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Welwyn Garden City
Author: R. Randall Phillips, Hon. A.R.I.B.A.
First published: 1924 by "Country Life" Ltd
Format: Hardback 9½" by 7" with 159 pages
On the title page it states that Mr Phillips was Editor of "Home and Gardens".
In the preface, the author defines a house for the small family as one with two living rooms and four or five bedrooms, but he includes in the book a number with three bedrooms. He describes examples of such houses which can be purchased in six different price ranges. Thirty-six houses are described altogether. The descriptions are illustrated by photographs of the houses and floor plans. The book is printed on high quality glossy paper and the photographs have reproduced very well in my copy. The architects of the houses are credited but not the photographers. Of the 152 illustrations, 64 are exterior shots of houses, 36 interior shots, 48 plans, and 4 drawings of houses yet to be built. Illustrating the Preface and Introduction there are 4 photographs of houses which are additional to the 36 featured in detail.
I have reproduced below the Preface, Introduction
and Contents which lists the 36 houses which are the subject
of the book.In addition I have reproduced the chapter House at Welwyn,
Herts (actually at Welwyn Garden City) and the one entitled A
Subsidy House which is interesting. I have also included below the
short chapter at the end entitled On Choosing and Using an Architect.
Finally, I have included a few more of the photographs of which I find
the interiors particularly interesting.
The aim of this book is to bring together a collection of houses suited to the needs of the small family. It is difficult to define just what accommodation may properly be embraced by such a term, but in a general way it has been taken to mean a house with two living-rooms on the ground floor and four or five bedrooms on the first floor. The three-bedroom house is commonly regarded as insufficient, more especially when there is a maid living in, but as in a certain number of cases the three-bedroom house meets the requirements, a few examples are here included.
With the majority of people who embark on the building of a house for themselves, cost is the controlling factor, and it has been kept prominently in mind in the compilation of this book. Wherever possible some definite sum has been given in connection with the houses illustrated, and on page 15 the reader will find a list that serves as an indication of what may be attainable for the outlay projected. But the author would emphasise that houses cannot be bought at fixed prices like merchandise. Local conditions, varying rates of wages, and fluctuations in the cost of materials will affect each case, and it may well be that a house which has been built in one place for a specified sum will be found to cost considerably more in another place. At the same time, since everyone purposing to build has some limit of expense in mind, the figures given should be sufficient index of what they can reasonably expect.
In building, it is a golden axiom to have a definite idea not only of the type of house that is desired, but of the accommodation also. Even so, conditions and personal requirements are so diverse that no single plan is likely to suit the needs in every particular, but on
e or other of the plans reproduced in this book is likely to form a basis for consideration, and a study of the whole series will furnish many ideas as to design and arrangement. Moreover, almost all the examples selected are of houses that have actually been carried out, and photographs of the finished work are given in company with the plans. Thereby, it is hoped, some useful service may be rendered.
It will be proper first to consider the house in mass before going on to say something of the possible arrangements of its parts. The general shape may be largely determined by the particular site selected, but, taking an average case, we may compare three common types, which are lettered A, B, and C on the illustration on the next page. The first is a square house, 25 feet by 25 feet. The second is an oblong house, with a frontage of 30 feet and a depth of 20 feet. And the third is a truncated L-shaped house, with a frontage of 30 feet and a greatest depth of 20 feet. In each of these three cases the total length of the outer walls is the same, namely 100 feet, but it is found that the enclosed area varies considerably. In the first case, A, there is an area of 625 superficial feet (in which connection it may be noted, for the benefit of those who are unversed in architectural matters, that the area of a house, or of any room in it, is given by measuring the length by the width or depth - in the first case, 25 feet by 25 feet). In the second case, B, the area is 600 feet, and in the third case it is 525 feet. There is thus a substantial difference between the three types, and this difference is more pronounced if we proceed to consider the cubic contents of the three types of plan. The "cubic contents," it may be explained, is determined by multiplying the length by the width, and the product of these by the height. For the present purpose an average height of 24 feet is taken for these three kinds of houses, and the result of the multiplication is as follows: A, 15,000 cubic feet; B, 14,400 cubic feet; C, 12,600 cubic feet. With the same amount of external walling, therefore, and incidentally of foundations for these walls, we get a bigger house with A than we do with B, and a bigger house with B than we do with C.
