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What Style Is That House? Visual Guides to Domestic Architectural Designs (99percentinvisible.org)
387 points by misnamed 259 days ago | hide | past | web | 108 comments | favorite

As a lover of old houses, it's nice to see this sort of thing discussed. A few minor quibbles:

The article (though fortunately not the poster/infographic) mentions the "Victorian" style. Victorian is an era during which multiple housing styles were popular -- Queen Anne, Stick, Shingle, etc.

The stylized drawings, especially in the infographic, really obscure the characteristics of some of the styles. The Italianate drawing, for example, barely resembles the real thing.

Finally, the article and sources fail to mention that few houses truly represent one specific style. Typically, only architect-designed homes (built by the rich-n-famous) or kit homes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kit_houses_in_North_America) would really fit a specific style. Lots of homes of that era are best described as "vernacular" and combine elements of multiple styles. You then end up classifying it based on the predominant features. For example, I live in a home built in the 1890s that has a mix of Queen Anne, shingle, and stick elements. Though, my last home was a spot-on American Foursquare.

Nicely, the article references the McAlester book. It is the best resource I've found for classifying old houses. I have the older edition, authored by Virginia and Lee so I can't speak to the contents of the new edition. If you want some "old house porn" check out the Painted Lady series of books, too.

Yeah 'italianate' seems to describe the presence of individual design elements more than full blown motifs. But I think that's a typical concession in 'affordable homes'.

I too reccommend the McAlesters' Field Guide. Her 850 page successor text (w/ styles after 1940) is on my short list of 'to buy' books.

Further, old houses shift over time. I grew up in a house that look like greek revival from one side and rather different from the sides. It grew from a one room hunting lodge in the 1700's with a separate kitchen into a single structure, and then had some rooms added in the 1950's.

This is so neat!

I'm in what I can best describe as a single story "National gable + front wing" tract house from the 40s, and feel that the design is very pragmatic and boring. These types of houses are very common in the Bay Area suburbs, particularly in the East Bay. Those were built en masse during during the war and have a surprising degree of craftsmanship and material quality.

I muse about one day owning one of those ordinate Victorian houses, but at the same time dread all work and red tape that can come with them (Which goes against my idea of homeownership). A buddy of mine has one and says it would cost ~35k to replace the drafty windows because the city requires an approved type/style/installer (it's a historic home).

Avoiding "historic" districts like the plague is always a winning strategy.

Typically not only do you have expensive standards to meet, but you also need to satisfy the desires of boards who are very happy to spend your money to scratch whatever itch they have.

> Avoiding "historic" districts like the plague is always a winning strategy.

Yes and if you do happen to end up in one, do your research and find out how official the "historic district" is.

A friend of mine bought a house and was getting (for lack of a better term) hassled by the "historic society" because they didn't like renovations he was doing (paint color, new windows, etc). Turns out there's no official status to the group at all. They just formed a group about 20 years ago and lie / bully people into complying with whatever they consider to be "historic".

I like old things and old houses too. But a friend in real estate advised me against buying and living in 100 year old houses because of the high cost of maintenance, very high cost of remodeling, and various things you wouldn't expect right away, like the water tasting funny due to old pipes, there house creaking and making sounds all the time as it shrinks and expands, the general lack of insulation, etc.

I'm still fond of the Tudor style, but alas it does seem impractical.

The problem seems to be that builders don't build many houses in old style, even if the the demand is there. In Norway for instance, even if there is a high demand for old flats built before world war 2, there simply hasn't been built any old style flats at all since the war.

One of the reasons is that many architects after the war considered it to be fascistic to build anything with ornaments on the outside. You can still buy new clothes in old fashion style and new books using old fashioned typography, but you can't buy a new flat in an old style flat.

Some architects today say we are living in the age of modernism, not the baroque or roccoco, and therefore should not build old style buildings. Art history was not intended to be used to dictate which style to use when designing anything. Architects seems to abuse art historic terms to get their way.

Surely cost is part of the reason.

If the US housing market has taught me anything, it's that ornament is cheap. Tasteful ornament, on the other hand...

