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How 'fluid' are your architectural preferences?

13 years ago

Although I would love to live in another Federal to Greek Revival period house, (1790s-1840s), the likelihood of me finding one I can afford, or afford to buy and renovate, does not seem high. If it is that era, it has to look of that era on the inside and if its a drywall box, I can't afford $100K to restore ornamental plaster and flatwork, for example.

So in my area, you basically have a choice of pre-Civil War, a smattering of pre 1900, and 1965-1980. There is also 2000-->present which is not in the running for me. They are styleless, cheaply constructed messes.

So, I figure if it is going to be a drywall box it should be a good drywall box, and accordingly I have looked at the following:

Federal: intact, offered on and lost.

1965 Colonial revival with Contempolonial interior, offered on and eventually the contract expired. Meh interior but cheap enough to work on.

1970s version of above, offered on and lost.

1970s Brutalist exteriors several of these)with everything from original MCM - brutalist interior to 2000s faux riche interiors grafted on.

Pure MCM with an odd anonymous blank facade and glass walled hidden facades.

As an urbanite I actually care very little about curb appeal. This seems almost opposite the pure suburban model where the outside is a complete expression and the interior barely has any furniture. And, most are in between somewhere.

My Modern favorites have been the Brutalists, and the MCM.

These houses are hardly gems on the interior either, but there is potential because they are the genuine article of "something."

So, did your house have to be a Craftsman no matter what? Could it be an architectural blank because you needed location, size, and price and you feel decorating is a surface treatment? Could the outside be ugly if the inside was good? Could the inside be ugly if the outside was good?

Do you like many styles or periods as long as they are authentic? Would you recreate a historic interior that was gone (architecturally not decor-wise), or would you chalk it up to evolution and do something else?

Comments (26)

  • 13 years ago

    Good question, Pal.

    Assuming I could afford it, I would try to restore an historic interior if that is what I bought. I can fall in love with just about anything as long as it has good light inside and a wonderful yard-or at leat the potential for me to garden. Love MCM and Federal as well as Craftsman style. Can you see my problem???

    If I still lived outside Philadelphia, I would be on the hunt for a stone farmhouse. It would have to be authenic, although I could easily accept added windows and doors to the backyard (need that light, dontchaknow).

    Here in northern VA we bought a 1960 ranch. The house was a mess, but the yard was large (well, for this area-half an acre) with lots of trees and the location was good. Can't go with ugly unless the bones are good and I know I can fix it.

    I think I could live in just about any style, although Victorian doesn't suit me. Just want a little space and lots of wndows. Would move back to the Main Line or Bucks County in a heartbeat if DH were willing.

  • 13 years ago

    Very fluid. I love homes that look like SOMETHING...but not homes that are trying-to-look-like-something and missing. Or used to look like something and got seriously messed with. If that makes sense?

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  • 13 years ago

    My architectural preferences are extremely fluid by necessity. I live in southern California where you would be hard pressed to find a house built before 1930 and most of the homes have been built since 1965. Our lots are small which usually means that you find at least two-story construction and the earthquake codes limit the exterior finish to stucco for the most part. In consequence, I usually look for an appealing floor plan without much regard for the outer shell's appearance. I like rooms with generous and graceful proportions that feature natural light streaming in from windows and/or skylights. I think that ceilings over ten feet tall are a waste and I hate the great room concept that combines the kitchen, dining, and living rooms. I looked at more than 100 houses before purchasing my current home.

    I have never believed that the interior decor of a home must reflect the exterior style, perhaps because homes in my area have very little definable exterior style. That aside, I've always enjoyed those rooms that contrast with the exterior like modernism in a French chateau or a beautiful bergere chair in a MCM glass block. Eclecticism has always appealed to me more than a faithful recreation of the period.

  • 13 years ago

    If I enjoyed renovation, I would be open to many different periods, however, certain architectural elements I must have. High ceilings, big and plenty windows, closets, large bathrooms, attached garage.
    I'm willing to work around quirkiness and blandness (to a degree) but some things are difficult to obtain in a reno.

    As I hate living in an unfinished home, and couldn't find exactly what we wanted at our price point, we built.

  • 13 years ago

    Good questions

    So, did your house have to be a Craftsman no matter what?No. I'm too pragmatic for that. My current "dream house" planning is heavily influenced by Craftsman and American Foursquare, but I'll compromise.

