The Italian Renaissance and the Renaissance Revival House Plan
Italian Renaissance architecture is the architecture of Rome reborn with a Christian soul, personally heroic. Rome’s Pantheon and Florence’s Pazzi Chapel have much in common, even so, there is in the Florentine Pazzi chapel a gentlemanliness quite different from the Roman Pantheon’s imperium. Filippo Brunelleschi, architect of the chapel, was also a sculptor, an engineer, an inventor, holder of the world’s first patent, a “Renaissance Man”, you might say. What else to say: Brunelleschi developed the mathematical science of linear perspective, a drawing technique which ordered all that is intelligible in a scale believable, in a reality comprehensible. When entering a Renaissance building you will notice that you are in a mind that organized space logically, beautifully, sympathetically in respect to fellow men.
You find in Renaissance architecture a rediscovery of Classical order and the Orders (Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, et cetera), of various elements and ornaments (architrave to frieze, dental to egg-and-dart), of geometry and symmetry. Then too you find a new, Florentine fullness of air and of light, of logical hierarchy, of scaled ornaments sized to make us comfortable in gargantuan cathedrals or halls of state. And then of Renaissance architecture, you should know Firmitas, Utilitas, Venustas, “firmness, commodity, delight”, succinct advice from a book composed by Vitruvius’ (Roman, c. 80–70 BC – after c. 15 BC), rediscovered in 1414, translated circa 1450 by Leon Battista Alberti. Alberti’s translation contributed to the continuation of Classive Civilization. Should mention, the architectural trivium is often titled the Vitruvian Triad, or the Vitruvian Virtues.
You will recognize the Renaissance Man in the “Vitruvian Man”, Leonardo’s conception of man resolved into universal geometry, man measured in all things. You will recognize that Vitruvian Man is at home in buildings that have a bottom, a middle, a top, a center and two sides, in houses that are hierarchical and bilaterally symmetrical, houses that compose themselves as we are composed of a bottom, middle, top, sides, et cetera. You will notice this bilateral symmetry in the villas of Andrea Palladio (1508–1580), an architect and theorist who influenced our American architects (Thomas Jefferson, et alia). From antique Rome to Florence to Veneto, to London to Charlottesville to Monticello and beyond … the Renaissance tradition is found in the United States Capitol Building, in your state capital or library, in the tradition of the American home, perhaps your home, and in today’s houses of The Beautiful Home.
Renaissance Revival Architecture
The American Renaissance Revival was popular among bankers, traders, nation-builders, the Villards, the Vanderbilts, the Rockefellers, et alia, families who knew themselves to be cousined with the Medici, the Borgia, and other princely dynasties. Most architecture styles are a form of branding, the Mid-Century Mod and the Wrightian Prairie no less than the Renaissance Revival. Each style has some fine quality to recommend it. The Renaissance style has fine qualities in abundance, not the least of which are beauty, artistic patronage, memory, and public wealth, that virtue of contributing something great to a community, a municipality, and a nation.
The United States of America was Classive from the first, and each generation of patrons, architects, and artists built to the best of ability. In time, ability matured, ambition grew, and wealth increased until the late 19th Century when we Americans were capable of creating our own Renaissance. Between 1880 and 1930, American artists and architects were greatest in the world, a truth seldom told because socialistic art histories conspire against excellence, dilate upon a Marxist, Darwinian narrative of progress to some ever closer, ever impossible resolution of all human problems. Because socialistic art historians see through approved texts, they are blind to the objects of art and of architecture, of pictuary, statuary, cathedrals and houses. Therefore, you know of the Progressive Pablo Picasso but you do not know the great Classive John Russell Pope and his fellows, Augustus Saint Gaudens, Daniel Chester French, and a hundred others.
