Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Effect of Architecture on Home Living

Lakefront Home
by T.C. Chiu

Americans wonder why their houses lack charm...charm is dependent on connectedness, on continuities, on the relation of one thing to another.."
"Houses have become utterly charmless, lacking in the capacity to inspire..."
"The finest Gothic dwellings were sheer enchantments, passports to another place and time." (The above quotes are also included in the next to last chapter of Linda Lichter's book on Victorian life, "Simple Social Graces" or "The Benevolence of Manners." Both titles are the same text)

Read about the strange designs of one modernist, here http://www.city-journal.org/2009/19_4_otbie-le-corbusier.html



This British writer has something to say about the effect of modern architecture on our cities.




House Design by Alexander Jackson Davis, architect(1815-52)



American Homestead
American Homestead
Framed Art Print

Landry, Paul
Buy at AllPosters.com


I will begin by saying that I never felt as isolated, restless, trapped or jailed in the log home built by my father and mother in the wilderness (you can see photographs of it in my book, "Just Breathing the Air.") My parents, with no architectural training, knew what they wanted in a house that would be a home and they managed to put it there using their instincts. I never felt so lonely, and I never felt overwhelmed with housework and storage space (even in a family of 9) in that simple two storey house, as I did thereafter when I began living in the modern neighborhoods.  After a bit of reading and serious research on the changes in architecture and the various teaching involved in architecture courses in schools, I saw some of the reasons for the acute discomfort in some modern buildings.
Two Story Cottage
Two Story Cottage
Art Print

Jaye, Merryl
Buy at AllPosters.com

The homestead, as isolated and primitive as it was, was humming with activity and life. It was a real home, with windows overlooking the scenery. We slept upstairs where the heat collected from the wood stove, and where we felt safe from intrusion. You can see diagrams of the floor plan in my book. It had no matching appliances but there was always a feeling in it that I could never produce in the modern tract home. There was always someone coming down the home road to see us, whether it was the mail delivery with a package, or a neighbor. Even a bill collector got invited in for a cup of coffee. There seemed to be never a dull moment and even the quiet times were fulfilling.
Lakefront Home
Lakefront Home
Art Print

Chiu, T. C.
Buy at AllPosters.com

In comparison, my experience in modern housing was quite the opposite. At first I was excited, after so far away for so long. I thought I would be around people and that there would be more interaction, but I did not see people. Instead, I saw the back of their cars as they left their houses. If I did have company, I had to be careful that visitors did not park in neighbor areas and that we did not disturb the neighborhood in any way. Neighbors were not neighborly and everything was impersonal. I woke up to bleakness I'd never known before, and many other homemakers said the same thing. Part of this was due to the modern architectural planning of houses and neighborhoods. The homemakers eventually went to work, as the isolation of these neighborhoods was just too much for them. The neighborhoods and houses seemed to be designed to make people want to leave home.
Autumn Breeze
Autumn Breeze
Art Print

Humphries,...
Buy at AllPosters.com







Together Tonight
Together Tonight
Art Print

Lewan, Dennis...
Buy at AllPosters.com

I want to congratulate the 20th and 21st century homemakers who really made homes and conducted good family lives inside these limited houses. They overcame the worst odds and embellished them, sometimes adding gates, dormers, porches, columns, window boxes, shutters, gardens and windows, and other architectural salvage, in order to transform them with life and beauty. They created doorways and arches and all kinds of things to make the house memorable, and even inspire artists. All over the web I see these make-overs and I have to say to the modern architect who embraced these (what I call "prison designs") styles, that these women overcame the limitations and did a greater job than the Victorian women even had to, in order to make the homes livable. The women who make these "shabby shacks," which had no architectural advantages, into livable homes are to be congratulated. In this respect, they had more fortitude and determination than any Victorian woman ever had to have.
Spring Patio I
Spring Patio I
Stretched Canvas Print

Kim, Sung
Buy at AllPosters.com



The 20th century "progressives" (often referred to as modernists) sought to throw off authority and restraint and basic principles in just about everything. They rebelled against the manners and the sensibilities of their Victorian parents and grandparents, and attempted to make it fashionable to strip everything of its outer facade. They ended up with buildings minus entry ways and embellishments, clothing without structure, art without beauty, music and poetry without rhythm, meter or even sense, literature laced with despair, and religion without good foundations.

One such person happened to be the granddaughter of Catherine Beecher. Catherine herself, of whom I have previously written of in this blog, was a Victorian, who thought homes should be light and airy and friendly to the home maker. Her granddaughter, a twentieth century modernist, wrote in her rebellion, " We are, after all, just animals. All we need is stalls to live in."
She advocated plain houses with no view and no furniture and no embellishments or color. Her rebellious writings made me wonder if she was just trying to get out of keeping house.
Lazy Afternoon
Lazy Afternoon
Art Print

Sakhavarz, Alan
Buy at AllPosters.com

I have discussed at length in previous articles at the Lady Lydia Speaks column at LAF, the effect of the rejection of responsible moral principles on art, showing an example of art from the 19th century which was easily recognizable, and comparing it to a piece from the 20th century with only black scribbles on it. Today I would like to compare the 20th century architecture that we had to live in, with the homes of our Victorian parents and grandparents.
Grandmother's Doorway
Grandmother's Doorway
Art Print

Graves, Abbott...
Buy at AllPosters.com


Have a look at the old Victorian neighborhoods. You can take a drive around the streets of almost any town and see the years go by: Victorian, 1920's bungalows, 1930's and 40's wartime homes, 1950's homes, and then the 60's and 70's....you can identify them by their style. Usually there are several streets that begin in the 1800's and then after a few blocks you can see the next century. One thing that stands out supreme in the Victorian neighborhoods, even in the crowded row houses of some towns, is that each "Victorian" is different in style and color, making it very interesting. As I said, Victorian wasn't really a style of its own. It borrowed from many different styles, has many different roofs, porches, gables, pillars and columns, verandas and porches, steps. Each house is different. This explains somewhat why letters could just be addressed to the family, with no number on the street. You could find the house because you knew the Jones or the Smiths lived in the blue Queen Anne next to the yellow Georgian. Compare this to the modern tract homes (the homes built by contractors, squeezed onto a plot of land), are so similar in color and style that it is not easy to identify your friend's house. I have old post cards that have only the name of the person and the town they live in. I realize the population has grown, which entails a new address system with numbers on the houses, but I do think the tract homes lack that identifying charm that says "this is our HOME. I think it really shows spunk in the 21st century men and women to paint these houses they are stuck with, an identifying color, and add trim and porches to them.
Home Sweet Home
Home Sweet Home
Giclee Print

Currier & Ives
Buy at AllPosters.com

The Victorians architects were people like Alexander Jackson Davis, and Andrew Jackson Downing. You can tell their mothers admired one of the presidents of the time, Andrew Jackson. I will mention other architects of the time, later on, but these are two that I want to focus on, who had in their minds, cozy homes for families of the 19th century.

You can read about Alexander Jackson Davis and see some of his designs here
http://www.fredericklawolmsted.com/ajdowning.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Jackson_Davis


http://www.amazon.com/Apostle-Taste-1815-1852-Creating-Landscape/dp/0801862574
A few months ago I found a free online printable book by Davis and Downing, full of lovely family homes, in which he describes how they can be lived in, adding remarks like, "Just plant an apple tree on the side...etc." I cannot find that book at this time, but it is there, somewhere.

A.J. Downing, with whom Davis collaborated on a book of houses for common people, said, "There must be nooks and crannies about it, where one would love to linger...cozy rooms where all domestic fireside joys are invited to dwell." I felt this on the homestead in various corners of the "big house" as we called it. I did not feel it in the modern tract houses.

The Victorians built up, instead of out. The modernist created the ranch or the "rambler," which was aptly named, for in it, the homemaker finds herself walking what seems like the length of a ranch, and literally "rambling" all day from one end of the house to the other. What she needs is usually at the end of the house where she is not, and once she gets there she has to walk all the way back, to use it. These houses, though they have ample expanse, have never had the kind of storage spaces women needed in order to keep their homes uncluttered.


Fairy Tale Time
Fairy Tale Time
Art Print

Jaye, Merryl
Buy at AllPosters.com

Building out also meant that bedrooms were on the ground level. In my opinion this invited prowlers, and then fear of prowlers caused us to install extra precautions, such as bars on the windows and hedges to block out all scenery. On the ground level, people in bedrooms hear every single noise, from the door rattling in the wind, to a creak in a window at night. In order to escape this uneasy feeling at night, children in those kinds of homes will often forgoe the "privilege" of having a room of their own apiece, and choose their parents' room to sleep in at night.


Reminiscing
Reminiscing
Art Print

Saunders, Bill
Buy at AllPosters.com


The Victorian (which consisted of several popular styles, including Greek Revival, Gothic, Italiante, Farmhouse, Cottage, and more) custom of building UP, did a lot for the property. We complain about there being only breathing space between houses in modern neighborhoods, and that they are little more than glorified apartments when they are so close to the next house. The Victorian homes being built UP meant more out-lying property surrounding the house. In other words, they were not "rambling" all over the place. This meant they were able to use their imagination to create wonderful gardens, like extra "rooms" to sit in, walk in, muse in, pray in, and look on with appreciation.


Together Tonight
Together Tonight
Art Print

Lewan, Dennis...
Buy at AllPosters.com

Victorian homes were built by husbands and fathers or hired to be built by them, for their beloved wives and daughters and family members. These homes were so loved and valued that they were often handed down throught the generations until they literally wore out. It takes a lot of living and a lot of abuse and a century to ruin the Victorian houses, but the modern tract home takes only a few months to destroy with careless living. That is something to think about.

The modern home was built for quick access. The gardens were not emphasized because the property was created to accomodate what I call in this fast-food era, "fast families," which will enable them to drive up quickly in their car, alight into the kitchen from the garage, eat, take a shower, and then get ready to go "somewhere else," paying little attention to the layout and the gardens or anything else in the home. They wouldn't need to spend much time in it so they wouldn't notice that there were no architectural interest. After all, it was just for resale value, not a home to be passed to the next generation.

Lacking porches or balconies, families have no special places to go, so they just want to get out and go somewhere else. It keeps society moving around daily, nightly and yearly, looking for some place they can feel comfortable. Many modern houses are poorly lit, and inadequately heated or cooled. Sometimes they feel more like institutional buildings than homes.

