The English have always used honest, simple material - generally local and economical material. With us local material and economy have little to do with each other because in New England, for example, it is cheaper to bring cut stone from Indiana than to cut our obdurate granite. Nevertheless, we disregard local opportunities altogether too much, and rather pride ourselves on getting something our neighbors have not. We have, however, no excuse for not using honest material: wood, stone, brick, concrete, are all in this class, and have their place and use. Wood is still the cheapest material in first cost, but other more durable and safe materials are rapidly nearing its cost. To cover wood with stucco makes the frame house safer, and reduces the surface that requires paint, but it has the air of pretending to be more substantial than it really is. The English, Scotch or Italian stuccoed houses are built of brick or stone. It is, however, a somewhat harmless pretense, and economy may well warrant it.
The stone house may be wholly charming or quite repel-lant, depending largely on how simple it is and how largely nature is allowed to beautify it (I am speaking of simple homes now, not of cut-stone palaces) • Brick is the material which more universally and longer than any other has stood the test of time's judgment; and of all bricks that which has best stood the test is the common red brick with varied colors and textures that are the natural product of the kiln.
During all its great period of brick building England has set its stamp of approval on the red brick. Dutch influence introduced many interesting expressions of brickwork, varied bonds, diapers, rubbed moldings in belt-courses and chimneys, but through all the plain brick wall of good red brick, well laid and well bonded, has held its place as a method of building at once simple, beautiful and economical. For this reason I believe strongly in the use of common brick for our country houses.
There remains of the four I named, concrete. This is practically a modern material, at all events all reinforced forms of concrete. In appearance it is a stucco wall, with some possibilities which the stucco has not, namely, a surface as hard and durable as the best stones, which can be cut and hammered as stone can be. More than that, it can be treated in a unique way when it is still green, for then a brush and water will serve to give it texture and reveal the interest of its component parts.
These four, then, are the simple materials, and because wood is perishable and inflammable, and*, of the other three, brick is the most generally available material, I think it should always be considered when the material of the house is under discussion. There are few places in the country where brick can even be imagined as out of place, because there are few where clay and sand do not exist. Just as brick may be always entitled to consideration so may English precedence be entitled to come first. Yet in this broad and varied country it would be absurd to claim that English precedent should always govern. The Spanish set their stamp on the coast, and working along the lines of the Spanish Renaissance in material that was local and characteristic, they produced a type that gave Mr. Bertram Goodhue a chance to show how completely charming, and home-like as well, the white, flat roofed concrete house might he. (The Gillespie house at Santa Barbara, illustrated in the following chapter.) At first blush one would say this house could look well only in that luxuriant setting, but I can imagine it almost equally lovely and at home in some of the reaches of the Maine coast, set amid cedar and fir, on the hillside, springs feeding its fountains, and its outlook over the sea. At first blush a Virginian red brick house might seem out of place in California, but I can imagine one set in the midst of an orchard, or surrounded by formal gardens, looking as homelike as it does in England, and as much in keeping with its surroundings.