The Roman ruins of the Italian countryside, its medieval defensive tours and homey vineyards are remembered in the American Italianate, a less formal, less stately Italianate than is the English, though no less beautiful and proud. You might say, “the Italianate is a literary invention”, a creation of Romantic writers and artists–which it is–a picture of an imagined Arcadia, Italian in accent, the “picturesque”, as writers of the common dialectic call it. The Italianate style is recognized by its wide eaves, its numerous brackets, its towers, its solidity; it is a style sometimes called the “Bracketed style” or the “Tuscan style”, though these days, “Tuscan style” implies a hodge-podge informality of contractor build Mc-minis.
The Italianate style continues to be popular among buyers, though not popular with builders and contractors, because the style has not an advocate. Its period of popularity in these united states extended from the early 1840s, when first pictured in builder pattern-books, through The War to End Slavery (the civil war between the states, 1861-1865), until the early 1890s when Classive architects imagined an America great and grand (reference the World’s Columbian Exposition, 1893), an America of heroes, world leaders who abandoned the Cincinnatus farm to assume the mission of world supremacy. The Italianate style is polite, formal in its informality, assuming the stewardship of beauty; it is a style of family, neighborliness, and responsibility.
The Roman ruins of Umbria, Tuscany, et alibi, domesticated from the middle Christian Age through the Classive Renaissance into the Enlightenment, as imagined by English-speaking architects influenced by Palladio and Piranesi.
Cronkhill, Shropshire, 1802, John Nash, the first Italianate villa.
Osborne House, Victoria and Albert’s Royal Residence, East Cowes, Isle of Wight, designed by Prince Albert (with assistance of Thomas Cubitt), 1845-1851.
The Architecture of Country Houses, Andrew Jackson Downing, 1850
Symmetrical, though not always bi-laterally symmetrical. Cubic, even when “L” shaped.
Low pitched roofs project in wide eves bracketed in support with corbels. A roof might be hipped, or gabled, or towered, or flat, yet always there are brackets supporting deep eaves, and sometimes there is a cupola or proper lantern. Chimneys are tall and massive, symmetrically placed.
Most often grouped in twos, most often arched, segmented or perfect. The panes might be divided in half or in four, the cross being the most common shape. Sometimes, windows are three grouped, especially in tower and cupola. Windows and doors sport a cornice that is sometimes simple as soldiered bricks, sometimes extravagant, stylistic in abstract floral.
Structure and Materials
Stone, brick, stucco, or wood, yet always solid and heavy. Iron rails might be light on balconies, heavy when a rail approach.
Space and Floor Plan
Logical and rectangular alike the plan of rooms in the Greek Revival. If “L” shaped, a porch might extend the long length, often along two floors. You will notice a verticality, not only in the common tower and cupola, but also in a kind of aspiration to something higher.
If the house is foursquare, the door is smartly centered; if “L” shaped, the door centers the tower; or if in a house of towered bays, the door will stand next the bays, allowing the bays to do the work of light and pleasure. Always, the door is heavy paneled, reflective of the fenestration; the door might be a straight lintel or an arch, in both a transom, sometimes of etched glass, allows light into the foyer or stair-hall.
A wealth of manufactured ornamentation is every apparent, sometimes to excess; best examples restrain with measure and decorate with unassuming taste.
If masonry, the material is unpainted, though brick and wood examples (especially when several houses are in a row linked) are painted in tans and browns and grays with contrasting trim, as A.J. Downing recommended. Most often, the Painted Lady Italianate is the work of a sentimental, enthusiastic impulse.
Porches invited congress with neighbors, and long porches create opportunities for informal family gathering, and porches, whether long or wrap-around, or extending, marry nature to the civil in all that marriage implies in health and in partnership.
The practical Octagon House: A Home for All, 1853, by Orson Squire Fowler, created a fad which here-and-there persists to this day (because useful and commonsensical), especially in naturally picturesque locations, mountainsides, et alibi. And too, must mention Olana, the home of the painter Frederick Church, a house as-unique-as Monticello, and as beautiful, yet so very individual that it has neither precedent nor progeny, and yet there is in it something of the Italianesque spirit, via Al-Andalus.
This house is designed for a genteel family of a gentle neighborhood. It serves as residence and business, with a rental to offset mortgage expense. The house is capable of numerous adaptations, as the illustration shows: work-at-home, live-work, commercial-residential, aging-in-place, with variations in bedrooms, baths, et cetera, only a few of which potentialities are pictured here. The home employs advantages of passive solar and wind, the cupola serving to draw in the cool ground breeze, the aligned windows and doors to encourage the crossing wind. The several porches mediate indoor and outdoor with opportunity for commerce between nature and civilization, and there is space for a garden both healthful and picturesque, as Downing and others of the Italianate prescribed.
The house is fashioned by American traditions of organized family life in work, education, and leisure. You will notice the family gathering room open to outdoors, the working kitchen / dining room, the contiguous office ideal for professionals (doctors, lawyers, designers), the suite of private bedrooms, the children’s rooms designed for rest and study, the rental for boarder or office, the undelineated basement that might become a playroom, entertainment room, mancave, or spare bedrooms plus. And the house is handsome, almost pretty, honest and inviting, and affordable for a family of middle-class income.
Italianate, Palazzino, Plan #20
1,325 Main Floor
932 Second Floor
3,746 Square Footage
9’-0” First Floor Ceiling
24′-0″ Great Room Ceiling
1 Guest Suite / Apartment
Room Size, Primary Plan
Great Room 16’-0” x 24’-0”
Kitchen 8’-0” x 16’-0”
Dining Room 16′-0″ x 16′-0″
Office 14′-10″ x 16′-0″
Waiting Room 5′-6″ x 8′-0″
Water-closet 5′-6″ x 4′-6″
Entrance Hall 11′-0″ x 8′-0″
Master Bedroom 16’-0” x 16’-0”
Master Bath 8’-0” x 16’-0”
Bedroom 14′-10″ x 16′-0″
Bathroom 5′-6″ x 8′-6″
Guest Suite / Apt. 30′-7″ x 16′-0″
Garage 23′-5″ x 16′-0″
Lower Porch 24′-9″ x 8′-9″
Upper Porch 24′-9″ x 8′-9″
Front Porch 17′-6″ x 7′-8″
Room Size, Alternative Plan
as above, excepting the Master Bedroom replaces the Office
and two bedrooms and one bath are added to the second floor
Bedroom 14′-10″ x 16′-0″
Bedroom 16′-0″ x 11′-8″
Bath 8′-0″” x 16′-0″
opportunity for aging in place
covered front porch
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