Thread: House style
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Old Posted Jan 25, 2007, 4:37 AM
i_am_hydrogen i_am_hydrogen is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Chicago
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I remember reading an article about how Victorian is not a true "style" but rather an era. I was fortunate enough to find that article. It's an interesting read.

What kind of house do you have?
Here's a guide to help you describe what you live in
Posted: Dec. 23, 2006

With one look, Traci Schnell can accurately gauge a house's age.

"Friends will point at a house and say, 'OK. Guess!' It's frightening, but I can get within five to seven years of how old it is," said Schnell, senior architectural historian with Heritage Research Ltd. in Menomonee Falls.

How does she know?

"Style is the first thing. If the front of the house has a central entrance and everything's symmetrical, for instance, that's signs of Greek Revival, which was popular in Wisconsin between 1850 and 1870," Schnell said. "What I can't tell by the house, I can generally tell by its neighbors, since I know when most areas were developed."

Most homeowners don't have a Greek Revival house, a Queen Anne house, a Colonial house or any other architecturally significant style, said Schnell, a researcher and past president of Historic Milwaukee Inc.

And nobody but nobody has a Victorian-style house. "Victorian is not a style, it's an era," she said.

What most of us have is what architects kindly call 'vernacular' homes." Designed by builders, not architects, vernacular homes may be durable, homey, even a credit to their time and place. But classical works of art, they're not, she said.

"Vernacular homes may have one or two architectural features, but not enough to declare it a certain style," Schnell said.

Cape Cod isn't a declarable style, either. "It more of a form - a 1.5-story house with gables and dormers," she said. Form describes a basic structure, she explained, while style requires certain defining characteristics. A Colonial Cape Cod, for instance, typically has front-entrance pilasters and a door topped by a transom with sidelight windows.

Bungalows, a Milwaukee staple, are only a form, too - a low house with a hipped or gabled roof and a porch - not a style. Add some features like an integrated interior and exterior, heavy woodworking and exposed rafter tails coming off the roof and you've got a Craftsman bungalow - a style, Schnell said.

Schnell named some styles, and their reigning eras in Wisconsin:

• Italianate: Boxy, with big overhanging roof eaves, decorative brackets and, often, ornamental window hoods. 1860s to around 1880

• Second Empire: Mansard roof, brackets under the roof eaves, ornamental window hoods. 1855 to 1880s

• Queen Anne: Irregular shape, steeply pitched roof, decorative shingle work, big porches with spindle work. 1880s to early 1900s

• Colonial Revival: Largely symmetrical shapes, palladium windows, porches with columns. 1895 to 1920

• Prairie: Horizontal look, low-pitched roofs, wide overhanging eaves. 1900 to 1920

• Art Deco: Geometric motifs, lots of stucco, zigzags and chevrons. 1920s and 1930s

• Moderne: Rounded corners, stucco work, horizontal groove lines, plain designs. 1920s and 1930s

• Ranches: One- or two-story structure with a gabled or hipped roof, sometimes lots of glass and wood. 1940s to today
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