Simply Square

The almost absolute lack of elaborate detail is one of the chief charms of this residence. Its elegance is its simplicity.         From an early 1900’s Ladies Home Journal describing the American Foursquare

The house is a machine for living in.   One can be proud of having a home as serviceable as a typewriter.       Le Corbusier

Places which are comfortable are comfortable because they have no inner contradictions, because there is no restlessness disturbing them.     Christopher Alexander

 

I must admit that I knew virtually nothing about the American Foursquare house before buying one.  The name comes from its shape and a basic plan of four square rooms per floor. Also known as the box, the cube, and the double-decker, I’m not sure any of these nicknames would have been a selling point for me.  Fortunately it had other attributes that we admired.

 

After the highly detailed and fussy architecture of the Victorian era and Queen Anne homes, Americans were ready for practicality. With a new century just around the corner, the American Foursquare supported a changing lifestyle that was less sophisticated. It offered a space for the American people to let down their hair and relax. The culture was moving from detailed ornamentation to a clean minimalism, not only in architecture, but also in how they decorated their homes.  Most popular from 1890 to 1930, people were ready to have what they considered a sensible home. This style articulated a dwelling that was humble, understated, and unpretentious.

 

With such a pragmatic design, building costs were much less.  Its square form provided an efficient shape for the narrow city lots and neighborhoods that were growing.  Quickly this became an affordable middle-class home.  It was not long before Sears Roebuck and Company made these available as a pre-ordered kit.  At one time Sears offered fifteen different models of this unadorned design.

 

The American Foursquare has a dossier of identifiable characteristics. They are easy to recognize. Common qualities are the two and a half story structure, a basic floor plan with squared rooms, a single dormer in the roof line, a front porch across the entire width of the house, large windows in the front, and interior doors with five inset panels.  That’s our house!  That’s Simplicity!  She is a house that is practical, economical, comfortable, and efficient.  These are also the values that Don and I try to live out in our everyday ordinary way.  We are a good fit, this house and the two of us.  Now you also know why calling her Simplicity was the perfect name.

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