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Tuesday, 18 February 2014

In a search for a perfect house.. some designs from the days gone by


It's a well known fact that I'm dreaming of a perfect home. One day, I'm sure, I will have one. Almighty stars will align and bring me the ultimate joy of house ownership. Until that day, I'll be collecting some designs (just to be ready for it).

All of these images are from William A. Radford Company
Of the hundreds of companies that designed house plans during the first half of the 20th century, one of the most prolific was the William A. Radford Company of Chicago, Illinois.

Radford sold a number of books under their name, but also provided their plans to lumber dealers and builders for distribution to customers. Many of those books are unattributed, but they are easy to identify by comparing the plans with the books and American Builder magazine which was in publication for several decades.
1921 Blue Ribbon cottage

This small cottage plan is the first of a popular series of plans called "Blue Ribbon Homes" and published in August 1921 by the William A. Radford Publishing Company for American Builder Magazine. Though small it has about 1100 square feet. Most of us now wouldn't care for the bedroom opening directly off the living room, but it was a common practice to minimize hall space in the 1910s and 20s. Possibly its most interesting feature is the large single-pane window in the living room. A book called Radford's Blue Ribbon Homes collected 155 of these plans and was offered in 1924.

1921 Blue Ribbon bungalow

This somewhat ornate cottage bungalow with its exaggerated barge boards and knee brackets, was designed for "the average family of three or four ... The ornamental features of the trim, painted white in vivid contrast to the brown stains of the sides, make the home look very attractive." It makes a great argument for NOT painting your bungalow if your stained siding has remained intact.

1925 - The Gladstone

"A very practical brick bungalow with big sun parlor, five rooms and bath, size 30 by 51 feet." This house is typical of the brick Prairie-influenced bungalows seen around Chicago and other parts of the Midwest. It has a slightly more formal plan than many bungalows with a reception hall separating the dining from living room.

1925  -The Hawthorne

"A seven-room story-and-a-half bungalow, 31 by 44 feet, with two baths and breakfast porch. Color sketch ... showing kitchen cabinet." This a practical bungalow plan with four bedrooms and tons of room.

1925 - The Idaville

"Popular Western bungalow design with wide cornice and exposed rafters. Seven rooms and bath. Half of the big front porch is enclosed for a sun-room. Colour sketch ... suggests good furnishings for this sun-room."

1925 - The Joyce

"A delightful shingled cottage with an English accent containing five rooms, breakfast nook and bath. The efficiency breakfast nook with fold away furniture is illustrated in the sketch ..." The kitchen nook furniture was sold by Kitchen Aid, a cabinetry company of the period.

1925 - The Judson

"A brick house of Georgian design containing six fine rooms and two baths on the two principal floors with space on the third floor for maid's rooms. The color sketch ... suggests attractive furnishings for the dining room of this house, and appropriate lattice screen for the garden is suggested in the photograph to the left."

1925 - The Kaneville

"An interesting study in roof lines is seen in the front elevation of this home. Casement windows across the front of the first floor lights the sun parlor which opens off the living room. A suggestive view of the latter room completely furnished is offered in the color sketch ..."

1925 - The Lakeside

Even though this is not a big house, it has enough room and some interesting spaces that give it the character and private spaces of a much larger home. It has an inglenook, which would be a cozy alcove for a fire and book on a winter's eve and easy access by French door's to a little covered porch off the living room.

1925 - the Latham

"A Dutch Colonial home of extremely graceful lines containing six rooms and bath besides the large sun porch and the vestibule hall. For a house of only 24 x 30 feet, this contains an exceptional amount of space." The inset image with the gramophone, shows the sun porch as the "radio room."

1925 - The Medford & Marysville

The Medford and Marysville are both pretty small houses. The Medford could be described as a transitional or eclectic style as it has as much in common with a bungalow as with a Colonial Revival. The oddly placed fireplace might be more convenient if the walls between living and dining rooms were removed. The Marysville, an English-style shingled cottage, has a much more pleasing layout and is easily one of our favourite plans.

1925 - The Normandy

"A French cottage with a dash of old world charm is presented in this cozy bungalow of five rooms. Such houses are a satisfaction to build and a joy to live in. They never lack for a buyer or tenant. The color sketch ... shows how conveniently the kitchen in this homes is arranged." Though the plan is slighly more boxy than the average little 1920's house, it still packs in the required amenities for a small family.

