Revivals and Recreations

By Beacon Staff

Post-war American housing designs are varied and easily categorized. Predominant are revived and stylized versions of English architecture. American Colonial, Georgian, Gothic or Tudor traditions can be found throughout the United States. The names themselves conjure a visual image, something from a storybook, a movie or a painting. Families in unprecedented numbers were building their own homes and looking for something different, and the war had created an interest in English and European styles once again.

Coziness, warmth and comfort often describe one such resurrected style, the Cottage. Old English homes were often designed, built and expanded by each successive generation. This led to expansive and rambling floor plans. Cottage living minimized the excesses and redundancies in layout and gave the family purposeful and practical living space. The intent, most certainly, was to have plenty of livable area with less upkeep and maintenance required. Not all cottage-style homes were fashioned after the country homes or beach resort imagery. Some early replicas were carefully designed to appear as if they had been built of the more traditional brick or stone, although it was common practice to place a veneer over a wooden frame. Stucco, which is cement based, was often applied directly over frame construction and external beams, which were no longer necessary architecturally, but merely decorative in nature. Many of these structures were “half-timbered.” This term describes an English based tradition which had heavy wooden framing timbers that were filled in with materials blended with mud plaster. This practice, begun during the Elizabethan times, was used not only on cottages but also larger manor homes as well.

The more modern-day cottage – yes, another recent revival – can be found everywhere in the United States. They seem to be the perfect residence for the individual, couple, new families, empty nesters and retirees alike. A universal home style! With increased wealth and the desire for more luxurious living, Americans gravitated towards a more palatial home size during the last decades of the 20th century. With the changes in economy and priorities, the “Cottage Style” home has enjoyed resurgence in popularity. This would seem to indicate a movement to a more unencumbered lifestyle with modest-sized houses that offer simplicity of form. This does not mean that cottages are simple or without interest. Living small is not merely about “downsizing.” These compact creations are designed and built with every comfort imaginable, just on a more intimate scale.

Primary focus and emphasis is placed today on achieving the idyllic cozy image when designing a new-age cottage. Architectural plans are often the most unique and personal in this genre. Thoughtful consideration of the location and terrain is essential in having the home appear to exist with its surroundings, rather than being built upon it. The exterior should be made of local and natural resources, stone, cedar-shake and shingled siding are good examples. The entryway is usually made to a human scale and welcoming, not grandiose and open. The modest size, around 2,000 square feet, is filled with craftsmanship and attention to detail. Original cottage living was a simple, single level foot print with the fireplace centrally located. While at that time the fire heated the home, today it provides the warmth and ambiance that are so appealing. No matter how large or intimate a home, families tend to spend most time together in the kitchen.

Cottage living inspires a mental image for each of us individually and collectively. Reminiscent of childhood, small personal places we created, a fort, a hideout, a tree house, all provided warmth and security. Cottages can represent a picture of the English countryside rock walls, thatched or slate roofed, single story residence. It can embody the beach home you vacationed in each summer as a child. It can be the lake home, nestled in the woods that housed every family holiday. Nostalgia plays a great part in the revival of these dwellings. It is a resurrection of a lifestyle. A house that is as easy to live in as it is to maintain. A house that offers every comfort while avoiding the unnecessary. A house that says as much about how you choose to live as about who you are. A house that is a home.

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