Tea at Glenbrook
Tea at Glenbrook
Art Print

Colclough, Susan...
Buy at AllPosters.com

The architecture of the homes of the 19th century inspires tours of these great houses that have been saved and restored. I wonder how much touring the next generation will do of the modern tract home. I can just hear the guide, saying, "Notice the easy access to this house. They didn't have to walk down a walkway, and there were no gardens to bother with. The 20th century citizen had all these embellishments removed, including porches and gazebos, so he could concentrate on intellectual things, making money, climbing the career ladder... the doors were hollow, in order to save expense, the roofs were not pitched, because that was an unnecessary affectation. Of course, there was some leakage from the ceiling, but modern water-proofing took care of that. You could just spray it on and eliminate the holes." Again, I say, with the obviously quick access to the entry of these new houses, I wonder that the architect even bothered with a door. Perhaps it would have been more "efficient" to have the passenger suctioned from the car down a tube straight into a chair in the kitchen, where food would be automatically served.
Sunny Monday
Sunny Monday
Art Print

Blish, Carolyn
Buy at AllPosters.com

Windows of the modern homes I've lived in were, more often than not, too high to look out of. Many children grew up without window seats or the pleasure of sitting near a window and just looking outside. The huge plate-glass windows often used in the living rooms, were sometimes a magnate for hot sun, making it impossible to sit in that room in the summer. Breaks in plate glass entails expensive replacements. They paned windows of the Victorian designs were easy to replace, and should one pane be cracked, you could at least tape it up or put a piece of paper in that one pane until it could be replaced. Modern homes do not have enough over-hang of the roofs to create the shade that is needed to shield the home from intense heat and light.
Shades of Spring
Shades of Spring
Art Print

Masters, Sherry
Buy at AllPosters.com

I once lived in an older home and noticed how thoughtful the design seemed to be. It was as though the architect said, "I know the lady of the house will be writing letters in the morning, and reading her mail, therefore, her desk will go with this window to capture the morning light," or "if there is an artist in the house, this northern room will be perfect for a little studio." In the kitchen, a woman could easily step out a door into a little garden to get fresh herbs and vegetables for a soup. In a modern tract home, we often have to walk around to an awkward area and don't even get there in time to chase away the neighbor's cat.

Yarmouth
Yarmouth
Art Print

Brown, Betsy
Buy at AllPosters.com

Kitchens in modern homes seem to be merely alley-ways between two points in the house. Someone is always walking through with laundry to put in the laundry room, or coming in from the side door on their way to some other room. This kind of traffic creates more housekeeping, and also more traffic jams. The so-called "efficiency kitchen," which was designed to reach over and open the fridge, use the stove, and turn on the faucet, in one or two steps, are not efficient when it comes to serving a meal, or working together as a family. The farmhouse kitchens were also the eating areas and provided much more room and made much more sense. Homemakers will understand, I am sure!
Fruhling
Fruhling
Art Print

Weber, Max
Buy at AllPosters.com

There is much more I can say about the modern home and I will briefly cover some of the other problems. For one, the children's bedrooms are on the outer areas of the house, which I do not believe is safe. Sometimes they even face the street, and have a street light pouring into the room at night. The Victorian bedrooms were usually upstairs. In upper rooms, it would be more difficult for passers-by to be seen in the window, or for anyone to peek in unless they took a great deal of trouble to get a ladder and risk their neck doing so. Upstairs will collect more heat in winter, as heat rises, and keep the children's room warmer. Upstairs, you hear fewer noises than when you sleep downstairs, and can rest better. Bathrooms are often put in even stranger areas with no windows for fresh air. Pity the poor person in the tub when the electric current goes off, in one of those modern bathrooms.

Morning Glory
Morning Glory
Art Print

Strubel, Klaus
Buy at AllPosters.com

Now let me move on to the neighborhoods that these poor homes were relegated to. It is interesting to see the diabolical design behind "suburbia." I don't know if anyone ever has felt, especially if you were born in the 40's or 50's, that they don't feel like they belong to their town, or that their town or neighborhood is no longer like home, or that they just don't feel it is even their country anymore...well, you are not going crazy. It has something to do with the way houses and neighborhods of the 20th century were designed.
Little Piece of Heaven
Little Piece of Heaven
Art Print

Strubel, Klaus
Buy at AllPosters.com

First of all, houses had no porches, verandas, steps, walkways, court yards entry ways, parlors,
or over-hang from the roofs. You arrived at the house and you were suddenly "in." You have no breathing space, no time for thought, no time for recollection. You are transported rapidly from the train or the car to the inside of the house. Without an entry way to even cause a pause in your breath, there you are, right in the living room, with nowhere to put your hat or coat or bag. I wonder that the architects even took the trouble to put a front door on these houses, since no one uses it. They usually come in through the side door from within the garage. Is it any wonder that people suffer from claustrophobia, panic attacks, depression, and general disturbance of the heart?

Working on Chores
Working on Chores
Art Print

Coleman
Buy at AllPosters.com

Some of the older homes of the 19th century may look a little bleak at first, but you can imagine that they were once busy places where children had something to do, with spaces that meant something to them. The modern tract home seems to lack this feeling of belonging. At least, many of the homes of the previous generations were actually owned by the occupants. Today, many women express this common sentiment: I would rather have a run down old house and own it outright than have all these modern things and have to pay so much interest and never get out of debt.

Spennymoor Manor
Spennymoor Manor
Art Print

Mock, Barbara
Buy at AllPosters.com

I learned that these neighborhoods were deliberately designed to shut out your neighbors. Without front porches, we no longer sat on the them and observed the comings and goings and the behavior our our own and the neighbor's children. We were unable to see when a crime was committed. We could not observe anything that was going on. With the windows facing our neighbor's house, we could not look out without our neighbor thinking we were peering into his house, so we shut the drapes and retreated to the privacy of the back yard.


If one attempts to go for a walk in their neighborhood, they must pass within very close proximity of their neighbor's front windows, and feel self-conscious that they are intruding on private property. Even the barrier of a side walk does not remove that feeling. The whole design makes us all more suspicious of our neighbor rather than loving of our neighbor.
Cape Cod Cottage
Cape Cod Cottage
Art Print

Landry, Paul
Buy at AllPosters.com


There is much more behind the scenes scheming in the devlopment of modern architecture. Whereas most architects of the past felt responsible to lift up mankind to acknowledge the presence of God, and to ennoble his soul through beauty and design that glorified God, the moderns of the 20th century stripped archecture of any embellishment or beauty, reasoning that it was "primitive, " or " conceited," and lacking in "meaning." They substituted it with their own "interpretation," which involved the belief that man had evolved and was more closely related to animals. He only needed a stall to live in and a place to eat. He could live without ornaments of beauty or gardens or flowers or windows to look out of.

Many women in modern homes with all the ammenities and conveniences and appliances they could wish for, have expressed the most fantastic sentiments, that would make the designers of these neighborhoods cringe. For example,

"I would rather live in a tent and own it outright, and have a great deal more nature to look at."

"I could actually do more with an older, broken down home, to make it livable and beautiful, than in this new house."

"I'd rather live in the house I grew up in...it seemed so much more like a real home."

"I have trouble adjusting to this house. Why should we "adjust" to a house? Shouldn't houses be things we are drawn to and enjoy, without having to agonize over all the problems they have?"

"Drapery is too expensive in these modern homes. That is why I use a blanket over the window."

I can relate to all these problems. The older homes did not seem to have so many things to adjust to. Alexander Jackson Davis, said, "A house should have nooks and crannies about, where one would love to linger..." In a modern home I was always wanting to take out walls and make more space, but in older homes, I loved the little spaces that existed. They seemed to be designed with a purpose and the contentment we felt in those kinds of houses was much more than in a modern structure.




One French architect that my s.i.l. had to study, claimed that all we needed was houses designed as cars. Another architect of dubious character and a questionable home life, claimed all you had to do was ask a brick what it wanted to be. "I said to the brick, 'brick, what do you want to be? It answered me, 'I want to be an arch.' " Today this man's structures sit in modern decay, begging for money to resurrect them. One of these architects created a structure with airplain wings for the roof. The professor proudly told my son-in-law that this designer wanted to make the world a better place, and this piece was an expression of that. My son in law, older now, and more wise to the ways of modernists, said, "Just a minute. Please explain to us how that structure makes the world a better place." The teacher fell over his own words trying to get out of explaining it because the challenge startled him and he was not prepared to explain it.

To emphasize how a home can either be conducive to family life and family love, or be errosive, I found this quote by famed 20th century architect, Frank Lloyd Wright:

"A doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines. "

He also knew that architecture had a strong effect on the human mind, for he said that he could design a house that could cause a divorce in a matter of weeks.
Road to Lighthouse
Road to Lighthouse
Art Print

Chiu, T. C.
Buy at AllPosters.com



I believe we should hold designers and architects responsible for what they do. In a free market system, every architect and designer should have to go back to the houses they created and ask the dwellers how they are getting along. It would be interesting to see if there are more family quarrels, more stress, less efficiency, less relaxation, or more family cohesiveness in the homes they live in. If the family expressed dissatisfaction, the designers would get a bad grade. Architecture schools would thrive only based on the reputation of the students they produced with their curriculums--whether or not that person's work was good and lasting, and whether o not the homes were desireable. Surveys would have to be produced that included how much crime was committed in those neighborhoods, divorce, family quarrels, and general discontent. That is not to say that human problems are the the entire fault of architecture, but just to show how bad architecture does contribute to some problems.


