Among the multitude of perplexing problems that will face the builder of a home, especially if he be one who is unwilling to accept a mere box out of a mold, not the least troublesome will be the selection of an architectural style. As he visits the new homes of his friends his mind is keenly receptive to the impressions made by each distinctive style or lack of it. In this modern adaptation of the Colonial he feels that he has reached at last the acme of charm - what could be more hospitable, dignified and expressive of the spirit of America? Could anything be more satisfying than the treatment of that stairway, outlined by its mahogany rail and exquisitely molded white balusters? But in the ardor of his newly acquired conviction he visits a half-timber house, the architect of which has observed in conscientious detail the best English tradition. Perhaps, after all, the Colonial house was a bit stiff and formal - there is an indefinable charm in the irregularity of plan, in the quiet library, paneled to the ceiling in dark waxed oak. Surely this is more homelike. Then a friend tells him of the work that is being designed by the so-called "Chicago School," into which the dry bones of past civilizations and peoples long dead have not been dragged - work that stands upon its own legs and draws its inspiration from the natural evolution of modern methods and materials as influenced by the character of the country itself, bringing to these homes of the West the long horizontal lines dictated by the vast reaches of the prairies.
Our friend who was about to build decides that the subject will bear deeper investigation, and postpones the execution of working drawings. It is an excellent thing, for most of us build but once, unfortunately, and the errors we fall into in haste we shall live to repent at leisure. While the failure to include back stairs may cause us temporary inconvenience, and may in time be remedied, the style of our house will abide with us for the rest of our days, and if we have chosen unwisely in our haste there is nothing about the whole structure that may become so insistently repellent.
There is a bright side to this matter, however, which I hasten to present. The man who has studied this question of style and weighed the arguments, pro and con, with the care their importance deserves, may make his choice with a fair assurance that he is not only on the right road, but that the farther he travels it the more interesting and attractive it will become. He is constantly finding new interest in the architectural style he has adapted as being best suited to his needs and desires - so much so that the road ahead is too attractive to allow him for a moment to turn back in the thought that he may have chosen the wrong way at the forking.
It is with the aim of making easier the choice of an architectural style for the country house that these chapters have been written. It has seemed the best and most forceful style to follow in a way the debate, allowing the case of each style to be presented as strongly as an enthusiastic advocate could devise. It need hardly be said that it is no easy task to persuade an architect to argue for any one style as against all others, for no architect really believes that one style will be the proper (me to select under all conditions. For the purpose of getting all the facts before the reader, however, the role of the enthusiastic advocate has been courteously assumed by the contributors, to whom my own hearty thanks, and I trust those of the reader as well, are hereby given.
These arguments have appeared at irregular intervals in House and Garden and it is believed that their assembled publication in this more enduring form can scarcely fail to be of real interest and value to the man who would build wisely and well.
Henry H. Saylor.