This section is from the book "Modern Buildings, Their Planning, Construction And Equipment Vol2", by G. A. T. Middleton. Also available from Amazon: Modern Buildings.
Semi-detached houses partake about equally of the characteristics of separate houses such as were dealt with in the First Volume of this book, and of terrace houses. They generally occupy a comparatively open site, with pleasant prospects from the windows in two or three directions, and can be spread over a considerable area of ground. On the other hand, while prospects can be studied to some extent, the aspects are usually fixed, and houses have to be built so that each corresponds exactly with its neighbour. Almost all the plans which have been illustrated in the two previous chapters could be adopted if the houses were semi-detached instead of being in rows, the only alteration necessary being the different placing of certain of the windows, which might now open in the side walls. It is rare, however, to find a semidetached house with a basement which has been built within the last ten years, and such may consequently be put out of consideration altogether.
The most usual system of planning adopted is that of putting the principal rooms next to the party walls, in order that their fireplaces might be carried up together, thus securing internal flues and an economy of brickwork. Against these advantages there must be set the fact that only front and back windows are then obtainable to the principal rooms, the opportunity of side lighting which ought to be obtained being thus thrown away, while sound may very well penetrate from one house to the next. Fig. 11 illustrates a house of this description. The entrance is at the side with a lavatory almost opposite the front door, while an inner hall containing a fireplace is reached by a turn to right or left. Out of this hall the study, drawing-room, dining-room, and kitchen all open, and all of them are shown with windows to the front or back only. The only advantage here gained over the terrace house is the fact that the staircase is well lighted from a good landing window, which throws plenty of light down into the large hall below; while the w.c., bathroom, and nursery are disconnected from the rest of the house, which is thereby kept quiet at all times. Only four bedrooms other than the nursery are shown, but the stairs could be carried up another floor if necessary. Such a house would be inexpensive to build and easy to work, yet the plan is hardly one which can be thoroughly recommended owing to the disadvantages already mentioned. It has, in fact, been left in a state of imperfect consideration deliberately, in order to show how further thought will often enable an apparently satisfactory plan to be greatly improved. Lateral windows, for instance, can be opened in the study and the bedroom over it without any difficulty, and also on both sides of the nursery, which would thus be converted into a bright and sunny room, especially if it were given a projecting oriel on the side which obtained most sunlight and the best view. Similarly the drawing-room, and the bedroom over it, could obtain a lateral view if it were brought slightly more forward beyond the study, so as to obtain a side window. The dining-room fireplace is directly in the draught between the door and window, and impinges on the dining-table; while it could have been sunk into the small and now almost useless recess in the kitchen between the range and the outer wall with great gain of roominess and comfort and a saving of cost. The kitchen is too narrow, and there is no structural or economic reason why its outside wall should not be flush with that of the dining-room. The scullery, on the other hand, is rather large, and if it were simultaneously narrowed, rearrangement could be effected, enabling the larder, coals, and servants' w.c. to be reached under cover from the kitchen. All this is shown on an alternative ground plan.
An improvement upon this scheme is shown in Fig. 12, which is, however, a much smaller house, supposed to be planned for a southern, or at least a sunny, aspect to the front. The two porches are placed next to one another, and so are the two kitchens and sculleries, so that the living rooms of the one house are well separated from those of the other. The dining-rooms are in the front, so as to enjoy the full advantage of the sunlight, and the drawing-rooms at the extreme ends. The staircase rises between the drawing-room and the kitchen for the sake of light, and the result is a prettily grouped house, which, though very small, would be in all respects comfortable, the fullest advantage possible being taken of all opportunities for appearance.
A house with similar accommodation is shown in Fig. 13, but in this case it is supposed that the south is at the back, and consequently the staircases are kept to the front, the drawing-rooms at the extreme ends, and the dining-rooms close to the kitchens at the back, the plan being somewhat irregular to secure the maximum of sunlight in the principal rooms.
It is perhaps unnecessary to describe these plans in further detail, as they explain themselves, and the considerations which have governed house planning hitherto apply equally well to detailed arrangements in these as in previous cases. These may, however, be summed up by saying that there should be plenty of light to all parts; ample means of ventilation without draught; fireplaces, doors, and windows so arranged as to get the maximum of comfort, and to allow the furniture being satisfactorily placed in the rooms; and that the whole should be grouped in such a way as to be easily and economically constructed, and the house worked with as little labour as possible.
Thus in the dining-rooms, in both Fig. 12 and Fig. 13, the fireplaces are placed in the corner, not to inconvenience diners at the table; while comfortable fireplace recesses are arranged in both drawing-rooms. The chimneys from these fireplaces could be run together into a single stack, economising brickwork and warming the house, and in each room persons seated round the fire would have light for reading -especially if, in Fig. 12, another small window were opened near the dining-room fireplace. In Fig. 13 there is, too, the additional convenience of a kitchen entrance in the front, so placed that it cannot be mistaken for the principal entrance, and shutting off all scent of the kitchen from the rest of the house, while service to the dining-room is obtained through a hatch - an arrangement which necessitates two servants being employed. This leads, on the first floor, to a natural separation of the servants and nursery quarters, such as would be particularly useful in case of sickness. It is the larger and more expensive house of the two.