Art Moderne

May 19th, 2006

It’s easy to confuse Art Moderne with Art Deco, but they are two distinctly different styles. While both have stripped-down forms and geometric-based ornamentation, the moderne style will appear sleek and unornimented, while the slightly earlier deco style can be quite showy.

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Art Deco

May 19th, 2006

Art Deco is a label we now apply to a group of buildings and objects which, in their day, were simply “modern”. Then, as now, there were many ideas as to what “modern” should look like.

Its likely that most people got their first look at Art Deco at the movies or in pictures from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industrials Modernes (Paris, 1925). This event set the stylistic tone of early Art Deco; buildings based on earlier neo-classical styles but with the application of exotic motifs such as flora and fauna, fountains and chevrons, typically arranged in geometric patterns. Luxurious, elegant and dramatic, Art Deco had it all, while still being accessible to ordinary folk (and usually derided by architectural critics).

Robert Mallet-Stevens (1886-1945) helped promote Art Deco architecture in Europe. In the United States, Art Deco was embraced by Raymond Hood, who designed three of the most distinctive buildings in New York City: the Radio City Music Hall auditorium and foyer, the RCA building at Rockefeller Center and the New York Daily News building.

These were the buildings of the future: sleek, geometric, dramatic. With their cubic forms and zigzag designs, art deco buildings embraced the machine age.

Common Art Deco characteristics are:

  • vertical orientation, often with setbacks
  • geometric ornament, often in colorful terra cotta

Sources:, Chicago Tribune, Decopix.

The American Foursquare

May 19th, 2006

Simple and pragmatic, the classic Foursquare (1895-1930s) home is found in nearly every part of the United States. Join us for a photo tour of the style that took America by storm.

American Foursquare houses usually have these features:

  • Simple box shape
  • Two-and-a-half stories high
  • Four-room floor plan
  • Low-hipped roof with deep overhang
  • Large central dormer
  • Full-width front porch, sometimes enclosed,¬†with wide stairs
  • Little use of ornament
  • Built in wide variety of materials, including wood, brick, and stucco

Built to offer the most house for the least amount of money, there may never have been a more popular or practical house than the American Foursquare. Most decorative features were saved for the front porch which could reflect either Colonial Revival details or Bungalow elements. A front-gabled version of the Foursquare is often found in the same neighborhoods or adjacent to the hipped-roof version. These houses usually feature the same or similar floor plans and like the Foursquare, have few architectural details except on the front porch. You don’t have to look hard to find numerous examples; try the 19th Ward, Beechwood, and the Culver/Merchants neighborhood.

Popularized by pattern books and Sears Roebuck & Company mail order kits, the American Foursquare spread to residential neighborhoods throughout the United States. Sears also offered a machine that could manufacture cement blocks on site.

Sources:, Chicago Tribune, Landmark Society

How to Read a Blueprint

May 19th, 2006

This is a very useful article from the BHG magazine about how to understand what are the symbols on the blueprint mean.

Blueprint symbols are the universal language of builders and contractors. Once you’ve learned the language, you, too, will be in the know.

The codes shown here are in general use in the building industry but may vary slightly from architect to architect. Consult with your contractor if you don’t understand a symbol on your blueprints.

Additional notes:

  • In the kitchen, appliance and door swings are noted on blueprints, which will help you visualize the flow of the space and anticipate any potentially awkward problems.
  • A circled number with a triangle means there is additional information elsewhere in the set of plans, or it indicates a revision.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Buying House Plans

May 19th, 2006

Learn How to Select a House Plan That Will Result in The Home of Your Dreams

Building a home for most people is one of the most adventurous and time consuming projects a family can invest in during a lifetime. Because of that, it is important that care be taken when buying, selecting and implementing a house plan.

Before buying a house plan, you should first ensure you know what you are getting into.

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