Enchanted Garden
Enchanted Garden
Art Print

Buy at AllPosters.com


For more about Andrew Jackson Downing, check here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Jackson_Downing

http://www.fredericklawolmsted.com/ajdowning.htm










(A design by A.J. Downing in the 1800's)

"Every house musthave something in its aspect which the heart an fasten upon and become attached to..." A.J. Downing

Online book of Alexander Jackson Davis house plans http://books.google.com/books?id=KuWL9UnyEWQC&dq=alexander+jackson+davis&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=iYnm5gk9wO&sig=JocedDS0ePT6QV6oeCABoZignFU
Addition (Oct. 1, 2007): My son in law has asked me to ask readers to post their observations of the effect of architecture on their moods and their daily life for some research he is doing while in architecture school. Things like traffic flow, interference, inconvenience, lack of beauty, isolation, uneasiness, etc....please post your thoughts and I'll send it all to him. Its okay to post anonymously but it also is okay to send pictures to describe the problems.
Also, I want to emphasise a point that one woman brought up in the comments. I commented on it but want to add it here: With any radical change that "they" (those who foist it upon us) want to present, comes the knowledge of just how much we will tolerate. Like bad legislation, they will often tack on an advantage that we just can't live without or that adds to our comfort, whether it be refrigeration or nice formica in the kitchen, to distract us from the other problems that we would object to. Then we end up living in houses that have terrible architecture--architecture that somehow makes us feel nervous or discontent, but we think, "I should be grateful, because I at least have running water and I'm not living in a tent." Well with some of these designs, I could have been happier in a tent or a motor home.The house made you want to scream. I've talked to other women about this and they said the same thing, "I thought it was just me. I thought I was being ungrateful." It isn't just you. There were efforts after major wars to change housing so that people would feel like animals. Modernists were educated to believe in evolution, and evolution plays a part in modern architecture. Christians, especially, will be so polite and so tolerant because they don't want to seem ungrateful, that these elitist designers will change our cities, add things to our water, and create all kinds of problems for us, knowing it will take years for anyone to notice to the point of objecting. Architecture is the same way. They create terrible looking buildings even in the country: barns that look like ammunition storage sheds, etc. taking away the beauty and sentimentality of the farms and creating horrid scenery for us to look at across the field. It is revolting. It took a hundred years to made the old Victorian houses break down and turn into haunted houses, but it only takes a few days to make you feel like screeching in shock at some of the newer places you have to live in, due to the bad architecture.
One major differences in the houses of the 19th century and the Victorian era is this: the houses were almost always built for someone, and rarely were two exactly alike, whereas the homes of the last couple of decades were built for sale. That makes a big difference in their comfort and design. It makes a big difference in their dignity. It makes a big difference in the family relationship.

 Below: a design by Alexander Jackson Davis, early American architect.  These houses were designed to delight a family and glorify God.

60 comments:

Jen said...

another very interesting post

I have always been attracted to older houses too they have a character all of their own

thanks for the links
I am going to check them out

I love the pictures
and can appreciate why modern houses wouldnt be captured in the same way as older houses are

I live in a pre1931 house at the moment which unfortunately the landlord hasnt looked after
this saddens me amongst other feelings as it could be a grand old thing
we do have a porch and utilize it a lot in the summer months :) We find it particularly enjoyable to watch the amazing sunsets from

Anonymous said...

Very interesting article. We may be looking for home soon so I will be sure to keep these ideas in mind.

I will say that newer homes seem to be going back to the older ways. We live in a townhouse now, it is only ten years old. It's not large. But, we have all large paned windows, some bay, some with transoms overhead, I have a paned window over my kitchen sink, a decent size entry foyer, etc. We also have separate rooms on the first floor instead of one big open area, which is wonderful. So I do believe that designers are going back to the "older", time-tested ways.

On other other hand, I completely agree that you truly can make anywhere a home.

Ann

amy said...

Thank you, Lady Lydia. My thoughts exactly. My husband and I prefer old homes, we often sigh as we pass old, neglected houses, and say, "Oh, there's a fixer-upper!"

Our first home purchase was a 1930s home on a little corner lot with a picket fence. The first time we drove by it I knew that was THE house and "that window" was the kitchen window. Well, the LORD blessed us and "that window" was indeed the window above the kitchen sink. That house is still our home in heart.

We now live in a brand new "modern" house, and there is all sorts of "stiffness" about it. Try as I might, I am not inspired in this home as I was before. And you are so right about how little life one sees looking out the front window "into the neighborhood" in modern subdivisions.

New paint is not all it's cracked up to be.

Anonymous said...

Hello Lady Lydia, This article makes a lot of sense to me.
I have wondered, why screened in porches are not part of too many homes. We love to sit outdoors in the early evening, but have to go back indoors due to so many bugs. We have tried the zipped screens that you see, but, it is not as easily accessible, because it cannot be located near an exit. Also, I find frustration with not enough closet space, no pantries. (I created one in my basement) And a BIG frustration is the lack of entrance areas. My children are willing to take off their shoes, but, there is not a convenient, sensible place to leave wet or muddy shoes. It just makes it harder to stay with the habit of taking the shoes off and bringing them someplace else. They have to hang coats up in their bedroom closets. We have put hooks up, but, this is a high maintenance area, due to the fact that it can get very cluttered. Also, one of the reasons I hate very hot weather is because, we have the airconditioning on. Then the back slider cannot be left open. It is a pleasure to be able to work in the kitchen and slip onto our porch. I can take my messy work out there too. I can hear the kids in the yard, be a part of the summer breeze and do my kitchen work. I love being half in the house, half outdoors in the nice weather.
We were blessed just to be able to have a house of our own. So, generally, I make the best of any of these frustrations. With all the experts we have today, it would seem, maybe there could be more thought in making better functioning homes, without having to be too expensive.

Anna said...

I couldn't agree with you more. I did a quick check of older articles you wrote for this site on similar thoughts and found three I also loved. One in particular froim 5-16-06 called Floor Plans awakened me at that time to why my home did not feel homey. Until then I hadn't realized some of the reasons. Also the article Small Homes of the 1920's dated 4-26-06. This article stated the beauty of the smaller cottages but even in them the builders thought about the people who would live in them and created beautiful homes not just functional ones. Also the article Front Porch dated 8-22-06. Thank you again for bring up this important subject and giving us even more light on it. I loved reading it and now understand more. No wonder the older homes feel so much more homey..they are! Thank you again for writing this and the many, many wonderful articles you and Mrs. Alexandra have given all of us.

LadyLydiaSpeaks said...

Most homes today are built for their monetary value rather than their sentimental worth.

we are trying to get the articles into categories on the side bar, and it will take some time. That way, you'll be able to locate things like housing, education, homemaking, etc.

Wendy WaterBirde said...

I think you summed it up so well here: "The neighborhoods and houses seemed to be designed to make people want to leave home." What a complete turnaround from "A house should have nooks and crannies about, where one would love to linger...". Have to wonder if spiritual attack is behind this large a shift that has happened, its just had ~such~ a huge impact...

Anna S said...

Dear Lady Lydia,

Thank you, thank you for this fantastic overview! I can imagine the amount of time and thought it took you to put it all together - so enlightening.

I currently live in an apartment building that was built in the 70's, and I can really relate to what you say. I don't want to sound negative, as I'm aware of the fact so many people in this world of ours don't even have a roof over their heads - but there are times when I truly feel isolated and trapped. I would love nothing better than to move into a little cottage with a little garden - which my fiance and I dream of, for our future family. If that isn't possible, a balcony would be so nice, to add a touch of individuality, and perhaps a little garden in pots.

Anyway - again, thank you for this fantastic article. I agree with each and every word you said.

Teresa said...

Amen, Lady Lydia. I agree with nearly all you had to say about modern home architecture. My pet peeve is the attached garage, especially those with the door facing the street. That big, empty expanse can look so unfriendly and uninviting. The homeowners usually enter the house straight from the garage; neighbors never even get to see one another. And when the garage door is left open all day, every passer-by gets an eyeful of all the homeowner's messy junk.

My family will soon be moving to Wisconsin. My husband and I absolutely love craftsman style bungalows. Unfortunately, they are also usually built on small lots. And with four growing children, we need all the outdoor space we can get. But during our family worship time we wrote down a list of everything we desire in a house and laid it before the Lord. Now we will wait to see what He has in store for us.

Anonymous said...

What an interesting piece you wrote here! Myself, I've always preferred 2-storey homes (we have such a house, though newly built), but I did grow up in a ranch style home. It was a very comfortable, welcoming place, & I have such good memories of that home. But it was not my preferred style, as an adult, & so my husband & I have built the aforementioned 2-storey home, a big white farmhouse with black shutters, front porch, etc. And it just seems to belong to the land. It's not jarring to the eye.

While reading your descriptions of & quotations from the modernist architects, I couldn't help but be reminded of the movie musical, State Fair, circa 1947, I think. The female lead, Margie, is sitting on the porch swing of her parents' home, & along comes her would be fiance. He starts waxing very poetic about the kind of house he wants to build for them..."linoleum, through the whole house. It's slick & smooth & easy to keep clean. Well, it's like every room in the house was a bathroom!" Margie replies, facetiously, "Sounds real cozy."

Good post!
Brenda

Emmarinda said...

Don't the old, homey houses just sing to you as you pass by? Its not just because they are old, either. There are some new houses out there that just exude comfort and cheeriness. My point is that I just know when I'm seeing one - or hearing it sing.

LadyLydiaSpeaks said...

One wonders also why they had more stable families, less troubled children, less divorce, less debt, during the era where they lived in such homes...there is a connection.

Also Anna thanks for looking up those previous articles. I am going to try to link them to this article if I ever find them myself!!

And yes, the modern homes were much like having a sleek bar or kitchen sink in every room and that was utopia...but it wasn't like home. I dislike wall to wall carpeting, and that is one thing that the Victorians did not usually have. Therefore, the sounds were different, albeit somewhat muffled by their area scatter rugs. Some of the modern houses I lived in felt like TOMBS.

Ashley said...

As a SAHW/M that moved into the city from the country, I can really relate to this:

"I thought I would be around people and that there would be more interaction, but I did not see people. Instead, I saw the back of their cars as they left their houses."

Yup, that's me. I know the back-end of every single car in the neighborhood. People coming and going all the time. But it really is an unfriendly place!

I don't see why people plant flowers in their yards, unless it is to keep up with the neighbors, or to glimpse them as they zip into their garages! No one has the time to pick a bouquet, or weed them, or even smell them.

There is so much space in modern houses. And nobody living in them! 2,500 square feet for 3-4 people is so normal where we live. People pity us b/c we have 1,400 sq feet and there is soon to be four of us, but we find it a wonderful cosy place. We love to hear the patter of our son's little feet. :) I sometimes think that people have big houses b/c they *want* to lose their children in them!

Thank you for the lovely article!

Ashley said...