The kinds of ornaments you see on old buildings are labor-intensive to reproduce, though (as are some of the materials used).

For woodwork in particular, it's sometimes difficult to find anything close to the same quality as some old solid wood pieces, except maybe as a veneer, at any price. Flawless long runs of thick oak for a thicker-than-is-common-now banister, for example, are waaaaaay harder to find than they used to be.

And good luck finding someone capable of fitting it all together such that it's still perfectly tight after 100+ years of winters and summers with no AC and poor heat. If such a person still exists I'm sure they charge a fortune.

You have to be prepared to deal with an old home's quirks. It is not going to have all the amenities and features of a modern house. Yep, it will wiggle and squeak and probably will need to have its electrical and plumbing checked out by a competent contractor.

It will have been "maintained" by people of varying skills, desires, tastes, budgets, etc over its lifetime. Many of the repairs I've had to do in my old house have involved undoing or fixing the previous owner's poor work.

The flip side, our house is over 100 years old and has most of its original windows. Other than some painting, glazing, and caulking they're fine & pretty weathertight. It has 12" wide floor joists ... I could park a car in the living room. And it has glorious architectural details not found in (or poorly imitated in) modern homes.

The inventory of old homes will never be larger than what we have now. Every year, old homes are lost to fire, flood, tear down, and insensitive remuddlings. If you're not willing to live in and love an old house for what it is, please, buy a new home.

>If you're not willing to live in and love an old house for what it is, please, buy a new home.

Yup absolutely. Thankfully current owners of historic homes in the Bay Area often look for buyers who will appreciate the building and not want to tear it down. There's a house in Atherton which was the original ranch house in the early 20th century there. The owners refuse to sell it to anyone who wants to demolish it (buyers likely have to sign something), and it's been on the market for many many years now for that reason.

Poorly done reproductions of wood work make my skin crawl. You touch a railing or some mounding and realize it's mdf that's coated in some plastic.

Just knowing all the skill that went into making the old features out of wood has been lost is sad/ disappointing.

Then there's the fake columns made out of, strangely, foam(!)


Since they are fake and have no purpose other than being ornamental they are prone to being the wrong size and just look really, really off. If you're going to make them ornamental they should look like they could be functional.

Fake shutters that are the wrong size/location really grind my gears as well.

I feel obligated to to point out the blog McMansion Hell (http://www.mcmansionhell.com) which ridicules and explains why these details are ugly.

It all depends, so much. A hundred year house might have been well-maintained and have interior renovations in the systems that matter most -- electrical, plumbing, heating, insulation -- in which case it is very likely a great house for the next thirty years, provided you do the same work.

Or it could be an inconsistent mash-up of systems from different eras, with some knob-and-tube wiring still exposed in the basement, no insulation in the walls and a half-hearted roll of fiberglass in the attic, and Baron von Frankenstein's heating system. That would be bad.

On the other hand, "high cost of remodeling" is bunk unless you have an Historical Preservation Society glaring at you. All normal remodeling is expensive in every house. It's just that an HPS can make it much more expensive, and constrain you not to do things you want.

As someone who lives in a ~200 year old house, I pretty much agree with all that. I've spent quite a bit on renovations and the house is still "quirky." (e.g. just has one smallish, though just redone, bathroom) On the other hand, the location and property are great and it was quite inexpensive, especially by today's standards.

Yes, some of the renovations were due to age and/or lack of maintenance over time. But there's no shortage of horror stories associated with problems in recently-constructed houses as well.

> It's just that an HPS can make it much more expensive, and constrain you not to do things you want.

This is so true in Boston. A lot of HPSs specify that you can't change the exterior facing portion of a building, even if you make every effort to keep the appearance while, e.g. adding 4 inches of styrofoam for insulation behind the siding, or if the changes you make are historically correct, e.g. 4 inches of styrofoam + stucco on top of brick walls. They don't particularly care about the interior, so often your only choice if you want to insulate is to insulate on the interior, which, ironically, reduces the building's durability.