1926 - Palermo & Paradise

Two plans shown here include the Palermo and the Paradise. Both are small story-and-a-half houses with a modest footprint. The tile roof and stucco siding give the Palermo a more European flavour in contrast with the more traditional style of the Paradise.

1927 - Gainsboro

Cross-gabled like earlier wing-and-gable plans with Colonial Revival characteristics, this plan also captures some of the assymetry of the very popular English Cottage styles that were so prevalent in the late 1920s. It's not a big house, but it is very attractive. It's also one of the ColorKeed Home Plans shown in American Builder magazine.

1927 - The Goodrich

This English Cottage style home with three bedrooms and one bath has a fair amount of curb appeal because of its shake siding and Revival character. If you want storage though, it needs the basement as originally designed.

1927 - The Hepburn

This is an unusually symmetrical English Cottage style house with hints of the 19th century Carpenter Gothic. It's not a big house, only a little over 1200 square feet, but the plan is nice with good traffic flow and good-sized bedrooms upstairs. It's largest flaw is lack of storage space.

1928 - The Paris

Based on a French gatekeeper's cottage, the Paris is delightful. It is one of the ColorKeed plans, which were started in 1927. Stucco siding, wall dormers, the high, steep slate roof and and leaded windows are just a few of its obvious charms. The extended walls on the façade give this house considerably more substance than the actual square footage provides.

Just on a safeside - I'll be hanging on to these.
If you saw anything you like, I'm glad. If not, let me know what your home is (or should look like).


  1. These are fabulous! My favourite is the Gainesboro, I like the floor plan of it with the living room, dining room and kitchen downstairs and the bedrooms upstairs. The house we're renovating looks nothing like this though, but that's the charm of renovating I guess. Compromising and making the most of what you got. :) I wish you a darling day my dear!

    1. Oh, yes.
      Gainesboro attracts the views with it's amazing look: a mixture of a classical English cottage and "Green Gables", as you've mentioned: it has great space organization, so that the living space does not get influenced by the kitchen and entertainment area.
      I can't wait to see how your renovations go on..


  2. These are simply wonderful Maja! Even though some of them have 'English' style, there's still a quintissential American style to them all. Maybe it's the porches? We don't have them generally, though the 1925 bungalow you show me reminds me of one in Cardiff - I'll take a sneaky picture next time I'm there so I can show you! One day my dear! My advice would be to start saving now, even if it's only a dollar/pound a week x

    1. You have a good eye - they DO have an English "cottage style" to them. Over here, we also enjoy porches, however they never developed into something like these elaborate darlings in the images.
      I'm looking forward to seeing your Cardiff home, darling.
      And: yes. One-at-a-time. To some folks this dream of mine looks so distant, and so expensive (it is, to tell you the truth); but I say: "All we need is a bit of Hope"


  3. These homes are all enchanting. They speak of the past so powerfully, and not just because they are old themselves, but because they have a certain elegant quaintness to them that one rarely ever sees in 21st century houses.

    Wildly eclectic soul that I am, there are actually multiple styles of houses that would all be considered dream homes in my books, some of which include a classic Victorian or Edwardian house with tons of orate, gorgeous details; a West Coast style wooden home on a slice of waterfront property, or a sprawling farm house/rancher that I'd probably kit out somewhat in a mid-century style indoors. All daydreams at this point for me, too, but hopefully some day we'll both be able to land one of our fantasy homes.

    ♥ Jessica

    *PS* Thank you very much for your awesome comment on yesterday's post*you hit the nail on the head perfectly, honey). I agree with every single word you said and was giving you a standing ovation in my head for it. (If it's not an existing term, I hereby dub blog-bragging, as one, because goodness knows it's a real thing and there should be a term for it!)

    1. Dear fellow daydreamer,
      The houses on these images are made for everyone; there's a perfect one for every taste. If you like the smaller bungalow, there's that. If your heart skips a beat for a two-stories-great-veranda, there's that.
      Pre-made house plans are an amazing thing; because they allow you to imagine the entire house immediately; with a single glance at it's plans.