    Could it be an architectural blank because you needed location, size, and price and you feel decorating is a surface treatment? Yes.

    Could the outside be ugly if the inside was good? Could the inside be ugly if the outside was good?Define "ugly" please. Interior has to have livable traffic flow and decent potential.

    Do you like many styles or periods as long as they are authentic?

    Would you recreate a historic interior that was gone (architecturally not decor-wise), or would you chalk it up to evolution and do something else?It's dead, Jim. You take the architrave and I'll grab the lamps.

  • PRO
    13 years ago

    If it's on land with a view, privacy and in decent shape, I'm fluid. I don't think I ever met an authentic decorating style (done well!) I didn't like.

    Would I recreate a historic interior? I would give a nod of respect to the style/era but to the nth degree? No. I would feel too limited. For me, part of the fun is the challenge of blending styles.

    Hope a great new home is coming to you soon. Can't wait to see what you do with it!

  • 13 years ago

    Define ugly:

    I think these townhouses are pretty ugly, most people buy them for location and square footage. I encouraged a client of mine to buy one because it had potential. It had a decent floorplan and we made it a great floorplan

    This is not quite the final after, but its close. If you think this is dull and uninspiring, the before was downright hideous, and the clients knew it. Inside its light-filled and now has a great floorplan, and a huge yard with Grass of all things (probably the only grass for a half mile radius that is in a yard, not a park.) Still the curb appeal is about 2/100

    Fascinating exteriors with warrenlike, cobbled, and remuddled, dark interiors, for the most part:

  • 13 years ago

    I think many things are relative. The 1810 house I looked at hadn't a single closet except a cupboard under the attic stairs, on the third floor. That was perfectly acceptable to me for a Federal period house. I would not consider a 1970 house with no closets.

    Less than 10% of what I have looked at have large bathrooms. Some are smaller than 5x7. Again I would accept this in an old house but in a midcentury house I would expect 5x7 at least, but I also wouldn't want much more. In a smallish house I think its a waste of space.

    I would accept a "relatively" open plan in a new house, but I would dislike one in a very old house where it did not seem to fit. I prefer Flex spaces rather than undefined open spaces even in newer construction.

  • 13 years ago

    I always find it difficult to express my preferences in architecture and decor but forhgtv expressed it well "Eclecticism has always appealed to me more than a faithful recreation of the period".

    Beautifully created details in a house of any period should be saved if possible IMO but we live in 2011 with all the conveniences that the 21st century bestows on us. I would not attempt to live in a bygone era, so if I lived in a period home some compromise would always be on the cards...electric lighting, air conditioning, gas cooking, insulated and impact resistant windows etc etc.

    So, did your house have to be a Craftsman no matter what?
    No! I like many different styles.

    Could it be an architectural blank because you needed location, size, and price and you feel decorating is a surface treatment?
    Yes, location and price are always key and the rest can be changed.

    Could the outside be ugly if the inside was good? Could the inside be ugly if the outside was good?
    Yes because ugly can be changed!

    Do you like many styles or periods as long as they are authentic?
    Yes!

    Would you recreate a historic interior that was gone (architecturally not decor-wise),
    Probably not!
    or would you chalk it up to evolution and do something else?
    Most likely yes! I like the idea that houses evolve like many other things, including languages. For me it makes them live rather than be static and dull. What I dislike most of all is predictability in a house, regardless of its age.

  • 13 years ago

    I live in an area of the South where there isn't much to be found dwelling-wise older than, say, 1880. And only a smattering at that. We're a newer city, so didn't have the brownstone/townhouse/attached home era that so many older cities had. What historic attached housing there was was mainly worker housing, wooden, and went the way of the wrecker as the city evolved into the 20th Century. So what we have here are single-family homes, for the most part. I think that leads to a totally different mindset than someone in an old, eastern, central city considering townhouses and flats. And I think you're correct that curb appeal is a more suburban thing, or at least more of a single-family-home thing. In an attached-home or multi-family type building, the curb appeal isn't usually the province of the individual unit owners. And price, location, layout and amenities usually trump exterior looks. I think it's pretty standard in such cases to see anything from a minimal modernist take to a heavily ornamented take within the same building or block of buildings. So I don't see why you couldn't just take a dull interior and make it what you want. If that means ripping out modern trim to add something "new" but more period appropriate, I say more power to you.

