In North America, the period following World War 1 was a time of cozy, entrenched traditionalism, reinforced by the Armed Forces’ first brush with vernacular European architecture, be it English Tudor, Cotswald Cottage, or French Norman homes. This traditionalism with a new found love of the picturesque was reflected in residential architecture, and during the 1920’s and 1930’s a house was expected to display a readily identifiable historical style in order to display the owner’s good taste, hearkening back to the domestic values and ideals of an earlier age. Nothing too modern was acceptable. Some of the housing stock reflected a late persistence of the influence of the Arts and Crafts movement, including Craftsman style bungalows. As the economy was still in tatters, these postwar houses were much more modest in scale, and reflected the new reality of having to make do without domestic help.
The“new” domestic architecture of the 1920’s–30’s unfolded at the height of the influence of the Hollywood movies, which had always depicted the exotic, the rare and the distant. Hollywood cranked out an unending supply of historical romances and swashbuckling dramas, shown in flamboyant magic movie palaces bedecked in Moorish and other exotic styles. This also led to widespread acceptance of the exotic and the picturesque.
As the economy improved after the War, more people were able to afford new houses, and an appetite for a more sophisticated approach for the picturesque exploded. This provided a powerful impetus for the re-invention of the bungalow, now clothed in a variety of whimsical period Revival elements such as the mix and match of Tudor half-timbering and multi-paned windows. Characterized by steeply-pitched gables and gothic-arched windows, this house style, among others, adopted a “Storybook Cottage” vernacular inspired by historical motifs but often with a pastiche of romantic elements.
Massing of Storybook houses was nearly always asymmetrical, with strikingly character-defining rooflines-usually tall, steep gable roofs. Some Storybook homes feature jerkin-headed roofs for Tudor-styled houses. Others, with rolled or “DutchWeave” eaves simulate Cotswald or “Hansel and Gretel” cottages. Another popular style was French Norman with turreted entries and steep farmhouse roofs. Many of the Storybook houses adapted a one and a half storey massing to reinforce the doll-house look, with the roof hovering close to the ground plane.
The front entry is often arched and outlined with brick or stone and the front door is inset, creating a small entry vestibule. Arched windows are common on the front façade and can be pointed-arch, rounded or shallow-arched. Other windows are deep-set with leaded muntin-barred windows, dressed with shutters and window boxes. Side yard gates were often attached to the front plane of the house reinforcing the asymmetrical “cats-slide” appearance of the roofline. Turrets and crenellation appear in French-styled homes.
The most common cladding form is stucco, and decorative trim boards are often used to evoke medieval half-timbering. Brick is often employed decoratively as a plaster insert to give the appearance of aged walls as seen in medieval European towns. The original roofs were generally cedar shingles, sometimes elaborated in exaggerated overlapping wave patterns to mimic the appearance of traditional thatched roofs. Doors are typically built of wide planks with wrought iron hardware, and strapping, with a small window opening accompanied by a grated covering.