I'll attest to old homes being built or maintained poorly. Our house is over 100 years old and we've found just mistake after mistake. Galvanized pipes ready to burst when we remodeled the bathroom last year (a $20k job we did ourselves), to studs not being 16 inches on center to poor insulation (or no insulation at all) to outdated electrical to drywall over plaster and lath to multiple layers of flooring on top of each other. We've remodeled just about 1 room a year - we'll be done this year with the last bedroom.

We've brought everything up to code and anyone walking into the house says it looks beautiful but it's been a huge expense and time consuming doing 95% of the work ourselves.

My house was built in the 1780s, but is well-insulated, has modern wiring and plumbing, etc. If you have a well-maintained home, the age of the structure is mostly irrelevant.

Grew up in 1850s and 1920s house, owned 1930s and 1910s houses, and rented 1910s and 1960s houses. Many of these homes had been renovated within the last 50 years.

My anecdotal experience:

The very old houses will require expensive systems upgrades - heating, plumbing, electricity, etc. But the quality of the craftsmanship is unbelievably good. It was built to last, whereas the newer 1960s home and my sister's 2000s-era condo was made with lots of cheap crap that has its own replacement burden.

Renovations vary in quality, too. Our downstairs bathroom was renovated in the 60s with cheap, ugly materials. The windows were replaced 15 years ago around the house using a second-tier brand, and they squeal loudly when they are opened. But another owner did a kitchen renovation 10 years ago using high-quality materials that have stood up quite well.

It's amazing what a difference the home owner can make. We bought our first house not too long ago. The most recent home owners, though they kept the home clean, did not do any regular maintenance and did a lot of ... weird things. Luckily they were only here for a few years, so only a small amount of real damage was done (dry rot). Mostly we just had to catch up on all the regular maintenance.

The owners prior to them, though, were amazing. Their renovations were solid, beautiful, and extensive. The contrast between any work done by them and work done by the most recent owners is painfully obvious.

On the more extreme side I've seen homes completely rotted by owners, requiring over a year of in-depth repairs to bring the house back to life. It's very sad to see.

Exact same thing here. When we bought our home the people we bought it from did no maintenance and were only there for a few years so no lasting damage. It was a ton of small stuff that needed to be done but it had to be done all at once, which was much more annoying than I anticipated.... and the owners prior to them did a great job renovating.

It's all about taking care of the property.

Real estate people or even most kitchen cabinet vendors don't seem to understand there even is a difference between materials. If it shines on the surface, it must be good.

I'm not disagreeing, but my mom recently did some work on her house which has four parts (late 1700's, middle 1800's, 1970's, and 1990's)

The contractor basically said the parts that were hundreds of years old would be around for another couple hundred years, but the stuff that was - 20-50 years old had all sore of issues...

Many(most?) people in real estate have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. This is an example.

Avoiding older homes because they are old isn't great advice. Avoiding homes that are falling apart is better advice (for most people, not all) but not all old homes are falling apart and not all newer homes are well built and will be falling apart in 10 years or sooner.

Most older homes (that are still standing) are well built, having been built to last, and some have been well maintained and upgraded over the years. The best quality houses I've ever lived in were over a century old. The worst quality house I've ever lived in was 40 years old and was the only "modern" house I've ever lived in and every single corner was cut building the thing.

Older homes often have some great architectural features that you can't find today, you aren't going to find a 20 year old home with an ornate hand carved mahogany staircase, for example. A lot of it comes down to personal preference and what you are used to.

The water never tastes funny.

My friends moved into a (rented) older, turn of the century, home that was poorly maintained and it's a garbage place to live. But it isn't like that's not obvious when you tour the place. My other friends bought a house built in the 1700s and it's the most well-built house I've ever seen. It has its quirks but its well-maintained and has most of the modern features you'd expect. It's also very well isolated.

Problem with newer homes, especially McMansions, is many are poor construction that aren't meant to last. They went up fast and cheap. This doesn't apply to all new construction, of course, but there was rush to build during the housing bubble. Corners were cut. Some houses were meant to look just good enough to sell, not to last a century.

