The Elements of Style: An Encyclopedia of Domestic Architectural Detail

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9781554070794: The Elements of Style: An Encyclopedia of Domestic Architectural Detail

"An impressive reference work."
- Library Journal (on the 1997 edition)

A richly detailed and easy-to-use reference to 500 years of architectural details and styles.

Owners and potential buyers of period houses, restorers, architects, interior designers and historical preservationists will find this reference invaluable.

The Elements of Style is the most comprehensive visual survey, period-by-period, feature-by-feature, of the styles that have had the greatest impact on interiors of American and British domestic architecture. Compiled by a team of experts, this is the first book on architectural styles that is comprehensive, incredibly thorough, and accessible in its presentation of individual details.

This magnificent volume covers more than 500 years of architectural styles from Tudor to Post-Modern and includes American and British vernacular styles. First published in 1991 (with 150,000 copies sold), this new edition is expanded to include the most contemporary styles.

Detailed illustrations include 3,000 analytical drawings and historic engravings, 400 photographs in color and 1,000 in black and white.

The heart of The Elements of Style is a chronological survey of the primary styles and periods of architectural design. Each chapter begins with an illustrated essay, then covers in detail features such as:

  • Doors
  • Windows
  • Walls, floors and ceilings
  • Staircases
  • Ironwork and hardware
  • Woodwork and built-in furniture
  • Kitchen stoves and fireplaces
  • Essential period architectural details, and more.

The book also includes:

  • A useful system of quick reference, employing color-coded tabs showing how particular features evolved over time, and
  • A fully updated resource list with contact information for locating suppliers of those design elements illustrated throughout the book.

The Elements of Style is the essential reference for preservationists, architects, interior designers, owners of period homes, and historians.

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From the Back Cover:

Foreword

"For a man's house is his castle:, wrote Sir Edward Coke at the beginning of the 17th century. The phrase has become a cornerstone of the way we think and live. Yet, by a stroke of historic irony, the great lawyer's memorable line was penned at the very time when Inigo Jones was building the first modern house in England, the Queen's House at Greenwich -- that precocious expression of polite taste and perfect monument to a new domestic ideal. From this date on people cared for their houses not merely as strongholds of safety and domestic wealth: they loved them for their architecture. Today we are heirs to a legacy of fine building and to a continuing fascination with the details and stylistic elements which give our houses their character. In Britain, and in the United States too, that interest in old houses has become something of a national obsession. The desire to know and understand the history of our homes has never been stronger. We are, perhaps more than ever before,! aware of the crucial importance of our great architectural traditions and the central position they occupy in what we have come to call our heritage.

At the heart of this concept of heritage lies our idealized image of the period house, which, great or small, ostentatious or plain, has come to epitomize so many of our notions of civilization. The study of the architectural evolution of the country house in England and the United States, and of urban and village building, has a long and distinguished history. But in recent years, academic interest in the planning, stylistic development and detailing of historic houses has increasingly become linked with the more passionate and practical enthusiasms of the conservation movement. As a result, the houses we live in have become a major concern -- the subject of both a large body of scholarly and investigative endeavor and often intense public discussion and debate.

One of the foremost defenders of traditional values in design and workmanship, the Prince of Wales, has repeatedly stressed the influential role which fine architecture can play in our everyday existence. As the protagonist of a humane architecture based on human scale and sound techniques and materials, he has championed the idea that good building is not only an index of civilization, but also an important contributory factor in the quality of life which we enjoy.

Today, those who value the best of the old in our heritage are convinced of its relevance to the new. But there is, it has to be said, a great deal that must be learned or re-learned. In recent decades more modern tendencies have prevailed, and we have come perilously close to losing much of the rich vocabulary and even the grammar which gave our architectural language in previous ages its subtlety and fluent charm. What we need now is a return to visual literacy, an understanding of all the elements and details of the house as they have changed through five centuries. To promote such an understanding, which alone can be the only proper basis for conservation, restoration and sensitive design, is one of the main aims of this book.

We have sought to create within the compass of a single volume a practical sourcebook for all those who care about our heritage of domestic architecture in Britain and the United States. The vast body of illustrative material that has been drawn together here includes specially commissioned photographs of houses, reproductions of engraved plates from the key architectural publications of each period, and drawings based on a wide variety of archival material, including old photographs and measured drawings (often of buildings now demolished), rare prints and builders' pattern books. The images used to illustrate each chapter have been selected by the individual authors, each of whom has made a particular study of his or her period. For each chapter the chief aim has been to show the development of standard forms but also to illustrate some of the influential high-points of architectural achievement and something of the variety that has always characterized domestic buildings.

Primarily, The Elements of Style, is intended as a visual and documentary resource for people concerned with the details of houses, whether as owners, conservators, architects, interior decorators or designers. For the student and the interested general reader the book can also be used as a way to trace the history of the British and American house. Between the practical approach and the academic there is no real division of interests: a chief desideratum in each case is sympathy for matters of detail, a belief in the importance of accuracy at the most meticulous level.

The overall plan of this book is a simple chronological one, period by period, style by style. The main chapters deal with what we may define as polite architecture: that is, buildings which aim, with whatever degree of success, at observing the architectural rules and at being fashionable, or in later periods buildings which conform to nationally prevalent types. Houses which fall outside this rather general definition -- modest country dwellings, traditional structural types in use over a long period, and distinct regional variations on standard forms -- are dealt with separately in chapters devoted to vernacular building. British vernacular is treated separately from the end of the Tudor period: before then the two strands have been combined, for the distinctions between vernacular and polite in that era are so blurred as to be misleading, even meaningless. Under American vernacular, the coverage is of rustic and regional features from Colonial times to the mid-l9th century. Inevitably these chapters are highly selective: given the multiplicity of localized styles, this book can do no more than illustrate some of the highlights of vernacular domestic architecture.

Similarly, although Britain and the United States are treated separately in the first half of the book, the chapters on Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau, the Twenties and Thirties, and the Modern and Beyond Modern styles combine material from both sides of the Atlantic, in order to emphasize the close connections that exist in an age of international influences. This approach has brought about some interesting juxtapositions, such as the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Glasgow and the early houses of Frank Lloyd Wright in the United States.

The Elements of Style is nor a book about great architects: although inevitably their names and works appear among these pages, their stories are told elsewhere, and the interested reader will have no difficulty in tracking down more information. Nor is it a study of grand houses to the exclusion of the more modest. We have chosen to place the greatest emphasis on that category which the 18th-century architect and his builder called the "good middling sort of house"; for in such houses we may discern much of the genius of each age and in full measure those qualities which the first architectural writer in English, Sir Henry Wotton, required of all fine building: "Firmness, Commodity and Delight".

Stephen Calloway

About the Author:

Stephen Calloway is the author of Twentieth Century Decoration and Baroque Baroque and contributes regularly to a number of periodicals including: The World of Interiors, House and Garden and Elle Decoration. He is also a lecturer and consultant on architecture and interior design.

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