The period 1880 through 1930 is often termed by Classives, “The American Renaissance”, a period that rivaled the best art, architecture, and invention of Athens, Rome, Florence, London, Paris. Visit what is left of our great cities, Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington D.C., et alibi, and you will see through the clutter of modernistic ugliness a great civic beauty, an exceeding aesthetic intelligence, and a humane sympathy worthy of God-souled creatures. Yes, The American Renaissance is rich in Beaux Arts and other Classive styles, yet all the sister styles, except the Greek Revival, participate in the muscular expansiveness and bold confidence of the Renaissance.
For instance, the bold and confident 1893 Worlds Columbian Exposition in Chicago that celebrated the 400th anniversary of this continent’s discovery by a civilization both literate and historically conscious (Classive Civilization). The exposition was visited by 27,300,000 people in six months, and this in a broad nation of 63 million people without automobiles or aeroplanes. In one day alone, October 9, 1893, 751,026 people visited the 690 acres of great civic buildings, civic spaces, civic statuary, and other delights that both proved American greatness and inspired Americans to ever greater feats in the arts of civic accomplishment. What you see of greatness in our American cities is the remainder of America’s High Renaissance. Yes, even the skyscraper, an invention of American Classive architects (Progressives did not invent the skyscraper), is the aspirational accomplishment of the American Renaissance.
The Renaissance Revival House
The typical American house averages some 2,400 square feet, a size suitable to a family of five or six. The prototypical Renaissance Revival house is, well, bigger, because its size is suitable to ambition that exceeds the typically measured man, wife & children. The Renaissance Revival house is, for the most part, a house fitted to the patrician, both Roman and American. As in Rome, our patricians could, and yet do purchase their elevated station. By design, our nation’s Founders modeled this republic on the best examples of antique Rome, and it is fitting that American architecture of our expansion remembered the ways and forms of Rome.
Renaissance Revival houses take several forms, each in its way ambitious, each a continuation of the Italian Renaissance: the palace, the villa, the townhouse, the single-family home. Too, Renaissance Revival houses are accurate in archeological, architectural detail. Architects of the style, most often educated in Europe (all of which was once Rome), made detailed drawings of both antique Roman and Italian Renaissance buildings. Touching, measuring, and observing, fixed the feel of old structure in the architect’s mind, and the idea of structure was expressed in new buildings uniquely American.
The Renaissance Revival Palace is dignified, monumental, imposing, a home suited to royalty. Consider the difference between the old, inherited, European palace and the new American palace of Citizen Kane, a palace built in one generation. Kane’s castle, Xanadu, is based on W.R. Hearst’s Castle, San Simeon. The American “palace” ascends from imperial residences of the “Palatine” Hill, ancient center of patrician Rome. Rome’s Capitoline Hill, from which our word “capitol”, was repurposed by Pope Paul III and redesigned by Michelangelo into palaces of the Renaissance type, a type continued in the American Renaissance Revival. American palaces, sometimes named, “palazzo”, rival and occasionally surpass the Italian precedent, notably in the designs of McKim, Mead & White, J.R. Pope, Cass Gilbert, and many others.
The urban rowhouse and suburban Renaissance Revival Villa is smaller than the palace, its planes are flat, its bays direct. On the whole, the villa is reminiscent of Palladio’s Veneto villas, stately and bold; the rowhouse is sometimes restrained, sometimes energetically lush.
The suburban, Renaissance Revival Single-Family House can tend to the Italianate, though pure examples follow Palladio’s geometries rather than the asymmetries of Tuscan, agrarian houses and outbuildings (as in the Italianate).
Renaissance Revival House Characteristics
Tight and cubic.
Low-pitched, hipped or flat roof. If flat, a parapet or balustrade. Most often bracketed and clay tile topped.
Windows are both horizontally and vertically arranged in odd numbers, allowing for a centered window in 3, 5, 7, or 9 bays. Windows decrease in size with each story. Arched and Palladian windows are common.
Structure and Materials
Palace style is most often ashlar (finely dressed – finished) in a variety of stone. Villas and row houses might be sandstone or Roman brick (long and thin and fine grained). The single-family home is most often stucco. Quoins are common.