Neighborhood is more important and theres not always a choice of a new home in many neighborhoods. For example, when we bought our house we had no choice but to buy old construction unless we wanted to change our neighborhood preference. Then we'd have to buy a McMansion on the outskirts of town away from everything except other McMansions. We'd be unable to walk anywhere, much further drive from work, much further drive to pretty much anywhere, and we'd have to buy double the amount of home than we'd prefer to buy.

If it's an established neighborhood you're going to get established homes!

But saying "avoid old homes" as generic advice to everyone is terrible advice. It's all tradeoffs and personal preference and also quality of the specific home. A well-built, well-maintained home is still a well-built, well-maintained home.

Most real estate agents also have zero knowledge about the mechanical/engineering aspects of a property. Whenever I ask them about the insulation, electrical wiring, HVAC, or plumbing they just give me a blank face and try to redirect me to how good the kitchen appliances and cabinets look. :(

When touring a house once I asked the seller's agent if the fireplace was functional and operational. She said "I don't live here, so I don't know." I mean, a fireplace is a main feature and some are just ornamental so you'd think she'd think to ask the sellers about it. And if she really didn't know why not answer "I'll ask the sellers and get back to you on that one." Nope, just left it at shrug. Half the times when I've toured properties I got the impression it was the first time the seller's agent had even been in the house.

Many only know how to parrot "factoids" they've heard somewhere. "Don't buy and living in 100 year old houses" is one such example. Maybe they just don't like that older homes are cheaper and they are trying to maximize their commission.

Can your buddy repair their windows instead and install low-e storm windows over them?

Never noticed that art nouveau apparently didn't make it to the US. Or is that because the chart only focuses on the single-family home? It's probably the most characteristic style of most cities from Brussels to Russia.

Examples: http://www.rhein-ruhr-region.de/info/wp-content/uploads/wett... or https://birgitrehse.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/planufer-1.j...

For whatever reason, I think Art Deco ended up supplanting Art Nouveau in US cities. Art Deco didn't have much of an influence on single-family homes either, but it certainly left its mark on everything from small apartments to skyscrapers.

It's a shame: while I certainly enjoy Art Deco, I miss the incredible design and ambiance of the Art Nouvea neighborhoods in St. Petersburg and Barcelona. I've never found anything with quite that feel in other cities, especially in the US...

> For whatever reason, I think Art Deco ended up supplanting Art Nouveau in US cities.

Art Nouveau was not well fitted for large buildings: it was expensive to build and wasn't easily replicable. Even in Europe, large buildings on Art Nouveau are scarce and were more a proof of concept than a standard way of building. Casa Milá in Barcelona is probably the most relevant example and for sure a must-see.

For a public building you can (pay) to go through, the Musical Instruments Museum in Brussels is a very good example of an Art Nouveau building. (located on Coudenberg at Place Royale)

It's beautiful and unlike the periods before it they are quite spacious on the inside. If you go further back in time, it sometimes gets a bit cramped (i. e. stairs half a meter wide, half the depth of your foot and at an 120 degree angle – basically a ladder).

It's interesting to see that everyone wants to life in them here, but nobody would attempt to build like it again. Even the most luxurious new apartments may have floor-to-ceiling windows on all sides, but the ceilings are at 3m instead of 4.5m+.

May be the costs of the solid walls and increased heat loss, or it'd just feel tacky to have ornaments of ivy and topless women on the front of a new building.

It's basic economy: instead of 2, the building company sells 3 floors using almost the same materials and licences. Even if the 'floor price' decreases a bit is certainly a sure bet.

> Even the most luxurious new apartments may have floor-to-ceiling windows on all sides, but the ceilings are at 3m instead of 4.5m+.

Having friends living in apartments in such high ceilings (in my city, Kraków, there's lots of those old buildings, so even poorest students often get to live in them), the number one complaint is heating - warm air rises and accumulates under the ceiling, so you have to heat a lot to even feel it at floor level.

When that buildings are properly renovated (e.g. new insulation on external facade) the thermal problem is solved and you remain with the sensation of living in a "palace". Living in an old kamienica with a ceiling on 3,50m+ is an "order of magnitude" better than living in a Soviet style building with ceilings on 2,40m or less. It's liberating.

