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The Big Picture

When you start to plan a new house, it’s easy to jump into the details like kitchen cabinet door styles. But when you start small and work your way up to a floor plan, house size, overall look and finally get to the big picture — how your house relates to its surroundings — you may belatedly realize you want both privacy and a strong connection to the community. Yet the design you painstakingly developed will only work when there’s no other house for half a mile.

It’s more sensible to start with the big picture and work your way down to the cabinetry. Do you want a community designed for lots of interactions with neighbors, or lots of privacy, or both? A brand-new subdivision, or an inner suburb full of 1950s ranchers that might need updating? A look that connects you to tradition, or one that speaks to the new century?

 

Looking Backward for the Next American Dream House

 

In this post-McMansion era, what will be the next version of the American Dream? Given our penchant for tradition, Katherine looked at the houses of previous eras for inspiration. Surprisingly, one of the best sources proved to be the tiny houses of the postwar suburbs that generations of architects have derided as “little houses made of ticky-tacky.”

 

Witold Rybczynski on Modern Home Design, Why We Stick With the Familiar

 

Katherine asks renowned author and architect Witold Rybczynski about possible effects of current market upheavals on modern home design. He shares intriguing thoughts on what may change, what most likely won’t — and our cultural investment in traditional features like fireplaces and foyers.

 

Beyond McMansions: Fresh Takes on Early American Designs

 

What comes after the McMansion? There’s probably no one answer, but architect and author Russell Versaci suggests America’s rich heritage of domestic architecture gives us plenty to draw on. He says that a sensibly designed house can borrow from many eras and suggests homeowners "pick and choose and not put themselves in an architectural, historical straitjacket."

 

'Modern Classicism' — A Style That Makes Sense

 

Architects who are “modern classicists” don’t limit themselves to the details and proportioning systems used by the builders of ancient Greece and Rome. They also draw on American architectural traditions that have evolved over 400 years, taking a practical, no-nonsense approach to design of buildings, neighborhoods and whole towns.

 

Can Land Planning Create a Sense of Community?

 

Architects and land planners say that a sense of community can be created if the conventional subdivision layout is radically altered with higher densities. The houses are close together and to the street, garages are accessed from a rear alley, and pocket parks are tucked into every neighborhood. These interconnected outdoor spaces are smaller and cozier and greatly increase the potential for casual socializing.

 
 

 

 

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