Space and Floor Plan
The front door is likely to be centrally placed, often arched and quoined. From the front door, a logical interior layout that satisfies expectations. Windows tend to be centered in rooms, each room having a terminal point or vista. Ceilings tend to be high. Walls are usually in an Order (Doric, Ionic, Corinthian), even when without column or pilaster.
Celebrated with columns, pilasters, and other elements that dignify the ceremonial passages of life.
Classical and correct, archeological in accuracy, inventive in variation. Structural details are the excuse for decoration; hinges, pegs, and joints become practical, aesthetic abstractions.
Natural colors when of stone. If stucco, muted in nature’s modest way, restrained. Ochres, grays, greens of earth, of olives and terra-cottas.
Formal and formalized, geometric, and peopled with architectural elements, statuary, armillary spheres, fountains, et cetera.
Little play, much maturity, soberness and dignity, one example into the next.
Traditional Renaissance Revival House Plan
This comely Renaissance Revival house plan offers large living in a modest space. There is a recessed porch that opens to a handsome stair hall. To the right, a generous Living Room sufficient to gathering around the fireplace, sitting to the piano or to study in the recessed office … and all of this opens to the classic veranda. To the left, an elegant Dining Room capable to a setting of ten. Adjacent is a gathering kitchen with central island that could be adapted to many uses … the Powder Room is convenient to the Kitchen and outdoors. The second floor has two bedrooms with generous closets and a shared bathroom. The Master Suite boasts a fireplace, his-and-her walk-in closets, and a bath with his-and-her sinks, walk-in shower, and private commode. The house will like a formal and a kitchen garden.
The house pictured on the cover, House 2A, is the middle size of three variations on the theme, 1,887 square feet. The larger, House 1, is 2,038 square feet. The smaller, House 3, is 1,422 square feet. Just now, typical building costs range from $115K to $400K … likely, your cost of construction for this logically designed house would average $200K. Even so, to be conservative, at $250 per square foot, House 3 would cost $335,500, House 2 would cost $471,750, House 1 would cost $509,500 (each plus land cost). The “A” designates “without garage”; “B” is “with garage”. You will notice that some variations are shown with garage.
Too, you should know that this plan is of a Mid-Atlantic, Traditional Neighborhood set, though the plan could be built from Washington State to Florida. You will notice that the set includes Renaissance Revival, Greek Revival, American Colonial, French Rural, French Eclectic, Chateauesque. In all, from three plans with six style variations there are 18 unique home designs … each design is true to its style in interior details, et cetera. Later this year, The Beautiful Home will concentrate on neighborhoods and neighborly design. These variations are shown so that you might begin to appreciate the good design sense, the logic of theme and variation.
Renaissance Revival House Plan
1011 First Floor GSF
1017 Second Floor GSF
11’-0” First Floor Ceiling
8′-6” Second Floor Ceiling
2 1/2 Bathrooms
Living Room 14′-0″ x 27’6″
Dining Room 14″-0″ x 16′-0″
Kitchen 12′-0″ x 11′-0″
Stair Hall 8′-0″ x 15′-3″
Powder Room 6’3″ x 3′-9″
Laundry Closet 6′-0″ x 2′-9″
Master Bedroom 14′-0″ x 14′-6″
Mater Bathroom 14′-0″ x 6′-0″
Walk-in Closets 4′-6″ x 6′-0″ ap. ea.
Bedroom 2 12′-0″ x 11′-0″″
Bedroom 3 15′-0″ x 10′-4″ var.
Bathroom 6′-0″″ x 7′-8″
Front Porch 8′-8″ x 4′-4″
Plan 1B (not shown)
Garage 14′-6″ x 21′-5″
Apt. or Hm. Off. 14′-6″ x 21′-5″
Roof Deck 10′-0″ x 10′-0″ min.
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Featured Image” Renaissance Revival House Plan, No.2A
A Beautiful Home, Renaissance Revival Villa can be found, here. (February 29)
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