Oh, I just had to add one more thing: I can't believe what was mentioned about the front windows staring at you! I thought that was just me!!!!!

It is so difficult for me to walk in the city, as the windows feel like great, staring eyes. People look at me like I'm crazy when I say that, but that's honestly how I feel. I do walk with my husband at night, and that way I can talk to him and forget about all the "eyes". Plus, there is the glow of the TV through the draperies so I know that no one is watching me, anyway!

Perhaps this is a country-girl thing?

Joanne said...

Dear Lady Lydia,
Thank you for this article! For a long time now I have felt guilty for the way I feel about the house we live in. Nothing I do seems to be able to give it the feeling of a real home. I thought that it was because I wasn't content, that the problem was myself and my attitudes. And then I sat and read your article and found myself agreeing with you over and over and over again. Seeing in what you had written everything that I have been feeling.

The modern home really is built for convenience and not for real living. Open floor plans seem ideal, but when you are in the house all day every day, you see the curse of not having separate rooms. Our kitchen/dining area is part of the main traffic route for every person living in the house. That does not provide for a pleasant place in which to prepare meals. There are no little nooks and crannies in which to deposit little homey treasures. It's just bare walls, hard, square corners and careful manipulation to fit everything needed into as small a space as possible so the whole process could be repeated less than 10 feet outside the bedroom window. And all the houses are the same. Not just that they are the same design - in fact they are carbon copies of maybe three or four designs. Different colors yes; but as you drive through the development it feels a bit like you are driving through a house assembly line where the houses are hammered out one after the other with no little finishing touches, no distinguishing features and no character of their own (we are very fortunate in that we live in one of the few houses that has a tiny porch, but it's not really a place that we can use to sit on in the evening - unless we want to get roasted by the evening sun and are interested in staring into the neighbors front windows!) And then they are crammed in so that every available space, many that really are far too small to fit a house and yard, can be used up.

I love old houses and really enjoy driving around town and seeing places that look like they could be real homes. Not just convenience boxes. My husband agrees with me that older homes have more character and we are hoping that one day we will get to live in one!
I am going to print off your article to have for future reference.
Thanks again!

Paula said...

You've done an excellent in-depth posting of housing that I've never really thought about!! How fascinating!

Our circumstances: We live in a ranch-style house built in the early 1980s--and yes, I have to walk from one end to the other--I had to laugh when reading that, but you're right--it's true. The previous owner planted everything--and I mean everything. We have tons of trees, fish ponds, etc., which I love! I have slowly been making small garden areas out of the acre that we live on--many flower gardens and a vegetable garden. I've also over the past few years been adding more color to the inside of our home in terms of paint. But we don't have the nooks and crannies--that's interesting--I never looked at it that way before. We have outdoor living space as well as indoor living space, and I enjoy that so much! I love looking out our kitchen window at the big old pine tree and which overlooks the fish ponds, where I can spy these beautiful water lillies.

I once was at someone's rather large new boorish home and someone commented how cozy it was--I was thinking, huh?? There's nothing cozy about it--it was huge and sterile.

But the lovely Victorian style homes in the older part of town are just wonderful!!

Machelle said...

Thank you for this post!

It's good to see someone acknowledge Victorian architecture as having more merits than just being pretty to look at. My grandparents built our home several decades ago, son after they were married. My dad grew up here, so have my brothers and sister and I. It's a modest sized home on the outskirts of town, sitting on several acres with scores of cottenwoods and Russian Olive's and Rose of Sharron's. I can't imagine living in a home without something as simple and, in my views, essential as a front porch or spacious yard. I suppose, however, that most would pass up a veranda or lovely garden for a stainless steel kitchen or three car garage.

God bless,
Machelle

LadyLydiaSpeaks said...

Machelle you made such a good point here it triggered a memory of something I really should have included in the topic: One of the mistakes the modern architects and designers made in accepting that "less is more" and making plain boxes to live in, is that they seemed to assume that it wouldn't matter that the houses had no views, and no porches and no feeling community, and that there was really nothing to do in them, as long as they had the modern equipment like stoves and ice makers and stainless sinks. I met a lot of women over the years that had all that, and still they felt something was missing. When some of these women moved to older homes, even without some of the updated fixtures, they said they were much more content. The Victorian homes had a type of architecture that created a sense of peace and contentment. The tract homes didn't have those same elements.

Janessa said...

I saw your blog on a friend's blogroll, and decided to see what it was about.

What a beautiful article! When I read this line "Lacking porches or balconies, families have no special places to go, so they just want to get out and go somewhere else." I burst into tears. For months now I've been struggling to make my home a home because my family never seems content to sit in it. People who come over sometimes don't even sit down!

Then I got to this section: "Kitchens in modern homes seem to be merely alley-ways between two points in the house...The farmhouse kitchens were also the eating areas and provided much more room and made much more sense." I can't wait to show my MIL, because it infuriates her that we always, always end up in the "parlor," the room next to the kitchen, separated by a counter/bar. The room has a wood fireplace, 2 comfy chairs and 2 bar stools. It is so uncomfortable but no matter who is there, the 7 of us or other friends, we all sprawl out on the floor and chairs. All because family life centers around the kitchen, or at least ours does :0)

Thank you. I'm not sure what to do with this knowledge just yet, but it helps to know I'm not crazy and maybe my lack of homemaking skills isn't completely to blame for the sense of "must escape" my family has.

*~Tamara~* said...

I can't tell you how much I agree with so much of what you have written here. All the houses I lived in before I was married (and there were many...my mother was restless after my parents divorced) were old houses with windows that whistled in the wind and floors that creaked when you sneaked to the kitchen for a snack and nooks that you could hide in with a good book.

I miss that feeling that the house had a life of its own. Perhaps that is what made it a home.

I must say that your assessment of "modern tract homes" has left me feeling a little depressed and a little convicted about my own home now. We designed and purchased our home a year and a half ago and it is, for all intents and purposes, a modern tract home. To be honest I would love the personality and uniqueness of an older home, but that is simply not the best fit for our family. So we built this house and even though we made several changes to the structure itself as well as to the interior, I still feel like we are one of twenty on the street.

My neighbors, for the most part, have a row of boxwoods and a couple of trees in their front yard. I am determined to be different. I have started a cottage garden. Everyone comments on it when they stop by. I have had a flagstone patio installed and would be thrilled if I could get some moss or phlox to grow up around it and make it look earthy and worn. Inside we are planning built in book cases, unique and rustic light fixtures, copper faucets and drawer pulls...I have a million ideas, and slowly but surely it is becoming "home."

What must the neighbors think...

Thank you for your post here. It really resonated with me.

LadyLydiaSpeaks said...

Going for walks in the modern neighborhoods made me feel conspicuous. I thought people were thinking, "What are you doing out? Shouldn't you be locked up in your own house?"

Before someone who has studied architecture makes the point about WW1 and 2, I will explain something about it. Most people try to explain the reason for the stripping of beauty in architecture, particularly in people's dwellings, by saying the wars caused a shortage of materials, that there was general devastation of homes and nowhere for people to go. This is just an excuse. In fact, wars are often schemes to force changes on people. War puts them into such shock that they will accept anything and believe that it is new and better and that the old ways caused the problems that led to war. I said I thought the WW1 and 2 explanation that the schools will offer was an excuse, and I believe there might be evidence to that end. There were previous wars, such as the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, and there was still great architecture afterwards and no stripping of houses to the bare bones and calling any embellishment an affectation of sentiment or such. There was in fact an effort to produce what was called "socialist housing," for a socialist society, and several architects were hired to produce a kind of global housing...and it was very similar to jail cells and army barracks.

This socialist housing seemed very oppressive, with its low ceilings and high windows you could not see out of. A homemaker would not last very long in them and soon be gone out to work, which is one of the goals of socialism. They figure if the family will be gone all day, separated from each other, they don't need much more than a jail cell.

Jane in the 'Burbs said...

We have a little-bitty ranch house built in 1987. I've always said that this house was not built to LIVE in.The kitchen was not meant to cook in. It's designed to heat up a microwave dinner and the house seems to be made just as a place to sleep in overnight until the next day. It's been kind of a struggle for me to settle in and be content with it as this is what I have and it doesn't seem that its going to be changing soon. There are 5 of us in under 1000 square feet. It's cozy!

We do have a very big back yard and a large front porch. I'm working on making those places as lovely and liveable as possible.

My biggest peeve with this house is the lack of entry ways and the itty-bitty postage stamp sized kitchen. The rest of the house I can deal with, but my kitchen space is just a nightmare. Any ideas on how to utilize a tiny kitchen area?

LadyLydiaSpeaks said...

My idea is to use part of another room and extend your kitchen by adding a moveable center island, and an attractive antique looking buffet to put your supplies on. You can even get an extra refrigerator and a toaster for that area, and make a seating arrangement somewhat like a breakfast nook. You may have seen areas like this called wet bars, in magazine pictures. There, a person could have a portable stove, or a burner that you plug in, and have a place to make hot drinks. I plan on taking all the tea making things to another room, myself. As you say, the tiny kitchens get bottlenecked quite easily. It is a comedy of errors when the fridge door is open and someone else is blocked from coming through, and several people are washing things in the sink. These kitchens were not made for families. I am actually thinking of taking the moveable island (it has wheels and two stools that go under it and a hinged part that makes it a larger surface) to the living room and setting up the tea things there.

Laurel said...

We live in a 1947's 2-storey government-built house that was once a duplex. Originally it was suppose to be temporary. We opened it up so that when we moved here ten years ago all of our kids could have their own rooms. It was well built but it looks like an army barracks or a shoe box as my kids have said. We have done quite a bit to make it more homey. The floors creak at every step, but I love my oak floors. Even the floors creak when the cat walks. We don't have any carpeting. I have in the past hated all of the noise from people walking, but this blog has given me an appreciation for them. It has also opened my eyes to the fact that I have always felt somewhat oppressed in my kitchen. I don't like the way it was designed--just a long narrow galley kitchen with an area that is even too small for a table. I have told myself all along that I was just ungrateful or looking for an excuse not to be in the kitchen. Now I have an idea that maybe the was it was designed has an affect on me. It also faces north-east. Not exactly bright and sunshiney. I actually feel better knowing that is the reason and not something that is wrong with me.
We do love gardening and have three ponds and many gardens. It is also situated in a mountainous town which I truly love and people who have made it a close community. So, despite my horrible kitchen, I truly feel blessed!

