This section is from the book "The Principles And Practice Of Modern House-Construction", by G. Lister Sutcliffe. Also available from Amazon: How Your House Works: A Visual Guide to Understanding & Maintaining Your Home.
The simple home of the humble family need not be carelessly planned. Even a two-room cabin whose doors, windows, and fireplaces are all in proper relation to each other, is quite a different thing from one in which these are disposed at random. The faults to be avoided are such as the comfortless fireside, cheerless lighting, uncleanly adjuncts, inconvenient sleeping-rooms, a dark stair, and the want of cupboard accommodation; and little else need be said. When the so-called cottage becomes amplified into a middle-class residence, there is of course a little less restraint, and that is all.
This popular name applies to the bulky edifices which of late years have been built for the accommodation of townspeople who for various reasons object to take entire houses and yet do not care to occupy mere lodgings. The best of them are now coming to be called "mansions", and in many cases they are designed and furnished with no little magnificence. The principle of plan is no more than this: - each successive story of the building is divided into two or more self-enclosed tenements, with access only from a common staircase.
This arrangement is common on the Continent, and has long been adopted, without pretension, in the cities of Scotland - where the local term "flats" signifies floors. The tenant of a flat, entering by his own private door on the public staircase-landing (which in some cases he reaches by a lift), finds himself in a private corridor leading to his several rooms - all of course on the same level - perhaps two or three in number, perhaps six or eight. The plan is simple; sometimes only a sitting-room, a bedroom, and a bath-room and closet; sometimes dining and drawing rooms and several bedrooms; sometimes a kitchen etc. There are two evils that suggest themselves: - firstly, the rooms are apt to be too small; secondly, the whole building, owing to its bulk and subdivision, may be deficient in both light and air.
These are what used to be called "model dwellings", and in the present form are simply "flats" for working-people's families. The planning of the several rooms - a living-room, one or two bedrooms, a little kitchen or scullery, a pantry, and a closet, with perhaps a balcony - follows the ordinary rules; and the two evils attaching to what may now be called a sort of barrack life have still to be faced, namely, straitened space, and deficient light and air.
A one-floor house, with especial spaciousness and simplicity within, and the open country or the sea without, and a verandah, is considered to be of the nature of the Indian residence known by this name. Its plan with as is that of a "flat" very liberally treated, with a superabundance of light and air and the rules of aspect fully observed.
Other exceptional cases might be noticed, but it suffices to conclude with this observation: - Whatever speciality, or peculiarity, or even eccentricity, may have to be dealt with as a problem of house-planning, the elementary principles are in this country always the same, not only in theory but in practical working; the foremost of which, and the most uncompromising, are internal comfort, convenience, and salubrity, coupled with the advantages of genial aspect and the graces of intentional pleasantness as far as circumstances will allow. Nothing is here so insignificant, or so commonplace, as to be unworthy of the designer's most careful attention. We are a practical people, and this is a thoroughly practical matter.