8.25(w) x 11.00(h) x (d)

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American Country Houses of the Thirties


By Lewis A. Coffin

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2014 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-13686-8


American Country Houses of Today


IN 1934, the date of publication of this new volume of American Homes of Today, twenty-two years have elapsed since the first volume of this series. A study of the progress of the design of the country house in America as illustrated in these publications illustrates the tremendous improvement in such work. In 1912 the country house which was worth anything whatever architecturally was either an antique or the work of a very few outstanding architects. The work of American architects in the country house field in general was stiff, undeveloped, and without the flavor of our best traditions. It has always seemed that the firm of McKim, Mead and White did more to bring about a renaissance in country house design than any other firm of architects. The James L. Breese house in Southampton, Long Island, is one of the first really great country houses, the design of which is based on old American precedent. In Virginia and Maryland and other parts of the central eastern South were old Georgian homes, not modern in plan or equipment, but as good as anything in the world architecturally. In New England and other parts of the Northeast were our Colonial houses, mostly in wood construction, but fresh, clean-cut and excellently designed. In California and in Florida to a small extent, a Spanish Colonial style provided a tradition as yet unappreciated. All these American precedents were practically unknown twenty years ago.

About 1912 the attention of architects, magazines, book publishers and students turned towards an interest in early American architecture. The public began collecting American antique furniture. Architects and students went through the Georgian South and the Colonial North photographing and measuring. A great bibliography of Early American Architecture was produced and the renaissance of the American country house architecture was under full way.

If one will look back over the development of the next twenty years until 1932, a gradual absorption of this great fund of tradition is apparent. The vocabulary of the past was successfully used by the architects of this period in developing designs and details adapted to modern requirements. And in this period of rapid building expansion, a huge number of excellently designed houses have been erected.

In all history, the architecture of any period is the mirror of the civilization which produces it. Now we are come to a new era—the era of the so-called modern architecture. In our cities a new style, as fresh as any style ever developed, has evolved. The most successful of the modern city structures are the interpretation into design of our new building facilities—steel, concrete, modern elevators and new materials, a modified form of functionalism. It is to be noted here, however, that the better examples of "modern" city architecture do not deny any of the basic principles of sound architectural design.

Only very lately has the tendency shown itself to carry "modern" architecture into the country home. To the present time it can fairly be said that the results are only a straw in the wind. A new way is pointed out, but the road is obscure.

There is every reason why so different a period as the present should evolve a new type and style of country house. It is axiomatic that it will. But we should not go "berserker." Rather, leaning on our own precedent and architectural development to date, we should adopt the new materials, new structural possibilities, and modern ideas towards houses so that they are better planned, more livable and if that be possible, more beautiful than those built by the architects of the past. It is our great opportunity to adopt and evolve, but not to forget the basic principles of simplicity, of proportion, of balance and of well designed detail.

For example, when a house in the so-called "modern" style is designed, why should the architect forsake the principle of symmetry or asymmetry? In all styles of building in the past, the masterpieces have strict symmetry, or certainly a well studied balance. All country houses cannot have strict balance of design, but the development to date shows too clearly a lack of attempt to accomplish it. For a lazy or incompetent architect it is easier not to have to struggle towards this basic principle of good design, as it is easy for some of the lesser "modernist" painters to neglect the art of drawing.

In a more practical vein, why should "modern" country houses in our average climate have flat roofs? The harsh lines thus too often created do not fit into nature's landscape except on flat expanses. The attic is lost, there is the added difficulty of insulation, the snow load is increased, and the glare of light and heat from open decks into second floor windows is objectionable.

When modern architecture and decoration have balance, simplicity, good colors, introducing our new materials properly handled, taking advantage of the benefits of structural steel, of air conditioning with modern heating systems, which in turn permit much greater window areas, then they can go far along a new road. The type of new detail, characteristic of any new style, will be evolved. No man, or no men in one decade can invent a good new style of detail. Such things must grow. To the present time, much of the better modernistic details seem based on a Greek tradition. Our "colonial" style of today is also descended from the Greek through the Roman, Pompeian, Empire and Georgian. We find a sequence of style, each harking back to what men had developed before, but in turn developing a new style. So is it not logical for us to go forward in modern work, employing our new material and developing a new style for our times, based on the traditions of our own country? In time our new homes, the details of our new style, will have characteristics of their own, as distinctive and as good as the Georgian. Along this road we will stay on the track and our architecture will, while "modern," be but a fresh development of the undying classic.