Lizzie said...

for tiny kitchens: go upward and inward.

install wall shelving or hanging storage (you know, like those pot racks that hang from the ceiling? not too low, though, or you'll hit your head...). Trick out your cabinets with internal shelving or storage boxes, so you don't have to keep as much stuff on counters or carts. to expand counter space for cooking prep, scavenge at hardware stores for extra pieces of countertop, and lay a square of counter over your stove temporarily (you can store it behind the fridge when you're done with it.)

i've been living with New York studio kitchens for years now, and I'm just mastering them. In one apartment I was about ready to set the whole thing on fire.

Anonymous said...

This is exactly what my daughter said. She said before she understood the schemes behind modern architecture, the philosophical beliefs about mankind that motivated it, she thought she was being ungrateful and had a personal problem with contentment, when in fact, the house was designed so that the family would never feel they were a family in a real home. Instead, they felt they were in an institution. It had a long hallway with doors on the sides for the rooms, and everyone always felt they were going to bed in army barracks instead of a home. The kitchen was cut off from the dining area so that you had to walk completely around it with everything to put it on the dining table. It was an efficiency kitchen that had the fridge and stove and sink within reach of each other, yet created more steps to get the meals out of there on to the table. It put a terrible burden on the cooks and their helpers, who kept running into each other in that small space. It seemed to serve a childless couple much better, or a working couple, but not people who were in the house all the time.

Anonymous said...

WOW! This resonated so deeply with me! My husband and I live in a house where you walk right smack into the living room and it drives us both c.r.a.z.y! There is no place to ease into the house, no where as a woman to put my purse and now with children no place to keep all the shoes and such.

I really identified with what you said about the urge to leave. though we do have a lovely home, we have no yard and no way to sort of 'hedge' ourselves in so we cannot create those lovely places to linger. our home is really lovely in the sense that the architect took great care to use the natural light, it is wood floors and it is small and cozy. but the vaulted ceilings that a lot of newer houses have really create a sense of unease. It is just cozier to have a celing that is 12 feet or less (ours is a two story vaulted celing)

Also, I COULD NOT AGREE MORE about the second story bedroom thing!!!!!!!! I despise sleeping on the first floor. I think it creates a great sense of unease. It just feels more natural to sleep up high away from where someone can simply walk up to the window. I think that is partially why they created those little windows up high as well, to literally ward off peeping toms.

My husband and I don't mind ranches much but they definetly lack the nooks you spoke of. Funny you mention that, as a little girl I used to daydream all the time about having a window seat. I think it was from reading books like 'Anne of Green Gables' - I wanted my own lanes to walk down and sweet grasses to smell.

Sometimes my husband and I look at houses and wonder how someone could ever have attached their name to the design of such a house.

GREAT points!!!! Just a lot of common sense but I loved your point about the effect of a house on the mental state of the dwellers. I also love some older houses but I am very sensitive to the general feeling of a house. I can't describe it but some older houses can feel sort of creepy. ANy thoughts on that? I'm not saying haunted per say, but they have a feeling sometimes of unease, as if the people who lived there were not happy? I don't notice this in new homes, like brand new homes, but I suppose if one were to walk in one of those in 50 years the same thing would be noticed.

Mrs. Brigham said...

I cannot tell you how intriguing I found this post, Lady Lydia. We have lived at six different addresses over the past few years, and each house left me with a different feeling. Some homes were hard to be happy in, others made even the most mundane tasks joy. When I look back I can see the clear difference in how each home was set up and have always thought that must have made the difference.

We just moved into the most delightful little apartment. It is much smaller than what we are used to, but set up so well. When my husband and I first took a look, he said he just knew this was the right place for us as it was set up perfectly, especially for the season of life we are in. We have huge windows in every room that overlook a beautiful outdoor scene. The walls have gorgeous molding and are a pretty cream color. The rooms have beautiful archways in between them. And, best of all, the kitchen is right in the center of our home! I can see everything that might be going on in all of the rooms, talk to others from the kitchen, look out the window, and there is even room for the baby to play right by me. Our apt may be small, but it is just marvelous thanks to the floorplan and details! :o)

LadyLydiaSpeaks said...

Lizzie...:-D

Anonymous: The creepy feeling in old houses could be just the neglect. When they are painted and new flooring is installed, along with forced air heat, and cooling, they can be wonderful. Any house feels haunted when it has not been upgraded, and even the Victorians took care to re-do walls and floors, etc. I do agree that if a family has been unhappy in a home, or if there has been tremendous family upheaval, it seems to leave a sad feeling in the house. Maybe it is felt even more in an older home because it was an era when families were generally stable, and thus it was more tragic when there was trouble.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking the time to find such lovely photos. I Love that you illustrate your points with beautiful pictures that show such a wide variety. I especially love the one with the clothes hanging on the line, it brings back wonderful memories of my Grandmother's house.

Many blessings,
Lizzy

Mrs. U said...

This is a WONDERFUL post, Lady Lydia!! I long to live in an older home, but here we are in the church parsonage. :)

I thank you for sharing these links to Mr. Davis' and Mr. Downing's works. I am interested in learning more about them and their ideas.

Thank you for this post!

His,
Mrs. U

Lillibeth said...

The "creepy feeling" I have sensed in older and some not so old homes, for me it is the colors and the smells. Old carpet I think is the main culprit, along with old drapes and perhaps even modern paneling seem to collect the smells. And any muddy colors or icky wallpaper!
Even so, we lived in many houses and neighborhoods when I was younger, but the one we all felt fondest for was one of those old houses in the country that had yucky orange carpet and peeling paint. There was something about it that was so fascinating we forgot about the carpet. The paned windows, the moulding, the wooden doors (each one different from the other), the old farmhouse sink, they all added such character. The kitchen window looked out on a barn in a field, and that view was framed by the thoughtful planting of a Rose of Sharon tree beside the window. The wide front porch that we could sit under and listen to the rain, and the wooden screen door that (I think mother would disagree with this one) had a delightful squeak and slam to it! I think the reason I liked it so well was that is seemed to be one of these 'grandma's house on the farm' type places.
Some of the houses I have lived in from the '60's have some dark areas that you cannot seem to light up! They are a challenge to decorate unless one has the funds for really nice wallpaper or remodeling rooms. In one house we lived my husband added mouldings and trims and that seemed to help with bringing in the "character" part that was missing.

LadyLydiaSpeaks said...

You can always add embellishments to a plain house. There is plenty of it on the Shopping Sites I have listed on the side here. Just visit those shops and get some ideas.

Anonymous said...

This article reminded me of the ghastly "architect designed" modern house my father built in the 1970's. It was a nightmare, from beginning to end, because Dad and the architect were mad for modern design.

The house ended up with enormous plate glass windows in almost every room (they couldn't be opened for fresh air) that were supposedly positioned to make use of "passive heating" - absurd in southern Louisiana, where the sun is intense all year round. My father refused to have any curtains or drapes, so within two years, the sun had completely destroyed the flooring and walls it fell on. Living in the house was like living in a fishbowl, anyone could look right into all that glass. I hate to think of all the birds who died slamming into those windows - sometimes several a day.

The "modern" kitchen with the central "cooking island" was a horror show. The blower hood over the stove on that cooking island was at head level, so people continually knocked their brains out passing it or while trying to cook. With a central cooktop, you end up with grease going all over the kitchen - I have never dealt with a kitchen so impossible to keep clean as that so-called modern convenient one. It was located in the center of the house, and had no windows, because supposedly all the plate glass in the dining room adjoining (which made the room miserably hot)would give it sufficient illumination. We finally had to resort to fluorescent lights under all the cupboards just to be able to see the countertops. It was dark and gloomy.

The floors on the ground floor were originally supposed to be poured concrete that had been tinted black. My father's goal was to have the living room look "cave-like", with dark wall panelling and that black floor. Thankfully, the black concrete was damaged during construction, and was covered over with white tile. During the months we tried to live with the black floors, the feeling of despression and despair while being in the house was overwhelming. The black floor also showed every footprint! We swept the floor about ten times a day and it still looked horrible, to say nothing of feeling cold and hard underfoot. If you had to do any work on it while standing, your legs and feet ached after about five minutes.

All the walls were covered with dark panelling. There was an "all-purpose" room that housed the laundry facilities and was supposed to also be used for hobby work or working out - but it was dark and gloomy, because there was only one deeply shaded glass door and no-one wanted to stay in there for long. Same with the bedroom I had - one tiny window, shaded entirely by trees. It rapidly became known as the black hole of Calcutta, and living in there was depressing, to say the least. My brother's room had the huge plate glass windows and within months the linoleum floor in his room had been burnt black and it was always like a furnace in there.

To top it all off, the expensive architect who designed this monstrosity just forgot to include air conditioning - for a house that had no windows that would open! So ductwork had to be run all around the place after the fact with boxlike structures built to cover it up. Imagine a so-called architect just not remembering air conditioning for a house in a very hot and humid part of the country!

I have never lived in such an uncomfortable and miserable house. It was impossible to keep clean - something about the air conditioning being installed after the fact led to massive pileups of dust in several rooms. All the hard surfaces (Dad allowed no curtains, soft furnishings or carpet in the house at all) showed dust, particularly those dark panelled walls. No matter how much you dusted, it was always there. It was always too hot or too cold in that house and the last-minute air conditioning was not well laid out or planned, so some rooms were like saunas while others were like meat lockers. All the modern furniture was uncomfortable and completely uninviting to sit on.

My parents' marriage collapsed while we were living in that miserable modern house. It was like a place where you just went to sleep. My father refused to admit that the place was just a mistake, and wouldn't change anything to make the place more comfortable. The only paintings allowed on the walls were replicas of cave paintings. Ugh. It was depressing and dehumanizing to live in such a place.

I've lived in many houses since, having moved twenty-seven times since leaving home. Sometimes I was in very humble or shabby houses, but nothing I contended with, even very old fashioned plumbing and appliances and inconvenient layouts, came close to equalling that wretched house. Even without Dad's weird notions of interior decorating, the place was just unworkable and unlivable - yet it won a prestigious award for modern architecture for the architect! I guess living in any kind of dignity and comfort just didn't figure in the parameters for that award!

