The identity and personality of a place was once determined not by style, as we tend to assume, but by elemental forms and patterns that over long periods had distilled into archetypes.
The same richness of character found in a 1920s Arts and Crafts bungalow, can be achieved today in a contemporary or modern home if the designer fully understands and begins to utilize similar principles and archetypes in their designs.
Whether or not they apply them, most architects are trained in the use of archetypal design concepts. House designers coming from different backgrounds, however, are frequently unfamiliar with the long-standing principles that generate good architecture and give a home character. We have an opportunity to create a better and thoroughly modern living environment. Clarity of structure and more elegant expression of character are possible, but only if we step back and really examine what we are currently building.
Drawing from the historical sources themselves, rather than interpreting a buildings essence from its outer form, allows for a completely different understanding of earlier design principles and functions that can be used today.
Rather than building ‘knock-off’ Colonials and Shingle Style houses—which custom builders have gotten very skilled at making look good—a new style could evolve that makes the most of traditional principles, but only as they directly apply to modern living. It is time to rethink the odd clash of modern open-plan interiors enclosed with Colonial exteriors.
For anyone who is interested in what “drawing the essence from the historical sources” rather than copying forms means, Scarlett’s book, Simple Rules, What the Oldtime Builders Knew provides a starting point, with a collection of design principles that at one time were common knowledge.