Have you ever found yourself looking at a house knowing something isn’t right, but you’re not sure what it is? Have you found yourself in your own work unsure of the rules of building; the height of a chair rail, how to build up a crown molding or what size a column should be? If so, you’re not alone. There are rules for building, timeless methods that were once widely practiced and have been forgotten today.
A timeless house tells a story. It is a well told narrative based in history and tradition. It should communicate an ideal or philosophy clearly and beautifully. In truth, it is nearly impossible to build a timeless house until you understand the ingredients of buildings that are timeless. The past holds great lessons and wonderful insights, and when you gain a historical perspective you gain a compass, a basis and a foundation on which to build. The past reveals to us where we have come from which in turn shows us how to go forward.
In order to gain the skills of evaluating quality, design and beauty we must go back in time and study buildings of the past. The feeling you have when you walk into a great historic space, especially in homes built before 1940, and it just feels right, is not a coincidence. There are significant historical events which once we understand will help us navigate the process of building a timeless home today.
What I have discovered is that even when you understand a story or a narrative there is not only a main plot, but sub plots. There are not only ideas but foreshadowing and hints at other characters who play a significant yet secret role. In my research and experience, there is one character that I continue to run into and can’t seem to escape. It is the character represented by the Classical ideals of architecture. It is found in columns, moldings, porches, in fact nearly every piece of the home. The Classical ideal is found in the study of ancient Greece and Rome. It gains traction again during the Renaissance, and today it must be understood before you can build a timeless house. We will start our journey by looking at the Classical rules of building and then seek to uncover other secrets that have been long-lost.
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