LadyLydiaSpeaks said...

I think I heard of that award. It was also given to several eyesores in other parts of the country.

This goes along with what Frank Lloyd Wright said about the way certain kinds of architecture could cause a divorce.

I read on the web somewhere about a man who called himself a "recovering architect." He in fact now designs and builds beautiful houses, against all the modernist ideology he was taught in the school. My son in law has become "wiser than his teachers" as he tells them that they must investigate the poor people who have to live in these horrid places and find out if it "worked" or if it caused problems. They rarely if ever, go back to find out about it. We ought to collect stories from these sad places and present a book of them to the architecture schools.

Anna said...

Poor anonymous! Your house story gave me the willies!

This was a fascinating article, Mrs. Sherman. I've been thinking about it and evaluating the houses (only three) in my past in light of these ideas. I grew up in, and live in today, a large converted wooden schoolhouse. I can't put into words the constant joy and delight I get from my home. The original building was two rooms plus an entrance hall, and my mother added on two wings. One is the kitchen and laundry room, and she designed them both for busy, comfortable, home-centered living (she raised fourteen children here). So the bones of my daily routines take place in really delightful settings.

One main schoolroom is now the living room, and the stage it contains is our dining area.

The other schoolroom was divided into little bedrooms, all with original windows and cosy little closets. They aren't large, but each has its own character and way of holding the sunlight.

Everyone who walks into this house remarks on its peacefulness, and that is my experience as well.

My parents moved from here into an outwardly beautiful Victorian mansion in the city. Everything was newly re-done and glossy. But the paved courtyard off the kitchen was overrun with feral cats--you couldn't even enter it. The live oak out the kitchen window was infested with huge water roaches. The only bathrub in the house, on the third floor, had only lukewarm water.

I stayed there with my husband and two little boys for six weeks while we were in between houses. I was so miserable. I accidentally poured boiling water on my leg and suffered a huge burn. My baby could not, would not sleep. The house smelled terrible from all the cats under the crawl space. My father burned himself badly on one of the gas fireplaces. Something was really wrong in that house, and two years later, my parents' thirty-five year marriage ended.

Houses are IMPORTANT.

LadyLydiaSpeaks said...

There were a couple of homes I lived in that made me burst into tears when I got there and also during the time I lived there.

Their architecture was as women who comment here, have explained: range hood that knocked people in the head as they walked past, narrow halls and rooms with no windows, no lighting, no air passage. At least the older homes had breezeways and the architects had the sense to provide for whatever kind of wind or sun would be in that area at a given time. The tract homes did not care which way they faced and which way the wind was blowing. They were expensive to run, and run is the right word, for it was like turning on a big machine. They had to have enormous amount of heat or air conditioning, and everything we used was plugged in. The older homes had the upstairs windows you could pull up (a brilliant design, and how I hate the venetian blinds of modern homes---what do you do with them when they are broken?They won't dispose of easily)...and speaking of flies and mosquitos...they tend to come in at the lower level, and they don't seem to get up high enough to fly in the upper rooms of a Victorian style, even without screens. Those people were brilliant and seemed to care for the family and human beings in every aspect of their architecture. I keep discovering more things about their designs that make sense.

LadyLydiaSpeaks said...

My daughter said her baby would not sleep when they visited someone in a house and slept in the basement. The Victorian homes had summer porches for people to sleep on. My husband slept on a summer porch at his grandmother's farm house in the summers, when he was a young man helping on the farm.

I wonder if we could print this all off and give it to a school of architecture. I have even more to say about the PUBLIC buildings of the 20th century. Just compare them to the ones built by A.J. Davis, Sloan, and others of the 19th century.

Elizabeth said...

What about modernist public spaces?
Am I the only person to be a little uncomfortable in banks, offices, hotels, hospitals, etc., built in the last half of the 20th century?

Our town's convention center is built from the street level down. The bottom floor, where the biggest meeting rooms are, has no opening whatsoever to the outside -- not one window, not one door. I've attended several events there and always feel as if I'm descending into a cave.

I enjoy older public buildings with features such as comfortably sized rooms, wooden floors, and windows that open. They seem friendlier to me, somehow.

I understand that these features are not always practical in today's world. Modern hospitals, for example, are more hygenic than the older ones. But, if I were sick and recovering in the hospital, I'd love to be able to open a window to catch a breeze.

I do think that this decade's designers are making more of an effort to make public spaces feel a little bit friendlier.

Of course, I am always challenged when I think of some poor families who live in one room huts near a clinic that my husband visited in South America. These little shacks are perched up and down on the side of a muddy mountain, and the families who live in them count themselves lucky if their dwellings don't wash away during a big rain. The women there do what they can to have one pretty thing in their huts. One pretty knick-knack is a great treasure to them. And, they are all hospitable, sharing what little they have with others. How we think about things makes such a difference, doesn't it? I think that's why Jesus wasn't very concerned about outside appearances and circumstances, but taught so much about the heart.

So, even though I'm not a fan of modernist spaces, either, I am grateful that I always have a solid roof over my head. Sometimes, when I do housework, I can find myself dwelling on the flaws in my house or how I wish we had the time and the money to change this or that. I am much happier when I remind myself that home is where ever God and my family are.

LadyLydiaSpeaks said...

Elizabeth,

You brought out an interesting point about people living in native huts and humble abodes native to their land. The whole point of that is that even in those places, people had the sense to know what was needed in a home: a cozy place of warmth, with light, and with a feeling of belonging. This is commonly called Regional architecture--that is houses made from materials in the region, and made to suit the climate, such as pitched roofs in rainy areas. Even the the people who aren't architects know something about why homes need to be built a certain way in their area.

Now you say you want to be grateful for what you have, when you think of the people in grass huts. What I am saying is that even the grass huts were more homes to people than the modern architecture that made you feel like a prison. And there was a purpose for it I think. There is some indication that there was a plan to create a global, socialist type of housing that would be similar to army barracks and less like a home where a family would dwell. Even a hut would be better than that. Sometimes elitists that push things on us know our tolerance level is tremendous, particularly if we are Christians because we will be after all grateful to have a roof over our heads. Therefore it will be easy to foist these designs on us. Yes, I am grateful for a roof over my head, but I also intend to help the next generation to avoid the kinds of roofs and doors, windows and floors that create strife in the home due to the uneven temperatures and the feeling of being cut off from life. After living in some of these mod styles, I think caves would have been better! I agree with you about the grass huts. I was welcomed into them and I noticed how much they made them their home, all the way to tying a ribbon around a faucet or putting a pretty pad on a chair. Those huts though, did not obliterate their view of their hills and their valleys and it was quite romantic to be in those villages. Not so with our tract homes. I will say that I see some changes being made in the new neighborhoods, and many architectural pieces coming back!

cjan said...

Hi Lady Lydia,
YOU HAVE BEEN TAGGED!

See my Blog:
http://www.daytodayfrommyheart.blogspot.com

Love the beautiful homes you posted for us to see!

Hugs,
jan

Michelle said...

You have very good points! Our house was built in 1973 and looks it too. It has what I call a "one and a half butt" kitchen (galley style) and had ugly dark brown paneling in the living room and diningroom. We recently repainted so things are looking much better but its still difficult for me to make it light, airy and lovely without cluttering it up.

kay said...

Lady Lydia,

I really wish that this essay could be read at ALL of our architecture schools.

I have a fellow churchmember friend that got his BS from Yale and his architechture degree from a very well known school. He told us one Sunday at our fellowship group that he almost failed a course about the psychology of design. According to him, he just didn't see any relationship between these two subjects. I was truly shocked! I thought that all educated people knew that design in almost all forms (art, music, erchitecture, etc.) is reflective of societal ideas. He didn't seem to "get" this and apparently thinks of building design in terms of systems, loads, etc. I was truly shocked.

Your essay was fantastic. Perhaps you could give us a small book on this subject, also?

Anonymous said...

We live in a four square colonial style house with transitional styling inside. The outside of the house seems very unwelcoming, with a flat front. I want to add a covered portico or a porch to warm it up. I also want to add a path to the street--the concrete walkway leads to the driveway. A cottage fence and some plantings would also help create a sense of welcoming and a private transitional space, but neighborhood covenants don't allow fencing in the front yard. Inside, the downstairs floorplan is very open, and the only door is on the downstairs powder room (windowless and dark, of course.) The only storage is a small hall closet and an even smaller kitchen pantry closet. Again, I have lots of plans to warm the space up--adding french doors to my husband's office (meant to be a sitting room and opening directly into the tiny foyer with a two story ceiling--it is amazing that the space manages to seem simultaneously tiny and cold and echoing at the sam time), putting built in bookcases in the office and under the living room windows, trimming out a red brick fireplace to add character, covering or removing popcorn ceilings, and adding crown moldings and beefy footboards. My kitchen is truly the "heart of my home" and we spend hours every day there--I would love to close the kitchen off from the "family room" (which is full of cooking odors and noisy, not restful now) and turn my small formal dining room into an eating/homework/games/family space or ideally add such a space off the back of our house. We seem to spend most of our time at home around a tiny kitchen table crammed in a window bay. Upstairs works better than downstairs because the rooms have more privacy and have doors and closets for storage. Despite the house's flaws, we are lucky to live in a real neighborhood, with sidewalks, friendly, helpful neighbors, and a sense of community. Many people sit on lawn chairs on their parking pads in the evenings to talk--a less romantic, but adequate substitute for the old-time porch. Some newcomers (the area where we live is suddenly hot and home prices have risen dramatically) complain about this "redneck" behavior, but it helps keep us connected.

Anonymous said...

We used to live between the small Kansas towns of Winfield and Arkansas City whose architecture was "frozen" in the 1920's and 1940s era. Two major industries had dominated and brought prosperity to these towns during tht era, and had then shut down (there wasn't money to modernize or tear down). Despite decades of underemployment, low wages, and economic problems, these communities were more functional than any other place I had ever lived. You could walk to town (and both towns still had a town center) to see a movie or shop. Kids rode their bikes to school and to neighborhood parks or into town, just as I did as a child. Families were tightknit and people were neighborly. The architecture actually encouraged community, and the charm of the old houses and buildings made up for the peeling paint. Almost everyone could afford to buy a home--I met a woman who paid $5000 in 2001 for her bungalow. $120,000 would buy a solid, well-built stone house. My husband and I sometimes talk about retiring there if the area retains its "family feel."

