Colonial house architecture to-day lacks significance, except in special cases. That is the truth of the matter. It is the architecture of a more aristocratic time, the architecture of men and women who lived more formally and with less of American independence than we do to-day. It isn't democratic, as we are democratic and as even the average Englishman is democratic. Take for example the informal out-of-door life, with its varied sports and occupations, shared alike by the whole family. This kind of life is being lived by an ever-increasing number of people in this country, and it is producing a different style of architecture than that which prevailed a century ago.
Where can you find any close relationship between this very vital characteristic of our modern life and the life of Colonial days ? The whole scheme of life was more formal. The modern problem of domestic service did not present itself. The great families in the South and in the North had their slaves, their trained servants, and even in the average household there remained some traditions of English formality, of aristocratic rather than democratic life. To-day in most households life is entirely different. The younger generations have much more independence and it is the era of individual development. To-day our children conform less to any formal routine of the household than at any other time in our history. They and their friends share with us the informal life of work and play at home. There is a great movement towards the country and, whether large or small, American suburban and country houses reflect the trend of our life.
All this makes for a new type of house; a house with at least one large living-room that typifies the life of the household. There is no other one room in the house that can economically balance this in size, and it is this one fact that is largely responsible for the gradual growth of a type of house that is comparatively new to us.
No, the Colonial style is not significant to-day. The plan with its central hall and four corner rooms is economical, no doubt, but it is the economy of the bargain counter, inasmuch as one is getting more than one's money's worth of something one doesn't want. The type must always be twisted and turned to fit changed conditions, or the client must be molded to fit the frame.
I have dwelt somewhat at length on the inadequacy of the Colonial in itself because it is the most serious rival of the style I am championing. It has tradition, dignity and charm; it still has character and individuality to some extent, but only occasionally does it have significance. Perhaps I am too hard on this style, for I find myself trying at times to qualify my statements, but please remember that I am dealing with the subject in a general way and must treat it generally. I must not dwell too long on the many delightful examples of Colonial houses that I know. I must overlook the fact that I was brought up in a Colonial house, and I must stick to the point, which is that the modern English house hits the nail on the head more often than any other style of house.
I have just fallen a victim to the word "style" in its sense of "a peculiar type of building," which leads me to state here that I am not arguing for the Modern English Plaster House, per se, hut for the house with character, significance and individuality, and I must now justify my statement that the Modern English Plaster House has these qualities highly developed.
First, to get the plaster part of my title settled. No doubt the insertion of this word was a pitfall designed to limit my field of examples, but I hope to make it serve a useful turn.
"Plaster" is exterior plaster, stucco; a durable wall covering with a limited range of color possibilities, and a variety of textures. It is comparatively inexpensive to put on, easily and cheaply maintained, and forms a beautiful background for vines and shrubs, harmonizing with all natural surround-ings.
Wood is expensive, but it is still the cheapest building material under average conditions in the East. It is cheapest for the first cost of a house, but the upkeep of wood and paint is no small item, and a material that after the first cost will successfully stand our varied climatic changes at almost no expense to the householder for repairs, is well worth serious consideration.