Thursday, September 17

Learn your styles!

I came across a real estate brochure last week that gave me a great laugh. The realtors described the following 2 homes as being "Center Hall Colonial", and for the life of me, I don't see why.

Is it because the one on the top is made out of brick? I'm totally stumped by the one on the bottom - how can you have a Center Hall Colonial with an asymetrical entrance? I guess the columns make it "colonial." Basically these are 2 examples of a contractor building a house without a design professional. More than 90% of residences built in our country are not built with the aid of an architect, and folks, this is the ugly result.

Now most of you who are design conscious would never mistake Chanel for Armani, or BMW for Mercedes. Why is it so different for architectural styles? Good design vs. bad design in residential construction is not a topic you'll find covered in any shelter magazine or major newspaper. I just read a nearly half page review why Microsoft's Zune is never going to make it in the marketplace despite a good design in the NYT last week. I've never seen such a critique on current residential construction.

Here's an original Center Hall Colonial in Williamsburg. It's Bassett Hall originally built in the mid 1700's. It eventually became the home to John D. and Abby Rockefeller, and is now a part of Historic Williamsburg.

It's design is based in English Georgian architecture obviously because the people in Williamsburg were from England. They couldn't afford brick to replicate the Georgian houses, but they were able to use the basic center hall plan and symmetrical elevation. This house has a lovely proportion and presence in the landscape.

Below a very common 20th century Center Hall Colonial. I like the fact that it remains true to the basic plan and symmetry.

Next time you're driving around looking at houses, start seeing the Center Hall Colonial vs. the pretenders.


  1. Great article!

  2. Colonial is probably the most overused word in real estate listings and seems to mean something closer to traditional or symmetrical than to the style itself. A lot of Houzz postings are trying to fix these type of style problems when it would have been so much cheaper to just build it with harmonious proportions in the first place. Why developers don't hire an architect to at least review their plans, especially if they are building a lot in the same style, is beyond me. The roofline of house 1 will be ugly no matter what you do to it, short of reframing.