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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Colonial Revival, Southern Style

It's not really much to speak of, but I'll share one of my hobbies with you guys, something that passes the time very agreeably for me out here on the prairie.

The first software I bought after I finally acquired a computer was a home design program.  I have no training in architecture, but I've been drawing and redrawing my dream house - or should I say houses? - for more than thirty years now.  I've drawn dozens of designs, depending on whether my imagination at a given moment leads me to think of a modest cottage or a grand manor, a townhouse or a ranch, an apartment or a suburban home.  Or just a new and improved version of somewhere I once lived.

I paid only ten bucks for that first program, which came on a floppy disk; but that was the best ten bucks I ever spent, because it gave me many hundred hours of creative play, and allowed me to go far beyond what I had been doing with pencil, paper, and ruler (I have no training in art, either, sad to say).  The challenge for me, and a great deal of fun, is to set myself a limit such as one might encounter in the real world:  a certain number of square feet, a certain shape, a certain architectural style.  Anybody can draw a big, rambling house that bulges out here and there; the satisfaction, though, comes from coloring inside the lines, so to speak - creating a lovely, liveable space within realistic limits.

Which, I imagine, is what real architects do, most of the time.

Now, modern architecture is not your Head Trucker's cup of tea, but I do dearly love traditional old homes like Colonial Revival - the sort of house I would have liked to grow up in.  Here's my latest attempt, based on an actual architect's design from about 1925, which I've elaborated a bit and, I think, improved upon.

I could show you fellas the floor plan too, if I thought you really wanted to see it.  But perhaps you can imagine your own floor plan, which is half the fun of looking at old houses, isn't it?

Of course, I have a much better program now than what I started out with, which generates these wonderful three-dimensional views of the outside of the house.  No doubt some or all of you are faintly smiling and saying, So what?  But I look at these renderings and imagine not only the house but a life lived there.

I wander sometimes through my houses like a ghost, drifting on the evening breeze that wafts the scent of magnolias and fresh-mown grass through the windows.  I watch the shades of a summer twilight lengthen, hear the distant crickets begin to chirp.  I watch the family as they finish up their supper at the big mahogany table in the dining room - is it someone's birthday, or the Fourth of July, or just a summer visit with the kinfolks from out of town?  There has been much talk and laughter; now the women, without missing a word of gossip, are carrying the dishes into the kitchen and filling the sink, while the men with their jokes and stories drift towards the den, or the back porch.  The girls giggle their way upstairs to the pink-and-white bedroom where there are new records to play, and hair curlers, and talk of boys.  The older boys head out to the garage and discuss fireworks and cars and girls.  The younger boys run across the porches and all around the yard, shrieking happily, playing hide-and-seek in the shadows of the big oaks, with the dogs excitedly joining in the game.  A train whistle blows for the crossing at the bottom of the hill, and is swallowed up in the muffled rumble of the cars.  Somewhere a church bell tolls the hour.  Nobody wants the evening to end anytime soon, not even the grandparents, who are already a little tired, but full of good cheer.

Life is sweet, and safe, and steady.  I am in their midst, gliding among them, the silent wraith who sees and hears it all.  They have no idea I am here, watching, listening . . . ordaining their private joy.  They will never know me, though I know them well.

It is not my house.  It is not my life.  But a life that might have been.  Could have been.  Should have been.

Update:  Below the jump, the floor plans.

A slightly different version from the one posted above, with three main changes:  a porte-cochere on the right, a laundry room/service porch on the left, and a Palladian window in the dining room instead of a fireplace/chimney.

As I envision the story of this house - from the grandparents who built it in 1925, to the parents who took it over about 1960, down to the present, it might have gone through a couple of renovations.  Of course, there might be many ways one could arrange the layout, depending on the size of one's family, the size and number of one's furniture, and so forth.  As you can see I made attempts at furnishing some rooms, but figuring out how to arrange a roomful of furniture is not my strong suit, I'm afraid; that's where I would need some truly fabulous friend to help out, and also think up what to do for curtains window treatments and all that pretty stuff. 

But as I developed this design, this is the layout that seemed to want to come into being, and I think it's one that might have been planned this way more or less from the beginning.  Once you start creating a thing, it often seems to have a mind and will of its own, and tells you how it wants to be - you know what I mean, fellas?

There's also an attic and a basement, but those are devilishly hard to conjure up properly with the software I have.  Click on the pictures to enlarge.

