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Home Sweet Home Styles

By Christopher M. Leporini, REALTOR® Magazine

American Homes: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Domestic Architecture By Lester Walker (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers) 330 pp., $15.95
Buy this book from Amazon.com.

Don’t let the title of American Homes: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Domestic Architecture fool you. Although it is a comprehensive look at 103 U.S. residential home styles illustrated by more than 1,000 line drawings, the book provides an easy-to-read, perusable format that makes it a perfect reference.

The book provides great detail without becoming overwhelming. Each residential style includes an average of four paragraphs of history, distinguishing features, and several illustrations that highlight both the internal and external features. The book is ordered chronologically, from some of the earliest U.S. housing styles like earth lodge and Native American tipis to the dominant styles of today. What makes the book fun to read is author Lester Walker’s “exploded diagrams,” which are hand-drawn and oftentimes include floor-by-floor or layer-by-layer detail with block handwritten captions.

It’s a useful reference to have at your desk at home or at the office, or on display on your coffee table. You can use it to beef up your architecture knowledge and inform clients on how building materials, floor layouts, and decorative flourishes make a home functional or historically significant.

Walker is a New York-based architect who has written numerous consumer books and articles about architecture. He was a professor of architecture at City College of New York and has presented seminars at Harvard University, MIT, UCLA, and the Rhode Island School of Design. He researched historical texts, American Builder, Architectural Record, and Popular Science, among other publications, to write American Homes.

Tips for Real Estate Professionals

This book can be a valuable tool in your discussions with clients. For example, you can help your clients understand the architectural history and features of a home they are viewing by showing them the style descriptions in this book. Because it’s an easy-to-read reference, you can keep it at your office to refresh your memory about a certain style before meeting prospects for a listing presentation. A four-page glossary of architectural terms also provides handy illustrations of different types of arches, dormers, roofs, and windows.

A few interesting styles covered in the book include:

  • Swiss Cottage. Quaint and rustic, the Swiss Cottage, or chalet, was a popular country style in the northern United States in the mid-19th century. The two-story homes were built from rough-cut lumber and featured abundant galleries, balconies, and large windows. This style also featured widely projecting roofs and stones used in raised foundations to enhance the overall rustic feel. The exterior siding was made from one-inch wide, rough-cut boards nailed to a wooden underlayment to resemble the Swiss post-and-beam structure, creating an architectural effect that has been called “skinless.”
  • Spanish Colonial Revival. This style is a combination of Mediterranean-influenced architecture and takes its cues from late Moorish architecture, Baroque architecture from Colonial Spain and Portugal, and the Pueblo and Mission styles, among others. The style was popular in Southern California, New Mexico, southern Arizona, Texas, and Florida between 1915 and 1940, and spread to other parts of the country. Features of this style include red-tiled roofs, white plaster or stucco walls, arched windows and doors, and balconies and ornamental hardware made of wrought iron.
  • Art Moderne. The Art Moderne style was inspired by America’s love affair with machines (airplanes, cars, and even toasters) and stressed the streamlined and the functional. It became a fashionable fad at the end of the 1920s, although the hard-edge and angular features lent the style more to public buildings such as movie theaters, hotels, and office buildings. Art Moderne homes have rounded corners, flat roofs, horizontal bands of windows, and smooth, unornamented walls. Other hallmarks include curved glass windows that wrap around corners, stainless steel window and door trim, and major rooms that maximize natural light.
  • Neomodern. This style, which originated in the West Side of Los Angeles over the past three decades, embodies the unusual and unexpected with fragmented, angular forms and eclectic mixes of raw materials and textures. Its influences include earlier styles, such as International and Post Modern architecture. But Neomodern structures feature vivid color combinations that separate them from the subdued white tones found in International architecture. Glass prisms, slanted walls, trapezoidal windows, and fine detailing typify Neomodern homes.

Want to learn more about architecture? Visit REALTOR® Magazine Online’s Architecture Guide for descriptions and illustrations on different residential architecture styles, our new Architecture Coach column, and information about dormers, roofs, and windows.

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