Mrs Pea said...

Dear Lydia, if I am not too late to comment, the things that are shortcomings of my home are the fact that the front door opens straight into the sitting room (from a tiny front garden, not straight from the street as many people have), that the kitchen is so tiny, and the bathroom is on the ground floor, reached through the kitchen. The funny thing is that ours is a Victorian home! It is a Victorian terrace, obviously adapted to have a bathroom in the sixties.

I think views are very important - our view from the front room is of a street full of parked cars - and some of the big american style SUVs or work vans are ovrwhelming parked just 8 feet from my sitting room window. When an elderly friend was dying in hospital her view was soooo sad - just beds full of other dying people, and out the the window just ugly air conditioning and water treatment units and mobil phone masts. That view would have finished me off too I think.

Desia said...

I think I just lost the comment I was sending, if this is a repeat, forgive me.
I really enjoyed reading this nice long post...
My pet peeve about so-called modern architecture: the huge garages at the front, it’s all you see on these small lots. And also, all the houses look so very alike, it’s hard to distinguish a friend’s house from the others, even after a few visits. I have lots more to complain about modern architecture, but lest I sound thankless just before our Canadian Thanksgiving, I will stop with my criticism.
It is my first time reading your blog, it is lovely and I will be back to read more!

Anonymous said...

Dearest Lady Lydia,

This article is excellent. My husband's closest friend is an engineer and has discussed the fact that biblical principles were at the heart of pre-modernist/socialist architecture. Though a vigourously lapsed Christian (a crying shame), he still appreciates the oldd styles with their beautiful detailing and clean yet lovely lines. It is their symetry that he finds so appealing.

In our street, there are some absolutely beautiful little post war cottages. Though they're made with cheap material, the gardens are much loved and one home has even been referbed with a second story, a portch, a darling federation fence in gleaming white and a lovely earth-red tiled garden path. Other homes have also extended upwards. the McMansion is slowly eating up these little homes (we're surrounded behind and off to the rear sides by these monsters) but others simply extend up with what they have (pretty). I've complained about my home before and although it suffers from many of the design faults of modern houses, its bedrooms are upstairs, have nice windows that you can see out of and we only need the AC on downstairs during very oppressively hot and humid days. Downstairs is tiled and remains beautifully cool. It's a duplex and it does have good wide eves (thank heavens) but the builder's use of this very limited space could have been vastly improved upon if he'd followed the Victorian and Edwardian Terrace House design (there are some lovely new townhouses in Sydney that are built to these specifications and are charming).

I think one of the barriers to painters and photographers capturing lovely modern homes for posterity deals with the paranoya and redtape accompanying modern privacy concerns. How often I've longed for my husband to photograph houses such as the ones I've mentioned above that they can be shared as inspiring examples of what can be done. Unfortunately, he is very reticent and would not even dare dream of actually asking the occupants if they'd mind a picture of their lovely homes to be taken. Though we have a maw of a garage facing the street, we do have a small portch and entry into the lounge-dining-kitchen (though the portch is not large enough for a seat and my husband is uncomfortable with me sitting on the upstairs balcony facing the street for fear this may advertise the fact I'm home (especially when he's at work etc), leading to the attraction of unsavoury characters...we have a high crime rate in our area.

Look up the Jerrabombra estate between south-western NSW and the ACT to see how developpers incorporated lovely old designs back in the late '80-'s and early '90's.

You are also right in your conclusions re WWI and WWII (please also include the great depression in this breakdown of family centred society by the banxters and wicked global elite).

Blessings,

Mrs. E.
Australia.

Lindsy said...

Oh, this post resonates with me. I used to tell my mom I didn't want to go in Kohl's because "I don't like the atmosphere (not to mention the details on much of their clothes)," and she would think it odd. Some other people found my occupation with atmospheres odd as well, though I figured there were ways in which they were the same as me deep down. (I've found as well that my favorite photos often evoke certain atmospheres or associations.)

I live in a tract house. My bedroom is 8x10. Upon moving into it, I remarked to my mom I felt caged. I would sit at the kitchen table wasting time (a very bad decision I'm responsible for, I know) because I couldn't stand to be in there, whereas I lived in my prior room in the same house that had a few more feet in length. I ended up removing the closet doors and sticking my desk and a big mirror against the back of the closet to create more floor space and an illusion of more depth. When my parents talked of putting the door back to show the house (something the realtor called unnecessary, saying she'd just tell people the doors were in the basement because I liked them off) I felt frustrated and half desperate. I don't think I'd mind the room (doors off) if I had high ceilings, lots of windows full of light (or at least 2 regular-sized or larger, with two adjacent walls both having at least one), and a wood floor (which in my mind just makes things seem more precise and clean). . . or at least would feel a lot better. Also, I think it would help if upon opening the door one found most of the length to the left or right, rather than straight out in front with nowhere to go on the sides. As it is now, my door opens so that it almost touches my bed (which the headboard of hits the wall opposite the doorway), which at least is better than having my dresser there, as I feel like the flow is better when I can go lay on my bed whereas my dresser is only something to walk around. And as weird as it sounds, I've found I feel better when my eyes go directly to _stuff_ upon entering such a space. When I see my bookshelf at an edge of the wall opposite my doorway as soon as I enter, my thoughts often go to my books, whereas when they went to the empty wall my thoughts would more often go to how near the wall is to me, make me more conscious of the space issue, and consequently and make the caged feeling intensify.

In college my favorite place to live was in an apartment that was part of a house. I hated my modern apartment prior to that that I got stuck with due to the price and moving when not much was available; it was an ugly, austere white box (though the big windows in my room, facing a hill and lots of land outside, made my bedroom bearable) that seemed mind-numbing. My house apartment had wood floors, painted walls (red in the stairwell area, purple in the bathroom, pale blue in my room and the kitchen, tan in the family room), a fair amount of windows that reached low, lots of sunlight, and the lovely roundness of an arch in the entry from the family room to the kitchen. That place felt so friendly. People would comment they liked it, that it was cozy. It was definitely not well taken care of: the landlord wouldn't varnish the floors, and the old would rub off very noticeably onto my socks;. the repair man fixed a hole in the sink (where a hose must've been once) with caulking and a quarter; when the city inspectors made them replace the loose railing, they never even stained what they built.... But it felt like a HOME. It had color. It had clean lines from hardwood floors and the feel of them beneath one’s feet. The sink was a lovely white ceramic that was big like an old farmhouse (?) sink, making it feel spacious and able to accomadate much (e.g., a sink full of dishes after cooking for a friend; a dog I couldn’t bathe easily in the bathroom with only a non-removable showerhead). It had a small porch. We didn’t live on the bottom floor of the house, so I left my window not opening to the porch open at night often. Since there was no air-conditoning and no heating vent in my room (the latter being more of a problem than the former) I felt the seasons more. Though the place was very small, the windows helped very much, especially since often separate from each other (creating more windowed and well-lit areas) and on more than one wall. Upon entering the door, one could see all the way back through the archway through the kitchen window. When one sat in front of one of the 3 windows in the family room across the narrow breadth to the stairwell area, one saw out the window in the red stairwell area. My room had a window on each of two adjacent walls, so when I sat at my desk looking out one I felt like I had space and movement to the side of me. The lack of carpeting, making a very distinct line between floor and wall, I think in my mind somehow made the space seem less cramped. There were windowsills (often left out in modern homes—in fact, the only reason we have them now is because my grandfather made some for us). There was a weird area on the porch where I could set pots of flowers. There was a mature tree by the kitchen. I was allowed to have a dog there--something the more nicely kept up white apartment never allowed—and that little bundle of happiness was such a huge joy and relief during a chaotic year. The place had that little character, and character in how it was built. It did not look just like any other place. It was open, sunlit, and full of the seasons. The doorway arrangement helped the place feel open, like the windows. And seriously, I think the colors did so much even by themselves—most of them being soothing, one being energetic, all evoking moods plain squares of glaring white dry wall never could. I felt uneasy in the kitchen/living room of the white place, comfortable in the house place. (I sometimes wonder if less people would be diagnosed with SAD if places tended to be more sunlit--especially work places and houses.)

I also noticed that the architecture of my schools seemed to influence me a lot. One was old (70 or more?) and had more character, color, more wood. And that I seemed more at ease in. The mostly white one, with white painted cinder blocks, the typical flat and carpet or a mix of white tiles with a color, and very bright fluorescent lights felt like an institution to me, as you mentioned things resembling in your post. I made that connection even then, thinking of hospitals, places that were said to be sanitized and were places to get out of as soon as one did what one needed there. They weren’t made for lingering, for comfort, for dreaming. And at college I often avoided studying in the library because it was so dreary, and I seemed to never concentrate as well beneath fluorescent lights (as dumb as that may sound—maybe it was a placebo effect?). (In fact, when I read something claiming Australians[?] will have to switch to such lighting, I half-panicked at the thought of living my life beneath such a glare.)

I am very sensitive to light at night, as is my mom. And street lights are a big problem then. They keep me awake (and sometimes consequently make me frustrated), so I’ve learned to sleep with an eye cover and a hot pillow over my face.

I hated watching George Lucas’ film school move in high school, intensely bothered by it in ways I wasn’t by others because I couldn’t stand the surroundings. I remember much glaring white—white walls, white outfits. Uniformity in the people (shaved head, white outfit, I think made to function like a machine basically)….

Anyhow, I know some of this is redundant. But if I don’t go ahead and post, I fear I won’t post this at all. Perhaps more observations and thoughts will be forthcoming later….

Atmospheres have made a big difference in my job experiences and where I want to work, partly through the architecture of the places. And I've noticed the presence/absence of colors in hospitals effect my views of the hospital.... But I better stop for now!

Your topic was a great post idea :)

LadyLydiaSpeaks said...