    That being said, I think we here have more options for "architectural preferences" as long as you don't want anything built before 1900, and as long as you don't have other pesky issues invading your decision making. Things like schools, crime, etc. (Remember Henry Ford, who said you could buy a car in any color you wanted, as long as it was black). I think almost anyone would like a home with some architectural veracity, or at least a reference. But I would venture to guess that the little factors of schools, crime, commute, resale potential, layout/square footage and ease of maintenance are always what lead to a compromise. The fewer factors in your decisionmaking process, the more discriminating your taste can be.

    I know sometimes I cringe just a bit before opening those threads that say "new home, please help with curb appeal!", because I just know that I'm going to see some 1968 builder's ranch with tudor and swiss influences along with a moss rock feature wall (with dark mortar) and an arched stucco entryway. I mean, seriously, how do you fix that? But your post is about interiors. So I'll say the same goes for the standard drywall boxes that everyone seems to have now. But clearly this was the best option for somebody, and it was because architectural integrity was about number 12 on their list of decision factors.

    But do you need to keep the drywall blandishment for the sake of respecting the evolution of a home? I don't think so. A bad decision made in the past is not automatically "history" worthy of respect. Sometimes it's just evidence of bad thinking, planning and execution, and isn't deserving of anything but a wrecking bar.

  • 13 years ago

    Maybe ignorance is bliss because I am not aware of the historical architectural styles for the most part. But I will say that I like towns and cities that have an identity, a cohesive look that is identifiable as a period or style, and I try to decorate in the same concept. I love architectural features in a home, whether it is old or new. If a house looks good on the interior with nothing in it because it already has character due to the architecture, and it has a good layout, I would love it. Or if it had the potential to create those features because the bones of the place would support it, if I had the money to do the work I would like that. My own home was chosen for location and affordability and I had to have a small lot for my physical limitations - I'm not sorry I choose that way either because it works for me.

  • 13 years ago

    We live in a neighborhood of 50's ranches, and I find it fascinating the range of choices my neighbors make. Exteriors are brick with fairly flat sloped roofs and deep fascias, large picture windows in front and lots of mature trees and greenery. The houses are all fairly similar from the street.

    Inside is such a different story, and I think it's because this style can be seen as a "blank slate." One neighbor will have picture molding and crown everywhere, and grandma's dining set. One will have country cottage all over, with gingham and white painted furniture dominating. There's the ubiquitous American Tuscan thing, with full-on faux grapes painted on the wall. We mostly have white walls, limited trim and modern/Target/IKEA everywhere. And to me...all of it seems appropriate enough for the house, since it's really not a strict architectural style. Works great for me, and the next person can still feel like they can do what they like. A good floorplan is hard to beat!

    I once was lucky enough to tour a really beautiful Craftsman in Pasadena, and the workmanship and thoughtfulness and cosiness of the house was stunning. And yet although it was beautiful, I remember feeling a bit claustrophobic with regards to how strict the decor was. Every stick of furniture, every vase, every ornament was Craftsman in the house. That would kill me.

    Deb

  • 13 years ago

    My housing style preferences are pretty fluid. I would adapt well to most styles although very fussy Victorians or prison-like Brutalist would not be my first choice. I'm not a purist in anything but prefer to remodel in a way that feels consistent with the original. Curb appeal is important to me but I don't have to start with it, I'll make it. What makes me pass up a house is if it's been butchered - fixing bad work is not on my agenda. I'd far rather have original everything.

    However I couldn't live in any of the townhouses you show not because of style (or lack of) but because that kind of high density living would kill me.

  • 13 years ago

    I think that fluidity has to exist if over a set period of time, you find nothing. You have to establish how long you are willing to look and live in limbo. At some point you need to start moving forward even if it's not in the direction you envision.
    And Murphy's law will kick in and you will find the most perfect place after you buy something.

  • 13 years ago

    I think I'm pretty fluid too. I always dreamed about an old victorian ... and my dream house I actually saw and really wanted was way out in the country, a square brick house with a black widows walk on top surrounded by hay fields.