Much is heard today of functionalism in modern architecture. All good styles of the past have functionalism at their roots. Posts developed into columns, eaves into cornices, lintels into flat arches, and so on down the ages. Sometimes styles become hidebound, lean insincerely on the past in the face of new discoveries, inventions and requirements. Then it is time for a change. Perhaps such a time exists today. But this is a plea that in this age of turmoil, we carry forward towards new horizons without forgetting those basic principles of design which will never be changed.

Architects Represented

American Houses, Inc
Ayres, Atlee B. and Robert M

Ball, Thomas R
Barnum, Phelps
Baum, Dwight James
Beck, Martin L
Better Homes in America
Billings, Jr., A. W. K
Bischoff, Reinhard M
Bullard, Roger H
Byers, John

Chapin, Rollin C
Coit, Elizabeth
Cornelius, Charles Over

Delano & Aldrich

Evans, Moore & Woodbridge
Evans, Randolph

Faulkner, Waldron
Flewelling, Ralph C
Forster, Frank J
Fuller, Leland F
Fulmer, O. Kline

Garren, William I
Glidden, Jr., E. H
Godwin, Thompson & Patterson
Goodell, Edwin B
Goodwin, Philip L
Green, Frank W
Gregory, Julius
Grigg, Milton L

Holden, McLaughlin & Associates
Hopkins & Associates, Alfred
Howe & Lescaze
Hunter, R. C
Hutton, Frank H

Janney, John Craig

Kaufmann, Gordon B
Keefe, Charles S
Kelley, H. Roy

La Pierre, L. S
Lorenz, John A. and C. Alden Scott

Mackenzie, Jr., James C
Marr, Richard H
Marston & Maybury
Matthews & Denison
Mausolff, Alfred
McDowell, Allan
Mecaskey, Richard W
Mellor & Meigs
Merritt, C. C
Miller & Warnecke
Morris & O'Connor
Muller, Bernhardt E

Perry, Shaw & Hepburn
Polhemus & Coffin
Pope, John Russell, Office of

Risley, Winchton Leamon

Salomonsky, Edgar and Verna Cook
Salomonsky, Verna Cook.....Frontispiece
Scannell, R. H
Spalding, Melvin Pratt
Steele, George S
Stout, Penrose V
Sunderland, William Webb

Walker & Gillette
Wheeler, W. Roderick
Wills, Royal Barry
Woodsend, H. E
Wurster, William Wilson
Ziegler, Carl A

A House Along Modern Lines

THE plan of the house shown on the next page is laid out to suit the requirements of many families living in the suburbs. There is no living room, but a large and sunny dining room is provided. This room is really the entertainment room—for cocktail parties, teas, large seated or buffet dinners. When the family is alone or with only a friend or two, the library is used. It is snug, removed, lined with books, has a fireplace, and the west side is a wall of glass opening in a walled garden. This walled garden is virtually a garden room, protected from the wind, small and intimate. For a nation of sun worshippers it provides a chance to enjoy the sun in a private outdoor conservatory. The pergola covered with vines furnishes a place to lounge in the shade. During the season when insects are a problem, the entertainment room is virtually a glazed porch.

On the second floor are four master bedrooms and three baths. At a lower level under the servants' bedroom wing is a two-car garage.

There is no idea in the mind of the author that this plan would satisfy any definite family or person. It merely shows a balanced layout, which fulfills certain phases of the life of today better than the more usual plan. In this house, entertainment is possible on a larger scale than in the ordinary house of the same size. Also the intimate life of the family in the library and walled garden is emphasized. Very frequently in the usual house of living room, library and dining room, the living room is seldom used, and the family congregates in the library because it is smaller, snugger and more private. This plan recognizes this fact.

It is presumed that all master windows will be equipped with Venetian blinds to control excessive sunlight. The plan, while practical, has the great benefit of symmetrical design. The detail employed creates an effect of "modernism," but finds its origin in classic precedent.

One chimney carries the boiler flue and library flue. The other provides a large vent flue from the attic for summer ventilation.

L. A. C.


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Table of Contents


Title Page,
Copyright Page,
American Country Houses of Today,
The Better Homes in America - SMALL HOUSE COMPETITIONS,

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