Lindsy,

I look up different things about architecture in history and every so often I run across hints that a type of architecture was being experimented with to make human beings live in cells rather than houses. I can see it in dorm rooms, offices, and some types of houses. Some of it was an attempt to create what was called socialist housing for people all over the world, no matter what the climate. I too noticed that warm feeling in some of the older homes. I read an article in a home builders magazine about the difference between old-growth wood, old wood, and the new wood from young trees, in houses. There is a new type of wood made from glues and mashed all together...it is just not the same as the old wood in the old Victorian houses. The Victorian houses at first appear to have small closed off spaces, but if you notice many of the rooms had sliding pocket doors that opened up the rooms into one big room. It was truly an iteresting time, as windows and roofs were so varied. I see some attempt to get back to that style, but they have a long way to go to get the feeling and the atmosphere back.

Joanna said...

Hi. Thank you for expressing most of my own opinion of modern housing and architecture in such a lovely way. Ever since I can remember, I have hated the "ugly" houses that I grew up around. The cities I have lived in have very few beautiful old neighbourhoods, and the ones that do remain are either terribly run down and subdivided into poorly maintained apartments, or being used by the university for various purposes. My husband and I currently live in a 1978 townhouse, and while it does have positive bits (bedrooms upstairs, large master bedroom, large living room), it also has many of the drawbacks you mentioned: narrow and cramped entryway, small one-person kitchen, no pantry, high windows, etc). My two favourite rooms in the house are the living room, and the baby's room. I believe the reason for this is the low windows. Every other bedroom has windows where the bottom edge is 4 feet from the ground...As I am 5'3", my chin barely clears the bottom of the window, and the only view is sky. Since there's nothing to look at, we always have the blinds closed in those rooms.
I love the charm of old houses, as well as the layout. I've always wanted a tall turn-of-the-century house, with an beautiful windows and architectural details, an attic and a second (kitchen) staircase. My husband doesn't like old houses, because of the creakiness, pests, and poor insulation, so I think if we ever have the money to get a house that we want, we will have to build a new house that feels like an old house.

Marianna said...

A late response. I clicked over from Sallie's Stacks.

You asked for comments to share with your son-in-law...I'm living in a "production-builder" house right now. For me there three big issues. One, we have a lovely tree-lined view out back, but there isn't a single window that you can sit and see it through! You have to be standing to take in the view. Two, our house does not have a front porch. There are a few that do. Of those, not one is large enough to put a chair on and sit comfortably. Three, all of the primary living areas are on the back of the house so there is no engagement with the street. My children prefer to play out front where they can ride bikes and meet up with the other kids. There isn't a single room I can sit in and still see them outside!

It is obvious that the people designing most production housing has put absolutely NO THOUGHT into how families function! And the new trend toward New Urbanist architecture isn't necessarily the "cure". Many of these houses are still far too large and have their living areas isolated away from the street. I live fairly close to a large (currently over 600 homes) TND neighborhood. All of the houses sit close to the street, have broad "sitting" porches and no garage entry on the front. Do you know in the many times I have driven that neighborhood I have NEVER seen a single soul sitting on one of those porches! The houses are so darn expensive I suspect it's because they are all off at work!!

edwardianbeauty said...

I love older houses.You had mentioned progressives. Some progressives made society better. Many people helped get rid of child labor and horrible working conditions in factories. There were more opportunities for the poor.

LadyLydiaSpeaks said...

They just substituted early schooling for child labor. Look how young they have to go to schools and daycares now, and how early they have to get children out of their beds to shuffle them off to these institutions. No one pays them. At least in the factories, the children were paid. In the public schools there is a lot of time wasted, and many of the children would love to have jobs but because of their age are not allowed. It is sad that they cannot pick berries in the summer for money and help out their families by buying their own things. The factories were indeed terrible places but it wasn't the progressives that put a stop to them: for a large part was changed by women who objected to the way children were treated.

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled onto this post and you probably don't want anymore comments. However, I feel a need to add to this subject. Five years ago we moved into a home built in the 1950s. I hate it. It has an addition in the rear to make it feel more fmaily friendly. The windows are 4 ft. off the ground. At 4' 11" I am too short to see out the windows. It is a single story with basement. The basement is so inconvenient that I rarely go down there, yet my sons live there. Our office, an old bedroom is out of the way of the main living areas, isolating me from most human contact even though my husband works from home and my son does his college work through the internet. I've cut down all the close shrubs in the front yard to put in an English cottage garden. But the ex-con neighbor next door with his pitbull, live-in tatooed girlfriend, waful rock music, and loud monster trucks send me scurrying back indoors. I try to make it a home, but it is a prison.

LadyLydiaSpeaks said...

Keep comments coming on this one, because it is one of my favorite subjects.

First of all, let me see if anyone can answer my question: Whose brilliant idea was it to provide suburban neighborhoods?

It makes no sense to me.

While I understand why a house would need to be within walking distance of some little shops, I CANNOT understand why it has to be 20 miles or even 2 miles from the shops, and you cannot walk. You HAVE to use a car. That reeks of car company planning...or am I too much into conspiracy and banking greed?

ANd I DO NOT UNDERSTAND that while a house should be in view of a little town with stores that serve those homes, WHY IN THE WORLD is that house in suburbia withing walking distance of two dozen other houses? And there are laws against buying and selling within that neighborhood (zoning laws) so that we cant really do much enterprising.

My question is, why do we need to be within walking distance of the other suburbian homes in our neighborhood,

but not walking distance to our shops and places of business?

It would make MORE sense to me to have to drive to visit a friend, and make an event of it, and more sense to have the shops and clinics and such, near the houses.

Instead, we have huge suburbian places far away from business, as if business shouldnt mix with people.

People just assume that if there are shops nearby,, we cannot get away from the big city. When we buy houses, we want privacy and we dont want to be near a noisy shopping area, it is true but why cant neighborhoods have their own places of business, like the village system used to be, so that we can have our quietness and privacy and our shops, too?

I live out in the country, but in studying the old village system, I discovered that even country areas had little settlements of business, within a reasonable distance.

Neighborhoods are actually very isolating. They do not even have coffee shops where people can congregate and socialize. You have to go to a bigger town to do anything.

I do not understand why neighborhoods are designed with houses within inches of each other, but food supplies are in shops miles and miles away from the houses.

LadyLydiaSpeaks said...

The Victorian Homes were never exactly alike, except when they were built opposite, and then they were still not alike. The trims and the colors always differed. In the days when there were no street addresses, you could direct someone to a home by describing the house and the property.

The Victorian house is still the most adaptable to different climates. I visited one recently that was comfortably warm in winter, without modern insulation, which can sometimes make people sick. It simply double walls, with enough air inbetween them to keep the house insulated. It is hard to understand when you are used to seeing rolls of insulation with building materials, but it really was a comfortable kind of warmth. There was a stove in the house but very little heat from it was used.

The Victoria homes had fairly good storage. Someone had knowledge of what a home really needed. There was a broom closet, a linen closet, a pantry, a laundry, a summer kitchen or summer porch, and maybe a sleeping porch. There were corner closets in bedrooms and shaped windows with views. One Victorian neighborhood I toured overlooked the town. That seemed like an effective way of watching over the place.

The terraced introduction to a home was interesting. You didnt just walk into the house. It began at the street, then the sidewalk, then a terrace to some steps, then another terrace of lawn and maybe a pathway, then the steps to the house, then the porch, then the entry and then the parlor. It seems very formal to us, but there was some sense in it. That is just the feeling I got from the tour. Others may not notice it.

Poorer Victorian homes, called "Folk" houses, were still more adequate than the expensive homes today, because they had a lot more bedrooms. Today there may be a huge living room and the maximum bedrooms is three. Even a small family really needs more bedrooms. Living rooms are sometimes not used as much as the kitchen or other rooms, and yet these can be huge showy places that are very empty.
The Victorian rooms that I saw in the ordinary folk homes were smaller but you could shut off each room with what is called pocket doors, which slide into the wall when open, and keep that room warm, without having to heat the rest of the house.

Although I like the Victorian homes, I do prefer an open floor plan where there are no walls separating the family . Being able to look from the kitchen into the living room and dining area is easier on the homemaker, as she can be in touch with everything that is going on in the house.

LadyLydiaSpeaks said...

It was from an old book out of print. I do not know the name of it, as I do not have the cover to it, and I don't know the author. However, you could do a web search for communist tactics or steps, or maybe how to argue like a communist. You might come up with a lot of news reporter training sites ;-)

Anonymous said...

I grew up in a ranch house designed by my mom, she loved it but it never felt homey to me. she was a very modern woman in many ways , but old fashioned in others ( felt women should stay home and raise children almost no exception except the most dire circumstances).
My husband and I bought a modular house 14 years ago and had it set on 37 beautiful acres of fields and woods. We bought the smallest house we could and then have added on over these years. We now have a large dining room but it is like a family room as our computer is there my sewing machine and the children do homework or crafts at the table so we are all together I had beautiful archways put in and my husband and I tore out the ugly trim and put large beautiful oak trim in the main house and pretty large painted trim in the bedrooms.
We have a large farmhouse front porch for setting it faces east so it is cool in the afternoon and we look out a large bay window to see the sun rise over our front fields in the morning from the dining room table, just beautiful.
My husband visited Germany 2 years ago and remarked how even the most insignificant things were given beauty in the details and wondered at why in the USA everthing just looks like pole barns.
I also love to drive around looking at old houses some are so lovely. It is amazing the good feeling a well thought out home can give you and how jarring an ill designed house can be, my sister has been in one of those jarring ranch houses for about 15 yeaars now and it cannot be made to feel like a home .
A funny memory is that my mom would begin speaking to us and walk to the other end of our long ranch house her voice fading away as she went and then would reappear finishing up whatever she was talking about, she never seemed to realize that we really couln't hear her no matter how we teased her about it/
This is a lovely post you've done and it is so enjoyable to visit your blog it is a "cozy home" also.

Anonymous said...

This is in response to Mrs. Pea's comment about the importance of views, and her friend's having to die in a hospital with no view. Reminded me of a friend who had just the opposite experience. After surgery she was wheeled into the recovery room, and she told how when she woke up, she literally thought she had died and gone to heaven. The room had glassed walls that looked out onto a courtyard garden with a fountain and plants and flowers. Just beautiful. And she woke up facing this. She really did talk out loud to herself, thinking she was in heaven!!! I said every hospital should do that.

One more thought...I wanted to see the movie "A Room With a View" simply because of the title. I always want a room with a view, and one that lets the light in.

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...