Man I grew up with seven foot cielings (under 2.2m) and saw no problems with it. The house is super cozy. Now I've got roughly ten foot cielings and just changing a light bulb or replacing smoke detector batteries is a real pain.

Chandeliers, sconces, pendants, and wall-mounted smoke detectors take care of that problem.

I'm not saying that high cielings are terrible, I just see a minor disadvantage (plus the actual heating issue) and am used to low cielings, so it bugs me. Oddly, I dislike the aesthetics of all of those options as well. And I haven't got a ladder (this place is a rental so it's not that long term and ladders are big things to haul around when you move frequently and only need them rarely).

Or, I don't know, ladders?

Create plenum space with drop ceiling 3-ft below actual ceiling?

I wished every Texas contractor who builds great rooms with 20 foot ceilings but still puts HVAC ducts in hot unconditioned attics did this.

> I miss the incredible design and ambiance of the Art Nouvea neighborhoods in St. Petersburg and Barcelona. I've never found anything with quite that feel in other cities..

If you have the chance, Budapest is full of art nouveau buildings.

On the contrary, the second link in the grandparent's post is basically how all distinguished buildings in the center of Paris and Madrid were built at the time - a subtler form of modernism, still with strong classic influence, but Art Nouveau nonetheless. The ones you link are more artistic and emblematic, but that kind of building is much less frequent.

Have in mind that Art Nouveau is a pretty wide and heterogeneous movement, and not all of it is of the "flowery" nature.

Paris, even though it may not be what is pictured, is also what I immediately thought of, from the GP's second link.

No idea what style the first is, or the relevance of the third image, but the second image looks like Art Deco to me.

> No idea what style the first is

Art Nouveau, no doubt about that.

> or the relevance of the third image

That's the inside of 'the first true Art Nouveau building', the Tassel Hotel. Unesco world heritage and all that.

The page it's from explains it's a more geometrical style of nouveau.


I suspect some college campuses will have it.

Ex: https://www.flickr.com/photos/geronimo819/9481473363/

That definitely feels more Roman. Art Nouveau is more playful, sometimes symmetry-breaking etc. I think the US was mostly doing Art Deco at the same time, which is obviously beautiful in its own right.

I would call that Second Empire - the style of the classic haunted house in US TV and film.

Their graphical representation of a McMansion is perhaps overly generous:

- some of the windows actually match (and are even symmetrically aligned)

- the garage takes up less that half of the house's front face

- the columns next to the door are neither too tall nor too skinny

McMansion on the lower left: http://99percentinvisible.org/app/uploads/2016/08/american-v...

An excellent time to link to McMansion Hell's various guides on McMansions. Two good starting points are "What Makes a McMansion Bad Architecture" [0] and "The 10 Circles of McMansion Hell" [1].

[0] http://www.mcmansionhell.com/post/148605513816/mcmansions-10...

[1] http://www.mcmansionhell.com/post/151896249151/the-10-circle...

I guess I'm not getting it. They say "The secondary masses should never compete with the primary mass" but never says why. Why is having six masses combined by a primary mass to fill in the gaps a bad thing? At least with "too many voids" they say "looks like swiss cheese". Same thing with symmetry, why is a poorly balanced house bad? Why does a house have to follow the "rule of thirds"? That's never explained in the article.

Something makes me think that the author has never seen a Tuscan villa, because that "six secondary masses" house is clearly a villa-inspired home. And villas are often non-symmetrical, out of proportion, full of secondary masses, and certainly do not follow the rule of thirds. Part of their entire appeal is that they appear to be several small buildings connected together after they were built.

I don't have anything either for or against McMansions, but after reading that first link I'm not convinced that the author knows what makes McMansions "bad" either. In the second link some of the houses in "the 10s" look exactly like German manors. Compare the second "10" picture with this one: http://www.castlesandmanorhouses.com/photos/bodelschwingh..j...

Is that 13th century German manor a "McMansion" too?

> Is that 13th century German manor a "McMansion" too?