    My current and last house, I ended up with a 1964 cape cod on 20 acres ... it was the land I wanted and I knew I could fix up the house. I was lucky in that the house was built by the original owner, himself ... he was a german carpenter, and it was well built with good materials, lots of wood, and some interesting nooks and crannies.

    Never would I have imagined living in a 1960's cape cod, but I love my house and property.

  • 13 years ago

    1. So, did your house have to be a Craftsman no matter what?

    Definitely not. In my locale, you look for something you can afford, that has some of what you want. Getting exactly what you want is for multi-millionaires, unfortunately. At least there is the element of serendipity. I moved from a Victorian house to a raised ranch. I loved the Victorian, but my DH (to be) wanted to start our life in a house only we shared. The raised ranch has a wonderful yard and long views, and a few nice interior architectural features.

    2. Could it be an architectural blank because you needed location, size, and price and you feel decorating is a surface treatment?

    Definitely don't think decorating is a surface treatment only. An architectural blank might appeal to me, IF I had insight into how to give it architectural appeal. I do love a challenge, but it sounds expensive.

    3. Could the outside be ugly if the inside was good? Could the inside be ugly if the outside was good?

    Either okay, if I have insight into how to turn ugly into good. Easier to do on the inside than the outside, usually.

    4. Do you like many styles or periods as long as they are authentic?

    Without a doubt! Even when I dislike an era or style, I can always find an exception. And what I tend not to like (Rococo, for example), is not likely to turn up in my neighborhood!

    5. Would you recreate a historic interior that was gone (architecturally not decor-wise), or would you chalk it up to evolution and do something else?

    Ideally, I'd re-create the architecture, such as moldings, trim, etc. If a fine example of an era, I would try to keep room layout, and as much as possible while still being functional for our time. If the architecture is already a jumble, I'd be less of a conservation frame of mind.

  • 13 years ago

    Yup, those townhouses fit my idea of "ugly".

    That said, if it had a good location for my needs and a decent or fixable floor plan, I could tolerate the ugly.

  • 13 years ago

    Interesting question. I came to the conclusion a while ago that I'll never live in my "dream" house because we're settled where we are, and we like our neighbors/neighborhood. But if I could, I'd live in one of two houses: either a bungalow with lots of dark wood and built-ins, or a big Victorian house. The house we live in is a fairly basic center-entrance Colonial, half brick, not large, and it looks like about 75% of the houses in our town, which was largely built in the 1920s.

    I have no interest in living in a new house, but I suppose I could be convinced to live in this one if I had to!

    Here is a link that might be useful: new house

  • 13 years ago

    Years ago as a little girl I was in love with the older neighborhoods in my town, homes that ranged from gothic to victorian even occasionally bungalows thrown in. I loved the character of the houses, the 3rd floor ballrooms the baths with the original hex tiles on the floors. Dumbwaiters and let us not forget the servants quarters complete with back staircases!

    I had always planned to build a home that had all those features that I loved. I wanted a brand new "old" house.

    Did I get that? Sadly no, circumstances led me far astray from where I intended to go. The house we are building fits the area of the country and does have some character thanks to my OCD during the design phase. But I will have some hex tiles in my bathroom, and my beloved pocket doors from my childhood homes.

  • 13 years ago

    Town was most important for the schools and distance from Boston (close). I wanted a Victorian with natural woodwork in my town that was originally a single family but now a 2 family that could easily be converted back to a single. It would probably be an estate sale since I couldn't afford anything else. I started to look for "my" home a year before we were ready to buy so that when the "perfect" home came on the market I was ready to pounce.

    A week into the initial search and a year before we were ready to buy I pounced on a 1825 brick federal home. It was structuraly sound but cosmetically challenged. The price I couldn't pass - easily converted back into a single BUT no natural woodwork. Those homes with beautiful woodwork were $300K - $400K MORE - way out of my price range.

    This is our forever house. I still long for natural woodwork. We stripped the doors and they're either black walnut (probably) or mahagany which I will leave natural with tung oil. We stripped some woodwork - hodgepodge of many types of wood so we painted again. I still long for that painted lady Victorian with beautiful natural woodwork inside but settled for the Federal brick home.

    A wing was added in 1840-1860. It was really muddled in 1914 when the house was converted into a 2 family. We gutted the kitchen and that wing (didn't want to gut all of it but ice dams and collapsing ceilings changed our mind). I had a hard time deciding on trim, door types (5 piece vs. 6 piece raised panel, etc.) Decided to go with the last major muddle - 1914. I could find the trim work as stock in the local lumber yard vs. buying knives for my 6" trim in the main house. This also helped me pick door wood type and style, flooring, etc.