It is necessary also to consider the matter of roofing. This is a most important matter, there being many types of houses which seem on plan to be inexpensive, but which are costly to carry out because of the labour and the materials involved in forming the roof. Thus, with the square house, A, it will be seen that this has a wider span than the other two, and therefore will demand stouter timbers and a greater expanse of roof covering material, whatever that may be. Consequently its cost will be increased proportionately. The second type of plan, B, will take more roofing materials than C, but in this last case there will be cutting and much more labour, so that in the end C will prove more expensive; indeed, this third plan, C, though it provides the smallest house, has proved in practice to be more expensive than either of the other two. Opinions may differ as to whether A is better than B, but there is a consensus in favour of B, not least because it gives a longer frontage and involves a minimum of expense in ro construction, especially if the roof is unbroken and not cut up by dormers.
Many of the houses shown in this book are of B type, some precisely so, others with slight modifications demanded by the site or the individual requirements. But apart from questions of strict economy in the cost of building, the plan may be influenced by personal wishes. This raises at once the whole question of the kind of house which one desires to have. Here it is unwise to dogmatise, for rights and wrongs are often difficult, if not impossible, to maintain. It may be, for instance, just as right to build a house of the old English sort, in half-timber and plaster, with latticed windows and moulded brick stacks, as to build a four-square house of Georgian type, with sash windows and a trellis porch or hooded entry. The one is no more right or wrong than the other. It is entirely a matter of personal choice. The only thing is, however, that whereas the Georgian type is a purely formal one, and one, moreover, which has particular merit from the point of view of economy in building, the other can only be successful if it is done in a thorough-going way, with no make-believe about it, and, above all, with some appreciation of the craft-spirit which permeated the times from which its inspiration is derived. But striving after effect is always a bad thing to do in building a house, as we may see in many an effort which is aggressively "Olde Englishe."
Whatever the type of house, good materials must be used. If, for example, a brick house is intended, then care should be taken to have the face built with bricks of good colour and texture. This prompts one to note with satisfaction that in recent years there has been a great change for the better. In the "good old days," before building work was industrialised, bricks were used just as they came to hand, with the result that if we look at an old brick wall we see it has great variety of tone, some bricks being burnt a little harder, and so having a deeper colour than others, and all having a certain amount of surface irregularity. Very different is the brick walling of houses one often sees - the product of mechanical conditions which have set up as the ideal that every brick should have a perfectly even surface and all should "match" in colour. But, fortunately, th is a movement towards the older and better way in brickwork.
The desire may be, however, for a cemented or rough-cast house, in which case I would emphasise the merit of a clean colour finish. There is nothing better than a cream tone, obtained either by mixing certain special cement with sand, or by applying a colour-wash; and in company with this wall colour I think there is nothing more pleasant than white painted woodwork. With a Georgian type of house especially, having sash windows, this is desirable, for the windows and their dividing bars then play their part in the general effect of the exterior, and do not have the appearance of black holes in the wall, as is given when the woodwork is dark.
When we come to deal with the internal arrangements of the house it will be found that, from the point of view of economy, the aim should be to eliminate passage-space as much as possible, for every cubic foot of space costs money. But even within the modest limits of the house with which this book deals, an entry and hail of welcoming size is demanded, and it is a common requirement that there shall be space where hats and coats can be conveniently kept, and where, too, a lavatory basin is fitted.
Passing on to consider the relative uses and sizes of the dining-room and sitting-room, we find ourselves confronted by a variety of personal desires that preclude any attempt to formulate one arrangement for all. There is, however, a general trend towards making the dining-room a place for meals only, and restricting its dimensions as much as possible, consonant with comfort. The greater space is thus left for the living-room, which then may attain some air of expansiveness, and in it will be, in accord also with general desire, the only coal-burning grate in the house; the dining-room and the bedrooms being heated by gas or electric fires, by radiators, or by some combination of these means. Here, incidentally, attention may be drawn to the possibility of having a boiler incorporated in the back of the living-room grate. Thereby it is possible to make such effective use of waste heat that three radiators can be warmed one in the hall and two in the bedrooms.