Look, you'd really have to read the blog before making comments on it. Always a good idea. First read - in this case, all of it! - and then talk about it. Please. The blog explains very well how to recognise a McMansion and it really isn't that hard.

As for why McMansions are bad, there are plenty of explanations given in this blog (areas hard to reach, cheap materials, wasted space, water damage after a short time, etc...). Just look at this one image, plenty of reasons: http://99percentinvisible.org/app/uploads/2016/10/18-mc-esch... (dust collection areas, unsafe fireplace, etc.)

It doesn't have to. These are just general rules that usually make things look good. You can make good-looking things that don't follow the rules if it's done thoughtfully and with a design purpose in mind.

McMansion builders are not doing thoughtful design with some sort of aesthetic vision, though. They're slapping together the cheapest materials they can find, as quickly as possible to make the highest profit. That's why it ends up looking bad. They didn't use 5 different kind of windows because they had some design vision that requires it. They used 5 different kinds of windows because the contractor said "Hey, I've got a bunch of different windows left over from other jobs, let's use them here so we don't have to buy new ones."

Thank you, that's what I kept expecting the article to say. I was waiting for them to say "this looks bad because they cheaped out", "this looks bad because it was designed around spare parts", "this feature is a sign that they were cutting costs", etc. But they didn't. They just said "this is bad, moving on, this one's bad too, next one..."

As it stands, it's a McMansion of an article. A lot of things thrown together without any rhyme or reason, sold to people who don't know any better, and marketed as the epitome of high culture. It did nothing to further my understanding of what is a good house and what is a bad house except "if you cut it in half, you have two identical halves... most of the time... but not always".

I understand why McMansions suck, and I can use the same reasons to say the same thing about the McMansion Hell articles. They're full of "this is bad" without any "this is why" attached. And a lot of the "this is bad" stuff appears on houses that are definitively not McMansions (like villas and 13th century manors).

The post is part of a blog. If you read other posts in this blog all those things are expanded on and explained more.

I guess each individual post is disjointed. they aren't meant to stand alone but be part of a collective.

I totally agree with you. It's generally a good idea to actually read something before commenting.

I think the original point of this blog was just to make fun - as it says on most articles, it's satire. Meant to entertain and make fun in the first place.

There's an old game called "the sims" where perhaps tongue in cheek the criteria for how much your Sim loved the house it lived in was the McMansion criteria of the linked articles, nothing matches nothing balances no 90 degree corners no flat surfaces proportions are very weird.

Ironically the house being awful results as a side effect in being very expensive to build, so from a conspicuous consumption standpoint its simultaneously hard to avoid noticing none of the windows match at the same time as its noticed clearly no one got a Federal style bulk discount on those windows, or the floor plan and roof line being, well, insane, was likely very expensive to build. You might have to live in an ugly house, but everyone will know you have money. Oh the fed dropped interest rates again so we have an extra $100K to spend, well, if you already have five dormers why not seven and toss in some columns on the side door entrance?

Wow, I never made this connection but the McMansion you described sounds remarkably like my humongous fancy houses I used to pride myself on in Sims! Do you have any sources discussing this? I have some friends who would appreciate it :)

Well, like a decade ago people would illegally download software with titles like "The Sims 3: Katy Perry Sweet Treats" (unfortunately not making this up) and buy or otherwise obtain the 3rd party guidebook. I just read how to max out your house score in SIMS right out of the guidebook and it had those hints like listed as bullet points, which even back then made me LOL that SIMS3 gamified mcmansion design.

And I remember it a decade+ later because it pissed me off quite a bit that hardcoded into the game software was the value judgement that a mcmansion was superior to my designs for log cabins and castles. What do you mean my sims characters will suicide if I don't put a bay window in my log cabin, this game which had promise is such BS. Well maybe I didn't expect much from the "Katy Perry Sweet Treats" add on but I expected better of the original.

There are aesthetic value judgements built into sim games like Dwarf Fortress but they're weird enough that they don't feel as constraining.

People were wasting time building useless things in computers a long time before minecraft, after all.