Note:  there is a pocket door between the living room and the den.


Ray's Cowboy said...

love the house.

You have done a nice job here.


Russ Manley said...

Thanks, Ray.

Anonymous said...

I have several of those programs and spend endless hours designing and re-designing. I haven't come up with a plan that is acceptable. Maybe it is just as well because it would be unrealistic to build anyhow.
But it used to be so much more fun for me because I was trained as a draftman and spent the early years of my working career as a technical illustrator...I had to do it the hard way...exploded, isometric, pen and ink renderings of blood counters, lab equipment. then came CAD and replaced me. I was making $17 an hour which was a very respectable sum in the 70's
Love your dream house...I like those neo-colonials but I am more partial to French chateaus.


Topaz said...

I do the exact same thing of which you write so eloquently. And as I was scrolling through, I kept thinking "I can't wait to see the floor plan." Please share it with us.

Greg said...

Great house design. I love the outdoor spiral staircase and covered porches at the back. Nice touch.

Ted said...

Why don't you build it over here backing up to Lake Lewisville? Let's see, it's nice to see the sunset from the back porch, but that would be too hot in the Texas summers. It would be better to see the sunrise, then watch the sailboats from the deck as the sun goes down.

I have a rich acquaintance who built (on Lake Lewisville) a replica of his grandparents southern plantation house, complete with the stairs up to the 2nd story living area. It's beautiful.

Russ Manley said...

raulito - wow, you must be a very talented fellow to do all that kind of drawing and drafting. I can never quite get a truly ideal house finished, either - no matter how I try, there's always some feature I want that there's no room for, without making the house too big or too awkward. But it's fun to try, and it passes the time.

Topaz - Done. See floor plans below the jump.

Greg - Thanks, glad you like.

Ted - Well now that's a dandy idea, sounds lovely. Only problem holding me back is a little thing called money. Which if I had that kind of dough, I wouldn't be stuck here in Podunk, Texas, in the first place, ya know?

FDeF said...

I used to dream of actually building my house - hammer, nails, plumbing, the works. Would sometimes sketch out a rough plan. Now, however, we live in a very adequate 1000 square foot home with all we need - and that sometimes seems like too much. We think of selling the whole lot and living in a camper/rv while traveling around the country...replaced one dream with another.

Stan said...

Russ what is the name of this program? I would love to do this on my old computer. I still fiddle with paper and pencil from time to time. I love designing houses and buildings like this!

Russ Manley said...

It's called Home Designer by Better Homes and Gardens. I have version 7.0 that I bought five years ago, but I think they are up to version 10 now. It's pretty cool, and way more fun than any video game. Not too expensive, check it out bud.

Stan said...

Thanks a lot Russ! I really love this stuff. Went to drafting school for a while after HS but nothing ever came of it except as a passion and hobby.

Stan said...

After loooking at the floor plans this house though large is very practical and classy. The McMansions they build now are gawdy and tacky IMHO.
Great job!

Russ Manley said...

Thanks Stan, appreciate ya. I would want my house to be comfortable and roomy but homey - a place that feels like Home, not a hotel lobby. I agree, the McMansions they build nowadays are just way overdone, pretentious and tacky and wasteful of space and money. Less is sometimes more, ya know?

I hope you get the software, if we were neighbors I would just load my disk on your machine. But you can sometimes find a good deal on amazon.com, let me know if you do. Great fun.

"Sir" said...

When you build it, remember the guest suite for passing friends.

Russ Manley said...

But of course. A gracious home demands gracious hospitality too.

Topaz said...

Sorry I haven't been back in a while to comment. Thanks for the plans -- they look great!

Topaz said...

Let me add that I love some of the vintage touches you have, like the butler's pantry, the wide entry foyer, the sewing room upstairs. I can picture the interiors perfectly in my head -- perfectly comfortable, maybe a little worn from use, but also elegant in their mix of finer things handed down and newer things acquired over time. Thanks for this wonderful diversion.

Russ Manley said...

Thanks bud. You have the right idea about the interiors, but I'm not good at expressing that kind of thing. Much better at the floor plans and layouts than the decorating.

"Sewing room" - that's a nod to my late mom, who would certainly have commandeered it for that purpose. I don't sew - I'd use it for my study/computer room. But you get the idea of a house that evolved over time.

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