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Posts Tagged ‘american houses’

Permanent Furniture IV: Window Seats

December 9th, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

This is my fourth series on “Permanent Furniture,” a term I’d not heard until Bill Inge lent me his 1927 “Builders’ Woodwork” catalog.

And what a wonderful term it is. It defines the “built-ins” that make early 20th Century American architecture so enchanting and beautiful and practical.

Unless otherwise indicated, all images below appeared in the 1927 Builders’ Woodwork catalog.

Many thanks to Bill Inge for sharing these fun old architecture books!!

To read Part I, click here.

Click here to read Part II and Part III.

As always, please leave a comment below!

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perm

"Window seats and bookcases are very often used in combination, adding comfort to convenience."

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window

"These niches are not intended to supplant bookcases..." In other words, we know that you're going to have a *lot* more books than this, because you're a typical intelligent American with an innate desire to learn and grow. Wow. If only they could have known that TV would soon arrive on the scene and turn us into a nation of marginally literate, non-reading, believe-anything-you-see-on-the-tv saps. (But I digress...)

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window seat

Check out the fountain in the backyard. Now *that's* a view! I also love the little writing desk.

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seat

See the item in front of the pen with a rounded bottom? Now, I'm sure most of my highly intelligent, history loving readers already know this, but it was a blotter, and on its underside, it had a piece of absorbent paper or cloth. After signing your documents with a quill pen, the blotter was used to soak up excess ink.

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perman

Since they don't have a fountain in the backyard, they put up some draperies. But they do have a fine-looking Dutch Colonial out back. This is my favorite nook. Can you imagine curling up on this soft cushion, literally surrounded by all your favorite books? That lamp is in the wrong place, though.

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window

Rather plain, but still a quaint idea.

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wsingod

If I still had a house with radiators, I'd install this design in a second. It's a radiator cover, plus window seat, plus book storage, plus drawer space. And it's not recessed (as many are).

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seats

Another pretty one, but still pretty. And good storage underneath that bench seat.

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seats seats

The simplest of designs, and yet there's a lot of storage space in those seats.

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sears

This "permanent furniture" window seat and bookcase appeared in the 1927 Homebuilders' Catalog.

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1571 HB 1923

This, unlike the above, is an actual photo which appeared in the 1923 Harris Brothers (kit homes) catalog. The house shown is Harris Brothers' Modern Home #1571. In addition to the window seat, it has the bookcase colonnades, built-in buffet and gorgeous beamed ceiling.

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house house house

This was the only real-life example of a window seat I could find, and it's a poor example because it's really an "Inglenook" more than a window seat. And yet, it's still mighty pretty. The house shown is a Sears Magnolia, in northern West Virginia.

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To read more about the Sears Magnolia in West Virginia, click here.

Read all about phone niches by clicking here.

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Permanent Furniture II: Beautiful Staircases

December 3rd, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

In the early 1900s, we seemed to place more value on the idea that we should surround ourselves with beauty.

The staircases shown in the 1927 Builders’ Woodwork Catalog ranged from simple to fancy, and yet they’re all elegant and beautiful.

Too many modern staircases (post-1970) are not just utilitarian; they’re seriously ugly. Looking through several online listings of “new” houses for sale (under $500,000), I didn’t see any staircase pieces and parts that I haven’t seen for sale at Lowes. In other words, the focus of modern staircase building seems to be “fast, cheap and easy.”

What happened to the idea of making a beautiful entry?

As the 1920s text says below, “The staircase is the central feature of the hall or living room and must be judiciously selected to be in harmony with the architectural treatment of the dwelling.”

Perhaps that explains why contemporary staircases are so blasé and unappealing.

The pedestrian staircases in modern homes are “in harmony” with their pedestrian surroundings.

Many thanks to Bill Inge for sharing his historic architecture books with me!

Read about bookcase colonnades here!

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Staircase

Even the front page for this chapter is a thing of beauty!

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Stiarcase

"The designs...represent harmonious units." The text also adds, "The staircase...must be judiciously selected to be in harmony with the architectural treatment of the dwelling." How many builders today stop and think about how much "harmony" is expressed by their creations? (In the text above, K.D. stands for "knocked down.")

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staircase 1

"For the modern American small home, this design is very pleasing and practical."

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staircase 2

Another very simple design, and yet it's quite attractive. This type of staircase is often found in mail-order kit homes, because it's both simple and easy to construct.

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staircase 8

According to the accompanying caption, those doors lead out to an "elevated sunporch." I don't recall ever seeing an elevated sunporch off a landing like this - in real life.

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staricase

Another simple staircase, but with a 90-degree twist.

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staircase 8

"The unusual panel effect is a distinctive feature of this staircase..."

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staircase 7

This staircase is categorized in the original literature as a "Colonial design."

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house house house

Another favorite staircase. Years ago, I looked at a house for sale in South Norfolk (Chesapeake, VA) on Park Avenue and it had this very same design, all with original varnish/shellac. I thought it was the prettiest bit of "permanent furniture" that I'd ever seen. I shudder to think what's become of that house and it's gorgeous interiors. Note the phone niche next to the bench.

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staircase

"This panel buttress staircase is suitable for English or modern American homes. The complete absence of balusters and handrail make it easy to keep clean." While I do love the rope, I'm sure modern codes would not allow it.

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staircase

"The charm of this Colonial stairway is the continuous handrail ending in the graceful turning of a volute." Please raise your hand if you knew that this "round thing" at the end of the banister was known as a "volute." :D

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staircase 38

"Very suitable for the modest home without a reception hall." If a mother could have favorites, this would be one of mine. So pretty and so elegant, and yet, "suitable for a modest home."

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house house

"The attractive arches give it real character."