    I let the house try to guide me in the right direction. Yes, I would like that Victorian but I love where I am now.

  • 13 years ago

    So many interesting styles and choices! For me, while I do like Victorian homes, I'm more of a cottage gal. I like the smaller homes with the lovely, vintage details, more of a 'cottage chic' or 'romantic yet rustic' according to the recent HGTV quiz :)

    Our farmhouse was built in 1904, but I'd like to remodel it in an early 1920's style, with some vintage 1930's accessories...as if the family had money in the 20s and added some great details, but still collected items in the 30s and even early 40s. I don't want time to stand still, just have the bones and details of an older home.

    Hopefully, if the house continues to add new details as time goes on, it won't look too strange to see the flat screen TV or laptop make an appearance, on a vintage piece of furniture. I also like the old fashioned bathroom, with claw foot tubs!

  • 13 years ago

    I initially wanted no newer than 1800's but could not find one that was not on a road with a yellow line, which was the only taboo my hubby had and so I settled on a 1920s colonial that I have come to love.

    Now, although I hope to never move, If we did I might appreciate alot of features that post war homes have to offer, like larger closets, baths, open floor plans, CENTRAL AIR and main floor laundry room. Also I would now love single floor living which was out of the question just a few short years ago. So yes I am probally fluid in my architectural preferences but more importantly I now know home can be found anywhere and in any form just as can beautiful decor.

    I would only buy a home that made sigh with a smile when I first entered it but many different buildings and styles can produce that peaceful easy feeling for me. Your home will find you I believe.

  • 13 years ago

    I am not at all schooled in architecture and would also be hard pressed to find many of the styles that you mention here in the Pacific NW. There are many craftsman style homes in Seattle, but I am in a smaller town, and the others, except a few mcm tract houses, are rare.

    I have owned only 3 homes in my 60+ years; a 1960's colonial ranch bought in my 20's, a 1970's nw contemporary that we built on 5 acres in our early 30's, and another 1980's NW contemporary that we found already constructed in my late 30's.

    My only criteria for a home is that it be quality built and the setting. End of dead end street, in the woods. No cul-d-sacs, no developments, no mcmansions...it must be unique and different than the houses around me. I've succeeded on all 3 so far.

  • 13 years ago

    I do not live in a large, old city...I live in a small college town in the Southeast. While I appreciate all forms of authentic architecture...my true love is Georgian. It, to me, says "home." I love brick, and I love heavy millwork. I actually don't think I am very fluid at all and I think it is because housing here (compared to some areas of the country) is relatively affordable and fairly plentiful. So I have the luxury of being "picky." We found a lovely lot in a small neighborhood of custom homes and are building my dream Georgian. There is no way we could do this in somewhere like San Francisco or NYC...and I think I would be a lot more open to other types of architecture and lack of curb appeal, etc...

  • 13 years ago

    My ears were ringing w/ screaming but I couldn't figure out where it was coming from. Then I realized that it was in my own head! Thought of taking something and making it into something else would throw me over the edge. I guess I'm a purist.

    I wouldn't care what style the house I was buying was as long as it was an architectural style of something. Needn't be perfect but it needs to have the bones so that I can put back what I can over time.

    Could the outside be ugly if the inside was good?
    Absolutely yes - I'll get around to the outside someday.

    Could the inside be ugly if the outside was good?
    Yes - I've been there done that so I'm not phased by that at all.


    Do you like many styles or periods as long as they are authentic?
    Absolutely!

    Would you recreate a historic interior that was gone (architecturally not decor-wise), or would you chalk it up to evolution and do something else?
    I would recreate what was there as best I could over time and as I could afford to do it right. So a lot may not get done for awhile and I'm okay w/ that. I'd rather move than do something totally against the grain (or just totally non-descript) of what the home was originally designed as.

    Architect Geek does not = Architect Snob.

  • 13 years ago

    Surprised to see this surface again.

    Well, I have to be fluid...my favorite periods, Federal and urban Greek Revival (1790-1840ish, are far out of my reach in anything but an apartment, and it's time for a house.