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Creating a Homestead
Idea of a "homestead" implies long time association with the land and stewardship over generations. Early homesteads did not have formal plans, but simply evolved. Additions were made in response to what was needed and could be adapted. Builders relied on traditional knowledge. A good fit was achieved through familiarity, utilizing advantages of the site, and economy of means. Survival of a 19th century family farm depended on making good choices. Today, creating a homestead is romantic ideal. Those who build are staking a claim and committing to care for a place. It is a radical act of homemaking, since they are asserting how things could and should be. Here are some examples and implications.
This farm complex begun c. 1720 is a great example of a coherent pre-industrial homestead. Buildings were constructed of local stone and fit to the natural land form.
Consistent use of building idiom and limited palette of materials provide coherence to the scheme rather than formal relationships. Stone retaining walls connect structures and bind the site together.
Visitors are led to this 3/4 view of house, revealing the sequence of additions and growth over time.
Bank barn takes advantage of sloping site with ramp to upper floor. All the buildings seem well sited, and are anchored by trees. Natural contours and shape of the land remain clear and intact. This was seldom the case after heavy earthmoving equipment was introduced.
This 1915 vacation house overlooking Boothbay Harbor, Maine, was renovated for year around use. Sited on a slope, entry and lawn are at grade. Beyond retaining wall this porch becomes a view terrace.
Low balustrade was probably original height. Open handrail above may have been added to meet code. Porch roof is light and airy without blocking between rafters.
Porch extends interior life outdoors, and is ready for summer showers.
All wood interior has painted walls and ceilings, natural floors and fireplace. This house is so evocative we could be transported back to an imaginary youth of lingering carefree summers...
Bedroom overlooks harbor. Its mint green walls and crisp white trim blend with water and landscape beyond.
Two pavilions with connecting walls make this isolated house a compound. Symmetry implies an axis, and expectations for layout of gardens.
A stark house for windswept site, this historic adaptation is well-suited for coast. Modest addition on leeward side can afford more windows.
Symmetrical layout of house in an open landscape makes this little desk alcove above entry central command.
Substantial and real materials create a hard shell to withstand storms, but inside there is transparency, delicate detail, warm wood and color.
The bath is obviously captured space, but retains and adapts historic features.
A homestead opens to the land and its prospects, not the road.
Living in a spectacular setting like this, we might easily become enthralled with weather and seasonal patterns. This house was built in Middlebury, Vermont, and its components trucked to British Columbia site.
Wiggly stair merges with site, as it finds a path through the trees. Accommodating natural features like this makes for a good fit.
Ample covered porch invites us to pause and take in the landscape. Notice all the rooms open onto it.
A remarkable family compound is defined with buildings surrounding a group of oak trees. Tree canopy creates the shared space, and anchors the ensemble.
A homestead becomes coherent with its site by responding appropriately. In this instance pool house is a backdrop for pool and terrace. From here we have nice prospect view over the landscape. When adding small features and accessory buildings, limit them to a single tradition.
Restoration of Ewing House in Colonial Williamsburg included reconstruction of historic dependencies. They show a family of forms that extend into working gardens.
This romantic Swedish revival country house is like a single family village. Steep roofs with eave kickers, board & batten weather boarding, casements with transoms all support the image. It is convincing because these are authentic materials-- real copper, cedar shingles, board & batten siding.
Quirky Swedish lusthus shape in board & batten anchors corner of garage.
This restored c. 1900 beach house had a simple rectangular footprint with gable roof, and would have been easy to add onto. An ell was attached, porches added, and later enclosed. An outdoor shower was fit into a notch. Everything works, because it all derives from the same vernacular tradition.
This is a lovely adaptation of a Dutch colonial revival house. Style sets our expectations for bilateral symmetry, but with the front porch partially enclosed to expand kitchen the entry was pushed off center. We find design more endearing for accommodating these changes.
Revival architect R. Brognard Okie (1875-1945) lives on in this recent house. Apparent additions are similar in size and materials, yet it is clear how the house is organized: entry has portico; kitchen has sunroom and garden access, etc.
"Picturesque" is a common modernist put-down for traditional architecture. Well, yes, it is "suitable for a picture."
This picture perfect house may not have evolved over generations, but everything about it is real and convincing.
Historic homestead has become a linked village over time, as separate buildings were connected through additions.
Evolution of this 18th C Tinicum, PA, stone farmhouse seems clear, even though the choice was a mix of continuity and contrast.
Outbuildings at Starry Night Farm have been arranged to define a work court. Barn (38' x 63') has stone base (Chesterfield Blend, Rolling Rock Quarry, PA) with cypress board and batten walls above.
This scene exemplifies prosperity. Farmhouse has expanded several times, and both house and barn are shipshape. This is a sustainable enterprise.
This looks like a working farm, practical and spare. No time for decorating. Screened porch affords a place to eat in summer heat. Buildings in the field are set on piers, to be relocated if necessary.
A simple barn never seems out of place. Here, stone foundation, earthen ramp, and trees anchor it to its site. Open wicket in barn door is a nice touch.
One can imagine early 19th century visitors finding this site on high ground in Hudson Valley and declaring "This is where the house should be!" They were right, of course.
Sense of remoteness of a pioneer's house on raw land was captured in this view. An outpost of civility, only one granite step separates it from the "wilderness."
The remarkable qualities of Mike Connor's houses are apparent at every scale and down to the smallest details. His intention is to follow historic precedent and benefit from the wisdom of building traditions.
Attached garage would wreck most new old houses, so "barns" are called in, often separated from house by only a breezeway.
Cupola on car barn is a significant feature to accentuate vertical proportions and make it convincing.
New farm complex faces south to welcome the sun. Stone portion is intended to suggest earliest construction, later connected with a hyphen to a bigger house as the farm prospered.
This totally convincing reproduction of an early 19th C farm in Columbia County, NY, recovers the sense of being rooted to the land, capable and persevering.
This house feels like an extension of its land form, climbing as the grade rises.
What a lovely supporting cast for this homestead. Farm buildings are new, except historic stone barn which was apparently adapted.
This appears to be a potting shed and greenhouse with tall windows facing south and low eave to the north.
Board and batten additions improve utility of historic barn while connecting it to new farm buildings.
A homestead today is more likely a romantic safe haven and place of leisure than a working farm. Good luck with that!