Fundamentally all homes are intended for the same purpose - shelter. The hotel, the apartment house, the city home, the country estate, the palace and the shack all are forms of shelter. They are not commonly referred to as shelters because the word has come to mean only the barest necessity, the crudest of conceptions. So other words are used to express our meaning. The word "hotel" means a specific type of human abode and "palace" something decidedly different. Each of these words means shelter-plus. Plus the niceties and amenities of life. Plus the equipment and convenience. Plus the beauty and harmony of worth-while existence.
The different names refer to different types of abode for man, and each type fills a particular need. In order to do so it must be especially designed and equipped. A palace that would be suitable for an exacting king would be a poor hotel. In the same way an excellent city house likely would be unsuitable for a farm home. In either case, however, the elements of both would be similar. Living quarters, sleeping quarters, and service quarters would be necessary and fundamental, but in the location of these elements and in the details one would find sharp contrasts. It is the variation in these details that makes the house conform to special needs, and serve for special occasions, and special uses.
1 Adapted from Designs for Kansas Farm Homes (Kansas State Agricultural College, 1929), pp. 16-19.
In the city a great number of conveniences are provided by the community. Even in many of our small towns running water, electric lights and power, and sewage disposal are provided by community effort. In some, gas for cooking and even for heating are added to the list. There is no need to carry large stocks of groceries or supplies on hand. Almost anything can be secured on short notice. Hospitals are at hand for the sick, and hotels for social occasions. On the farm, as yet, each home-owner must provide them for himself.
Due to a lack of suggestive farmhouse plans the farmer who wished to build has usually turned to the great variety of available city house plans for suggestions and has often ended by building a city type of house on the farm. There are cases, of course, where the plan was wisely selected and a suitable and well-appointed house built. For the most part, however, this practice has resulted in failure because the average house that is well adapted to city living is wholly inadequate for farm life and its problems The author has examined a large number of city house plans in the hope of finding some that would be of value to the farmer and has found only a few that could be used. Even these, if they were to be at all available, had to be partly redesigned.
The city house and the farmhouse have many things in common which must yet be handled differently. Each has a kitchen, but in many instances the city kitchen can be placed in a very secondary position because it may be used but a few hours each day. At present the farm kitchen is in almost constant use, because the farmer's wife is called upon to do a large number of things that the city wife doesn't even think of doing. The farmer's wife is in most cases the assistant general manager of the farm and not infrequently the manager. For a large part of the day she is in charge of the farmstead proper. This being true, the kitchen in which she spends much of her time should have a full view of the other farm buildings, and, if possible, a view of the highway. This factor in particular is likely to present difficulties for the designer. For each of the four main frontages; namely, north, east, south, and west, the location of the kitchen is limited. It can be moved but very little. In the case of the farmhouse north of the highway the best possible location for the kitchen would be on the northeast corner of the plan, where it commands the road and approaches to the house and a full view of all of the farm buildings.....
A problem in farm-home planning that is seldom met in city home planning is that of the washroom. This room should be accessible from the side of the house that faces the other farm buildings and from a hall that leads directly to the dining room. This is a very important part of farm-home planning, and especially so if there are times during the year when a group of farm hands must be fed at the farmhouse. These farm hands should not even pass through the kitchen, and most certainly should not be required to wash in the kitchen. The author is aware that more and more such temporary labor crews feed and house themselves, but there are still parts of this state where the farmer's wife is required to cook for and even to house from two to twenty helpers at certain times of the year.
In the city or town one finds very few of the new small-home plans that have any place provided for the storage of quantities of food supplies. The city housewife knows that she can replenish her supply within a few moments, and since this is true, why bother with a large supply? True, the farmer is much closer to a base of supplies than he used to be, because of the automobile, but the larder is not quite so easy to refill and he must therefore carry on hand a larger stock of edibles. Besides, on most farms there is need to store quantities of garden products. These together with the groceries must have good and easily accessible storage, accessible not only from the kitchen but from the outside.
In the case of the city house of small size, one often finds the main stairway leading up from the front hall. This practice is often questionable even in the suburban house, and it will rarely work to advantage in the farmhouse unless the main entrance is placed adjacent to and with direct access to the kitchen. If the kitchen and the living room are both near the front door there will seldom be a time when the housewife will have to walk more than a few steps to answer the doorbell. All things should be planned to save labor, and it is high time that the stairway be located where it is easily accessible to those who make the most use of it. In the average farm home these are most certainly not the guests, but the members of the household and especially the housewife.
Probably the chief difference between the farmhouse and the city house is that the farmhouse is more of an independent unit. It must be more self-sufficient, while the city house depends upon its close relationship with its host of neighbors who work with it in obtaining many kinds of service which the farmhouse must contain within itself. Again the city house is in most cases not even remotely connected with the owner's business, while the farmer carries on a good share of his business from an office in his house. Whether this is good practice is open to question, but there are many reasons in favor of it, especially on the smaller farm.
Generally, the farm home must be larger than the city home. However, with comparatively cheap land value, there is not so much reason for the farmhouse to be compact. Take advantage of this freedom.....With less limitation there is a better opportunity to arrange the various rooms so they will function properly. On the other hand, it is difficult to heat a house that is too rambling, and compact houses are likely to be somewhat less expensive to build.
It is as impossible to design the ideal farmhouse as it is to design the ideal city house. There are no two farms with exactly the same conditions. There are, however, certain groups that have much the same fundamental problems.....
Ordinarily the first- and second-floor plans are fully determined as to outline and size before the basement is given serious thought. One reason for this is that few people build partitions in the modern basement save for a fuel room and possibly for a fruit room. Of course more rooms are possible, but the question arises: Will the space be more usable without partitions or with them? Certainly it costs less to leave out the partitions. Seldom is basement space usable for bedrooms because of the dampness. Even for an office its use is questionable. In other words, basement space is usable only for those things that slight dampness will not harm.
Shower rooms, work rooms, and laundries are found in the basement, together with space for storing some kinds of vegetables and certain equipment. Very often pumps for water-pressure systems are located in the basement. In such a place they are accessible and are not likely to be harmed by frost. One must remember, though, that pumps are noisy even if electrically operated. The continual starting and stopping of an automatic pump is disagreeable to some people. One can be rid of this noise by placing the pump in a pit located at a short distance from the house.
Keep in mind that ash dumps under fireplaces and all flues should have "cleanouts" in the basement. Floor drains are worth many times their cost. Electric-light outlets should be considered early when planning. They are easy to install at building time. A hot-air furnace is a cumbersome thing, even if it is comparatively efficient. It will occupy more space than those accustomed to a stove or a steam furnace will suspect.
The basement should be well lighted. Make the windows as large and as numerous as is reasonably possible. The basement is likely to be a bit damp in any event, and dark basements are not half as usable as those that are light and well ventilated. Whitewashing the walls will better the appearance and help rid the place of the mustiness that the very word basement implies.1
From the viewpoint of the designer the farmhouse problem is a special problem. There is wider choice in style and design possible for its exterior because there are fewer conflicting elements to harmonize before the type and style are determined. The plot is not so limited. There are no close neighbors whose houses must be considered. There are only the site and the other farm buildings to harmonize with it in order to accomplish the result desired, and these are all under the control of one individual.