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Period Homes – What do we mean and which do we like best?
If you are in any way interested in buildings then the chances are that you will have a favorite architectural style of home. For many it’s a deeply emotional attachment and all about what most resonates and makes you think of “home”.
In the UK “style” has become synonymous with “period” for example Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian and Modernist. Of course, one style didn’t stop and another start on the single day that one monarch died and another ascended the throne, but there was an undeniable shift in style during each era as tastes changed.
Below is a high-level snapshot of the development of some of the major housing styles over the past few centuries.
The Georgian period runs from around 1700 to 1840 and two key elements are in the ascendancy –
In the 17th and 18th Centuries “classicism” took on the overtly structural overtones of orderliness, predictability, columns, tall windows and the use of symmetrical facades and geometrically proportioned rooms – all a reflection or interpretation of the buildings associated with Greek and Roman architecture.
Urban planning was highly refined in this era featuring elegant squares, crescents and terraces sometimes coupled with an attempt to replicate the country, so terraces of townhouses resemble a country house, with projecting end bays and a central gable or pediment typically decorated with relief sculpture depicting scenes from Roman or Greek mythology.
Victorian and Edwardian Houses
Architectural styles changed gradually throughout these periods as the neo-classical influence gradually faded. The Victorian period tends to be divided into Early up to c1860 and Late from then to c1900. The main catalyst for change was the introduction of bay windows in 1860. Throughout the period, there was more uniformity as standardised materials began to be used. In the later period the popular plan was to build houses on rectangular grids, often one room wide plus corridor with the front door set to one side.
As the Victorian era merged into the Edwardian period (c1900 to 1914) houses were increasingly built with lower ceilings and more ornamentation and there was a growing preference for red brick and stained glass in front doors.
Victorian architecture is best reflected in those cities and towns that boomed during and because of the industrial revolution with countless rows of terraced homes built to cope with the massive shift of population from the rural to the urban environments. Because the numbers of houses built in this period were so substantial it helped to shape people’s perception of what a home looks like.
Alongside the genteel design and construction of attractive dwellings for the better off was also a more basic trend towards tenement building to accommodate large numbers of workers as near to their place of work as possible.
Between the Wars
After the First World War and particularly during the 1930s there was an explosion in suburban development as planners and architects sought to meet new aspirations for homes in a pseudo-country, green and leafy surrounding. This style of housing took design elements from the pre First World War Arts and Crafts movement, but relied on mass production to make such houses “affordable”. Typical features include bay windows, steeply pitched roofs, mock Tudor timber beams (often stuck onto the outside), stained glass panels, tall chimneys and are often semi-detached with front and back gardens.
These suburban homes which housed commuters and their families were at the time strongly criticized by elements of the cultural elite as “vulgar and shabby” and likened to “a prison with cells in a row. A line of semi-detached torture chambers” (George Orwell “Coming Up For Air” 1939). Recently, however, they have undergone a reappraisal and been championed by Groups such as the Royal Institute of British Architects which has hailed the influence of the Art Deco and Arts and Crafts movement on homes from this period. Also, because ordinary families have come to enjoy and value their spaciousness and convenience, houses from this period are popular once again.
Post War and Beyond
After World War II, modernism became the key word and late 19th Century terraces were bulldozed to make way for new, clean, functional properties with indoor sanitation. (Regrettably many of those early period homes that did survive were denuded of original period features and fittings like fireplaces, cornices and tiles). Local authorities and town planners were to the fore in the reconstruction that followed World War II and the austerity of that period meant that cost control dictated many design decisions.
Later High-tech architecture emerged in an attempt to revitalise the language of Modernism by drawing inspiration from technology to create new architectural expression. Architects such as the Lords Rogers and Foster were leading proponents and although their work is mostly associated with non-domestic buildings elements of their work did influence house design of the period.
Changing social patterns, smaller family sizes, shortage of suitable land, price and a significant increase in the number of single dwellers resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of flats and apartments constructed during the late 20th Century onward.
More recently sustainable architecture has come into vogue as architects and builders need to comply with legislation such as the Climate Change Act. Emphasis on insulation, efficient heating, ventilation and energy recycling systems have impacted on the design and construction of new buildings.
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