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house house house

Another beautiful staircase. The window mirrors the pattern on the built-in bookcase.

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staircase

"The large central hall is an attribute of the Colonial home, the main feature of which is the stairway." This is the same stairway we had in our 1925 Colonial Revival on Gosnold Avenue (Norfolk), even down to the tapered spindles and center post. Lone difference is, we had three spindles per tread, where this has two. Nary a soul entered that reception hall without making a nice comment about the beauty of that staircase.

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staircase

"This is one of the simpler lines, very economical in construction."

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staircase

Not my favorite, but it must be a design of enduring appeal, because I've seen it in many post-WW2 houses. Original caption says the "sturdy lines of English architecture are faithfully retained in this beautiful stairway."

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staircase 187

"The unusual feature is the handrail is mitered into the newel cap." Makes sliding down a bannister much easier (and less painful). Although it's a mighty short run.

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staircase 8883

"For real charm and beauty, a winding stairs can not be excelled."

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staircaseieie

"This Colonial stairway is very impressive." I agree. Check out the phone niche.

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In the 1920s, we seemed to have more of an understanding that it was important to surround yourself with beauty. Modern staircases are not just utilitarian; theyre ugly as sin.

The image on the left is from a $500,000 house currently for sale in Hampton Roads. The image on the right was a very simple design offered in the 1927 "Builders' Woodwork" catalog. In the 1920s, we seemed understand that low-priced and simple didn't have to equate with cheap and ugly.

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Stiars

To end on a happy note, I've always loved old houses, and that's due in large part to my mother, an artist, who always felt it was important to surround herself with beauty and light and color. She's shown here, sitting on the beautiful staircase of our Colonial Revival home in Waterview (Portsmouth, Virginia). It was about 1968, and she's holding "Bernard," a mutt she'd recently adopted from the local SPCA.

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To read Permanent Furniture, Part I, click here.

To read one of the most popular blogs at this site (featuring a beautiful staircase), click here.

Ready for a change of pace? Read about a really spooky basement here.

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Pennsgrove: Up Close and Personal

November 12th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

When I first learned that a Baltimorian had discovered a Pennsgrove in their very own neighborhood, I was more than a little dubious. After all, neither me nor my slightly obsessed house-hunting buddies had ever seen a Pennsgrove in the wild.

And yet, not only had my Baltimorians found a Pennsgrove, but now we’ve learned that they found THE Pennsgrove that had been used as the model for the image in the 1932 Sears catalog.

Now that’s an exciting find.

The Baltimorians (Tom and Jada Lawson) were kind enough to send me some high resolution photos so that we can really get a good look at this sweet thing.

And then last week while I was hanging out at the Sergeant Memorial Room (Norfolk Public Library), doing research on Penniman, Bill Inge (my #1 favorite librarian), sat down next to me and quietly confessed, “I think that Pennsgrove is  my favorite Sears House.”

Bill is not just an world-class librarian, but he’s also an incredibly interesting fellow and an indefatigable resource of historical knowledge. If there’s a person in this world that loves early 20th Century American history more than moi, it might just be Bill.

Many thanks to Tom and Jada for the wonderful photos and thanks to the city of Norfolk for having the wisdom and foresight to hire a true historian like Bill Inge.

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The Pennsgrove, as seen in the 1932 catalog.

The Pennsgrove, as seen in the 1932 catalog.

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Living Room 1932

Also in the 1932 catalog is a view of the living room in the Pennsgrove. Oh it'd be fun to get inside the Baltimore house and get a picture of the living room today - from the same angle!

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Garage

As kit homes go, this was a very busy house. The two-car attached garage was very unusual for a house of this vintage, and even more unusual for a Sears House. In fact, I believe that this is the only Sears House with a two-car attached garage (1932 catalog).

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send floor

The second floor makes the house seem crowded and small. And from an architectural standpoint, there's a lot of wasted space on this second level. And check out that third bedroom. It's a mere eight feet wide!

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house

Ah, but it sure is a beauty!

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Tom did a flawless job of photographing this house from the same angle as the original catalog image. And the best part: Even the shadows are falling in the same places. Check out the shadow on the arched entry by the garage. Photo is copyright 2013 Tom Lawson and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Compa

The side-by-side comparisons are my favorite. What a house!

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phenomenal

The Pennsgrove is a real beauty, and the stone, brick, stucco and slate provide a stunning complement to one another. I love the half-timber look on that front gable. Personally, I think the balloons look a little tired though. Photo is copyright 2013 Tom Lawson and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house

Check out that slate roof. Most likely, it's Buckingham Slate which weighs 1,400 pounds per square. Yes, you read that right. One ten by ten section of Buckingham Slate weighs 1,400 pounds. Houses with slate roofs are built extra sturdy to accommodate the tremendous weight. Photo is copyright 2013 Tom Lawson and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Thanks to Toms great images, we can really see the details.

Thanks to Tom's great pictures, we can really see the details. Notice this Pennsgrove still has the original light fixture! Photo is copyright 2013 Tom Lawson and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house hosue house

And original windows, too. I understand the house recently changed hands. Hopefully the new owners will also be good stewards of this historic home. Photo is copyright 2013 Tom Lawson and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house house house house

Nothing makes my heart go pitter-pat like the details. Check out the round downspouts. They may not be original, but they do look good. Photo is copyright 2013 Tom Lawson and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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house house house

Several people commented on the fact that the stone work around the front door is a perfect match to the old catalog image. That's when I started to realize that this is THE house shown in the 1932 catalog. This close-up proves it!

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What a house!

And I can't help but ask, do the owners know what they have? I surely hope so. Photo is copyright 2013 Tom Lawson and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Don’t replace that slate roof! Read this first and it will change your life! No kidding!

To learn more about the Pennsgrove, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

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