Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Dream House

One of my readers asked what the outside of my virtual home would look like. I can't believe I did not include this! I am such an architecture buff, and one of my favorite things to do is to drive around my favorite Atlanta neighborhoods, looking at houses. Atlanta has a diverse mix of architectural styles, but one of the all time favorites is Georgian style architecture. Georgian architecture, with its beauty and strict symmetry, has really stood the test of time, and is one of the most enduring and beloved of architectural styles in some areas of the United States.

This is what my virtual dream home looks like. Brick, traditional, Georgian architecture (so I assumed). When putting this post together, I looked up classic Georgian architecture in my new favorite architectural reference, A Field Guide to American Houses, so I could give a bit of background on Georgian architecture. Thank you, Brilliant Asylum, for the recommendation!

It turns out that my favorite style of architecture is not strictly traditional Georgian, but rather more of an Adams style that has as its basis Georgian architecture, but goes a bit further on the ornamentation. The style is based on the work of Robert Adams, the great Scottish architect. He lived in Italy for several years, and was an advocate of many of the stylistic concepts of classical architecture. Of course, American interpretation of architecture styles had their own variations. Originally, the master architects stayed in England, and the American builders were often using their memory or crude sketches as the basis for their designs. American architects also adapted the plans to suit American tastes and requirements.

  • In Britain, the style was known as Georgian (1714-1776), and later a more elaborate variant, Adamesque (1780-1820).
  • American version of the style was called Colonial until the American Revolution, then Federal (1790-1830). It was adapted to suit American tastes and requirements.

The original Georgian style was quite simple, with very little ornamentation. The Adams style took the Georgian house plan, which was typically two rooms deep, with strict symmetry in the front of the house, and added additional ornamentation primarily to the doors and windows. This makes all the difference in appearance and style. The detailing became lighter and elegant. In the US, it is often called Federal style, but because of the recognition of Adams influence on the architectural style, purists like to call it Adams style even in the US.

Williamsburg, VA. This Georgian/Colonial home was built in the 1750s. Note the symmetry and simplicity.

Classic Georgian style:
  • doors and windows in strict symmetry
  • simple one to two story box
  • panelled front door, usually capped by a decorative crown
  • center hall layout, 2 rooms deep
  • twin chimneys
  • muted ornament
  • simplicity
Classic Georgian style house, Ontario

The Adamesque style was built upon the traditional Georgian plan, but added much more delicate and elegant detailing. Some examples:
  • elliptical fanlights with delicate patterns
  • glazed sidelights
  • large balconied portico, or a half round portico
  • more decorative quoins
  • cornice with decorative detailing
  • white detailing
  • primarily brick
  • larger windows and window panes (one of the main differences between classic Georgian and Adamesque); this enabled a larger and taller design.
  • projecting wings to the side not uncommon
Portland Place, London, designed by Robert Adams

So many of the homes in my computer files are Georgian, or more accurately, Adamesque in nature. Of course, most of these homes were designed in the 20th and 21st centuries, and a more eclectic style of architecture that draws upon all of the architectural traditions of the 17th - 20th centuries is commonly practiced. So, you will see aspects of many different architectural styles in these pictures.

Detroit. This is a really charming example, and seems to be a good size. Its got the fanlight above the door, the balconied portico, the sidelights, the columns, the decorative window crowns.

Charleston, SC. Often you will see Georgian examples that are beautifully preserved, as seaport towns did not experience great shifts in population after the railroad was constructed. Therefore, classic examples of architecture were preserved instead of torn down. I am not sure how old this house is, but it is not new.

A large interpretation of Georgian/Adams style, with Palladian windows, quoins, centered gable (the projecting part in front), pediment around door, detailed cornice. This home even has two massive projecting wings!

Another huge home, also with the Palladian window above the door, and a half-round portico

A large, new home in Atlanta. Its got the quions (the stones to the right and left of the door, and on the right and left of the main part of the house), the balconied portico, the fanlight, the crowns above the windows.

Some of the Georgian style homes in Atlanta have limestone on the front facade.

A large Atlanta Georgian/Adamesque home, that was recently on the market for $8.5 million. It stands on 5 acres.

Atlanta seems to like the more elaborate Adamesque version of the Georgian house. This one has columns, a centered gable the projects from the house, sidelights, and a transom above the window.

This one is on the Atlanta market right now for $4.65 million, and is on one acre. The door and windows are actually quite simple, but the columns, quoins, portico and grill above provide the detail.