99pi also did an episode featuring that blog: http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/mcmansion-hell-devil-d...

I believe 99PI has recently hired Kate Wagner, creator of McMansion Hell. http://99percentinvisible.org/author/kate-wagner/

Somewhat unrelated, but I'm always surprised by the fact that most american homes have the front door open directly to the living room. In most European houses there's usually a hallway behind the front door. It acts as a thermal buffer and you have space for a coat rack and shoe cabinet.

A lot of American single-family houses have three doors (or more): the "front door", which may never be used; the side door, which leads to a "mud room" for taking off boots and hanging up coats, which is used all the time, and the rear door, used for access to the back yard.

In the South the front door is used much more often, because it gets hot, not so much cold.

Personal anecdote: growing up, the only time I used the front door was to speak to visitors and guests who rang the doorbell. My family and I never came home and used it to enter the house.


The side door, or door leading to the garage, is probably the most used exterior door in an American home. And ideally that's where a mudroom would be.

That makes sense! Most Dutch houses are terraced (so no side doors) and have an enclosed back garden.

I liked the visual guide to American house styles! I can imagine a same sort of guide to European housing. Dutch, German, French or UK housing developments are usually quite easy to distuinghuish from each other, even when they're from the same period.

My house doesn't even have a side door, our front door opens into a little section of tile that's sectioned off from the living room and a hallway.

> most american homes have the front door open directly to the living room.

Adding some info: in South America (Brazil at least) front door opens also to the living room. On architectural theory it's common to correlate this trend with the 'less hierarchical' way of being of these countries.

In Europe this hardly ever happen and in cold countries is even common to have 2 halls behind the front door on single houses: the first not heated (the ganek in Polish) and then another hall, this one heated.

> Somewhat unrelated, but I'm always surprised by the fact that most american homes have the front door open directly to the living room.

The "direct access into the living room"-thing got imported over here in Eastern Europe (well, Romania, from where I'm from) in a lot of new residential apartments. Which is quite unusual, because now you're watching TV and doing all your housy stuff in the same room as your dirty shoes. This is more noticeable in winter, when there's all that slush on our city streets which you're bringing into your home.

I know, we have the whole hallway filled with wet shoes and jackets... In warmer climates a hallway isn't a necessity, but there are a lot of areas in the US that get much, much more snow than here in Europe. Weird...

I wouldn't say most American homes the front door opens to the living room, at least not in the Northeast where I'm from. Most have either hallways, like you described as European (usually called a mudroom or entrance-way), or side doors that are exclusively used. Even most apartments have a little entrance-way area for shoes and coats, if not a full room. The only time I ever lived in a home that opens directly into the living room was when I lived in a super shitty apartment and everything about that apartment made no sense.

Don't take what you see on TV as a typical American home, those are sound stages that are laid out to be most convenient to film.

It's convenient if you want to shoot a sitcom.

A very interesting read. In what way does a "Craftsman Home" differ from what we internationally regard as a California Bungalow (or cal bung)?

I'm not positive in this but I believe a California Bungalow features a number of shared design elements that you will also find in Craftsman homes such as low sloping roofs, asymmetrical exterior proportions, open floor plans, roof overhangs, small porches along with a front stoop, but don't necessarily have to be in the traditional Craftsman/Arts & Crafts style.

What we call California Bungalows can share all of those general elements while being in different aesthetic styles such as Tudor or Spanish Mission. Basically, Craftsman would be a subset of the larger California Bungalow style.

Short article that covers the connection-


Time to create a house style classifier! Anybody trained a neural net yet?

Any builders/newly constructed home owners out here?

I am thinking of building a new house instead of buying a used one. This is most likely going to be my biggest investment ever. I am looking at lands in upstate New York/New Jersey region, basically a region with 3 months of frost weather. I am not really a big fan of wooden houses. I have read all sorts of material online how wood is cheap, suitable of expansion/contraction weather, and contractors are cheap who build wood frames. But part of me just wants a durable concrete house.

I was thinking of getting a slab or raised slab concrete foundation with concrete pillars (non cylindrical) protruding upwards that would make up entire foundations of the house. Instead of wooden frames I can go for steel frames (new kid on the block). Then for the rest of the stuff, I can use wood and combination of other materials.

