SO much has already been written, and so ably written, on the subject of domestic work in this country that there remains but little to add, and the special field I am asked to cover is so vague and so varied that I may perhaps be excused if I try to present some general considerations which may guide one in determining what his house should be.
Most of us who build houses, in fact a very large proportion, wish a home, and it is to the consideration of what a home should be that I wish to call attention. Preeminently a home should not only be homelike, but should look like a home, and the house should seem at home in its surroundings. This would seem much like saying that a circle should be round, except for the fact that although nearly every one has an idea of a home which is accurate and well-defined, and easily recognized, the idea is not always sufficiently clear to be grasped by the imagination.
It is right that we should turn to England for our precedence, for England is a country of homes, and in England more than in any other country we recognize the fulfillment of our ideals of what home life means. Of the English homes, the country home is the most characteristic and the most appealing, for the English of all classes have always made the country their home. They love out-of-door life and all connected with it, and they have done this for centuries, and because they have done this for so long they have become paymasters in the art of creating homes.
First floor plan, a master's home, Groton School, Groton, Mass.
R. Clipston Sturgis, architect.
If, then, we turn to English precedence for inspiration, and try to find out the motives and spirit of the domestic work of England, we should surely gain some knowledge of what a home should be.
I think the prevailing character in all English domestic work is sound common sense. They build for comfort, not for show; they count the cost, and build economically.
They love the country, and build so as to preserve its beauties and not mar them when the necessary formality is introduced. They plan for privacy, because privacy is of the essence of home life, and, because they do all these things, almost incidentally as it were, they build beautifully. I say almost incidentally, because their most lovely work seems almost unconsciously beautiful, as if it were a beauty attained without effort.
The English house in suburbs or in country may be based on Gothic traditions as they filtered through the Renaissance days of the Tudor times, or tinged with the Italian spirit which grew side by side with Gothic, or touched by the influence of Dutch brickwork, which helped to produce the Georgian work, but in every case it will be homelike. It will set well on the level amid its well kept grounds, or on the terraced hillside, or in the pleasant valley.
It will have three divisions always more or less clearly marked. The public part, entrances and the like, for the family and for service; the master's part, both in house and grounds; and the service part, also in house and grounds. This is so obviously wise as a fundamental consideration that it is strange to find it so often ignored here, but we may comfort or excuse ourselves with the thought that they have been building to suit conditions of country life for centuries, and we but a short time.
With these three considerations in mind the owner will view his lot of land to determine what part he may spare to the public, what to service, and what reserve for his wife and children. The aspect, the natural features, view, trees, and so on will largely determine these most important things, and if they are settled right, many problems in the plan are determined. The entrance to front door is here, and to the service there, the dining-room is near the service portion, the living-rooms command the private ground. Then the main features of the plan determine themselves. In just this way is it determined whether the regularity of a Classic plan or the freedom of the Gothic fits best the conditions. It seems to me useless to argue that one or the other is the only way. Both have their uses, both are wholly appropriate and fitting at times. The style should grow naturally from the demands of the special conditions, and neither is necessarily exclusive of the others. The best Tudor and Jacobean houses were planned with great formality of balanced parts, and the later Georgian work was often very free, and frankly unbalanced.
What is true of the plan is equally true of materials, always bearing in mind that what is honest and straightforward in construction is more likely to have the permanent qualities of beauty than what is either false, imitative, or ostentatious.