So, how does my virtual dream home hold up to the analysis? Its definitely got the detailing that makes it more Adamesque, with the Palladian window above the front door, the portico with columns, the fanlight above the door and the fanlights to the side. It has the cornice above the top windows, with detailing. The twin fireplaces. This house looks a bit big, as ideally I would like to have a medium size house, but perhaps without the extra wing along the side, it would do quite nicely. I am still going to say that my favorite style is Georgian, because only those 'in the know' - like us - are aware of the subtleties of the Adamesque home. But we now know that my favorite style is truly Adamesque.

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  1. Cool! You are really setting the bar high here chickie. Inside, outside and history of the style, wow, I am impressed!

    I am working on my dream house (in your honor!) and it is so hard for me! I like so many different styles I have a hard time deciding which I would choose if I could have anything I wanted. And finding photos of my dream if I could figure out what it is, another toughie. Eek. I'm trying.

    I might have to have posts entitled: MY DREAM HOUSES, the series. Seriously. I've got my work cut out for me now. :-)


  2. Believe me, I have always been interested in this style of architecture and loved doing the research!

    I can't wait to see your dream house. You have such a huge library of pictures! I had a hard time picking one picture per room, so some rooms I did two.

  3. This is fantastic- a great education with wonderful examples. You should teach an online architecture appreciation course!

  4. WOW- I love all these houses, and I'm glad to get a little bit of architectural background!

  5. POC - Sometimes I think I missed my calling - I should have been an architect! I can't tell you how much I loved researching this post. I think architecture is fascinating. I need to build a house someday!

  6. Excellent. Very, very well done. Your dream home is a Georgian period home with Adam influence. Georgian, the period, coorelates to the reign of King George III in England and, at that time, King Louis 16th in France. I think what I love about Georgian architecture the most is the pure symmetry. Everything is in it's place - nice and tidy! It's amazing how one of those earlier period houses you showed (near the top) - looks like it could have been built today, it's just that classic. Great, great post - I'm trying to do a virtual home, but I'm lke Melissa - eek - what style is my ultimate?

  7. CDT, I am dying to see your dream home. You always have so many amazing images!

    The difficult part about doing this post was the vast amount of info out there, some of it contradictory. Also, the fact that so many terms in America cover this period - Georgian, Colonial, European Neoclassical (as opposed the early 20th century American Neoclassical, which is entirely different), Federal, Adamesque.

    I like your succinct description - Georgian with Adam influences. Yes, that's it!

  8. My favorite style - my car always slows a bit for gorgeous Georgians. Houses!

  9. I always learn so much from your blog! Beautiful homes. I love the old Williamsburg house the best!

    I was fortunate to get to live in a big Georgian-style dormitory at Miami Univ in Oxford Ohio...built around 1970, I believe, but in the old style so that it would blend in w/ the rest of the campus. Really lovely building!

  10. Dear THings - wow! there is a lot of work in this post!! I'm impressed - tho well I guess it is your dream home so - it does warrant considerable attention no!! Great too to see some exteriors in our interiors blog world!
    I have to laugh - my dad used to drive around looking at houses on the way home from whereever and we'd be yelling at him NO!!! Take US HOME!! - but he was the driver!!!
    But now that I'm the driver - I can totally relate!

  11. I love this history! So fun to read. So not fun to survey my tiny apartment after. :-)

  12. They're all so lovely...thanks for the architecture lesson!

  13. Gorgeous! Georgian is my favourite too; reminds me of all the beautiful doors in Dublin and London (and the house in Home Alone!). Great post!

  14. Now that's a post! What a joy to read, thanks! And it gives me insight into a lot of the houses in my neighborhood. There's a beaut a block away that also boasts a ballroom. It is clapboard and has a name.... hmmm.. might have to take a stroll tonight.

    I went to school at William and Mary -- isn't that the old asylum?

  15. Such an interesing post!!! Thanks for all the eye candy and great info!

  16. very interesting history, thanks for this!

  17. Hi,
    I responded to Melissa's post just before my son got sick and picked late Georgian style as my favorite too. Your blog post here describes it perfectly. I love all the pictures of houses you posted here.
    You have a beautiful blog, mind if I add you to my favorites?
    A fan,

  18. We live in a 1791 Georgian colonial and we love it. Currently restoring it...

  19. FYI: What we as Americans know as "Georgian" was actually called "Neo-Palladian" in Europe. Basically, Europeans were sick of the Baroque and Rococo, and wanted to return to more classical forms. The style is just as you described it, with a temple-like front and symmetrical bays on either side. The side "wings" were actually very common; one would be used as a kitchen and the other a stable.

    Love the blog! I just stumbled across it while surfing the web and I find it interesting that you and I have similar tastes in design. I'm in architecture school, so that's why I was so drawn to this particular post. But my mind tends to stray from time to time and I love looking at furniture and interiors... it keeps me going.

    Keep blogging!!

  20. You certainly deserve your accolades !


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