It would be nice hear someone else' similar experience and/or suggestions.

If you have the money it's entirely possible. Steel / Concrete is dramatically more expensive than wood framing though, like, an order of magnitude or close to it. You'll also have a harder time finding a contractor. Most residential contractors are not going to be able to build a steel / concrete structure and the job is going to be too small to interest one of the larger commercial contractors unless you're paying a hefty premium.

Depending on the region, insulated concrete form houses are 5-20% premium over an equivalent wood-framed house. Foundations and basements are almost always made of concrete anyways, so it's not that difficult to find a contractor that is comfortable with an expanded role for concrete.

Concrete platform + steel framing isn't unusual for commercial or multi-family residential buildings, but it's pretty much nonexistent for single-family housing. If you want a concrete/steel house, you're better off going with insulated concrete forms (ICF). In cold regions, many basements are already built with ICFs so finding a contractor to build an entire house that way shouldn't be too difficult.

Don't sell wood short though--contractors can build crappy wood houses, but they can build crappy concrete houses too, and a good wood framed house loses nothing to concrete, except maybe sound insulation and resistance to damage. In your region, as long as you make your house airtight (through taped sheathing, liquid or taped membrane, or airtight drywall) and keep at least 33% of the insulation value outside of the sheathing you should be good.

If you want to build a steel-frame house in the New Jersey area, check out Andar Steel (andarsteel.com), a company that builds steel framing for houses, and has contractors they work with that are used to this.

Look into hempcrete; great insulative properties. Probably not the best for loading bearing, but it's being developed.

What's your desire for steel and concrete?

laminated wood products (osb, etc) are pretty strong

I love side-by-side visualizations like this. I think it would be very neat to have this presented via a Chrome extension that provides design context for Trulia and Zillow listings. When I see a listing description like "this is a lovely Tudor-style home," I often wonder which elements showcase the named style.

When applying for insurance for our house built in the 1780's, my wife and I couldn't find a style/year combo that the online form would accept. We thought it was a Colonial, but maybe it is Georgian? The farmstead stabled the original Morgan horse sire, and is pictured on page 12 here: https://www.morganhorse.com/upload/photos/905TMH_Jan2015_Jus...

I have the Field Guide to American Houses. I'll take a look through it tonight and let you know, but given the era it's probably Georgian. It's not Federal, or Dutch/French/Spanish colonial. It might be what is considered a "folk" house, but those are generally what might be considered a shack.

My first house is the only one like it in the area, (one of the reasons I selected it, as I hate cookie cutter homes) but I always wondered about its origins. The neighbors said it was built by an architect in the 70's, so it was really cool to realize he had blended postmodern with deconstructionist to form it. Awesome read!

The Craftsman is listed as originating in Southern California? This was news to me and is unsupported by anything that I have read. I always thought "The Craftsman" was a subset of "Arts and Crafts" with the "bungalow" variety being associated with california.

Let's discuss the UX of the article: how is the user supposed to zoom the image it to actually see the house designs on the chart? I have a 4k monitor, and it's not enough at all. The site's built-in UI doesn't allow zooming. Certainly, I can open the image in a new tab and zoom it using the browser's UI, but come on: this is too advanced for the layperson.

Click on the image to get the image in a modal. Right click on the image. View Image. Then it will be in a new tab and your cursor will turn into zoom.

At least in Firefox that's what I did.

Open the image in a new tab and use the browser's built-in functions to zoom/pan the image.

I can finally understand my wife every time she points out a different house style :)

Where would a Cape Cod style fit into this? I didn't see it.

Cape Cod is the 2nd home in the infographic following the photo of the poster. It is a Minimal Traditional (along with the "Gable & Wing Roof").

Thanks. I thought the poster was the entire article, I didn't notice that there was more content below it. Whoops.

It doesn't seem to be on the poster though, which is odd.

It was on the poster, again, grouped with the "Gable & Wing Roof"

Probably "McMansion"

Very nice article

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