There will be diversity of opinion again over the kitchen and sculiery arrangement, whether these two should continue as separate though possibly adjacent entities, the kitchen then serving as a sitting-place for the servants in their leisure time as well as being a workplace, or whether the two should be merged into one domestic workshop, and a separate maids' sitting-room provided. My own view is decidedly in favour of the latter treatment, because it saves so much needless walking to and fro in the preparation and clearing away of meals, and because the separate sitting-room possesses a comfort undisturbed by the presence of household equipment. Into the details of such equipment it is not now proposed to enter, since the subject is one that demands a whole book to itself, and has been fully dealt with in "The Servantless House." But to one particular matter - hot-water supply - a brief reference must be made. There is no one-and-only means of hot-water supply which possesses all the virtues and none of the drawbacks, but it cannot be questioned that the coke-fired independent boiler has very much to commend it. To expect one single piece of apparatus to warm the kitchen, give complete cooking facilities, and hot water at all times, is, in the majority of cases, to expect too much. The better plan is to divorce these services from one another, and more especially to rely on an independent boiler for the hot-water supply for baths and other domestic purposes; cooking being done by gas, by electricity, by oil or by coal, as the circumstances demand. But the independent boiler also has its limitations. If its main service is hot-water supply, it must not be expected also to heat radiators on an extensive scale. It will, however, give a certain amount of this secondary service. Just how much will depend on the size and design of the boiler - a matter which each maker will specify; and with proper means of hot-water supply, full advantage can be taken of fitted lavatory basins in the bedrooms.
Flooring, wall treatments, and a score of other matters which have to be considered when building a house cannot now be discussed, the main contents of this book being the series of houses that are here illustrated and described; nor can the furnishing of the house he considered. The reader will, however, find these subjects fully dealt with in two other books in the "Country Life" Library: the practical matters in a little book entitled "The House you Want," and the other subject in "Furnishing the House."
HOUSE AT WELWYN, HERTS. (Hennell
HOUSE AT THAMES DITTON. (G. Alan
"BENTLEY COTTAGE," GREAT MISSENDEN. (A.
"THE WHITE HOUSE," CAISTOR, NORFOLK. (John
"WICKHAM," FOUR OAKS, BIRMINGHAM. (Edwin
"FELDEN ORCHARD," BOXMOOR. (Forsyth
LIST OF ARCHITECTS' NAMES AND ADDRESSES
HOUSE AT WELWYN GARDEN CITY
Hennell and James, Architects
Simplicity and refinement of design, combined with the utmost economy in planning, distinguish this house. The accommodation on the ground floor comprises dining-room and living-room on either side of the hall, with kitchen scullery, larder, etc., at the back, and four bedrooms, bathroom and w.c. upstairs. The plan is so contrived that it packs into a floor space of 1,250 feet super. as much accommodation as is usually found in houses of considerably larger size. The secret of its compactness lies in the skilful planning of the staircase and landing.
The living-room is over 20 feet long and has a central recess that forms a valuable addition to its size without spoiling the hall. This regular shaped living-room lends itself particularly well to a formal, decorative treatment. The dining-room is suitably placed in relation to the kitchen, and connecting them is a service hatch which has a table-top on the kitchen side with drawers under. These drawers with the cupboard by their side give more storage accommodation than is provided by the usual dresser, with the additional advantage that everything is shut up away from dust. Fuel store and cycle space and a separate w.c. for the maid are provided in the main building, thus obviating the necessity for any projections.
In its general planning and its details the house is carefully thought out to minimise labour, being economical to run as well as cheap to build for a house of such accommodation.
The external walls are hollow, faced with Luton mixed red and grey facings, giving a warm plum-colour effect. The roof is covered with pantiles and has wide overhanging eaves. The treatment of the elevations is in Late Georgian style, with ornament concentrated in the front doorway, which is carefully detailed. The shutters are louvred, and not merely add to the appearance of the house, but also serve to keep the rooms cool and shaded in hot weather, when they are kept closed with the sash windows open.
A "Cookanheat" is installed in the kitchen-scullery, this appliance, in addition to meeting the cooking needs, providing an efficient hot-water supply and heating radiators in the living-room, dining-room, hall and on the landing. If the bedroom doors are left open during the day, the whole house is kept at an even and comfortable temperature.
Of the bedrooms, one is large, two are of fair size, and the fourth is sufficient for a child's room. Each bedroom is provided with a cupboard of good size. The bathroom and w.c. are separate and conveniently placed for all four bedrooms, and together with the sink downstairs are disposed in a manner that effects economy in drainage. This is an important matter, plumbing and drainage being considerable items in the cost of a house.
It is estimated that at to-day's prices this
house would cost not more than £1,200 to build.
A SUBSIDY HOUSE
G. Blair Imrie and T. G. Angell, Architects
The post-war Government grant of £260 towards the cost of building a small house not only induced many people to build, but also focused the attention of architects on devising the most economical possible means of getting into the stipulated maximum of 1,400 feet of floor space the accommodation which was so popularly demanded. It was found that the thing could be reasonably well accomplished, but only if there were a radical departure from the stereotyped "drawing-room, dining-room, and four bedrooms" plan (which means two small living-rooms and four small bedrooms).
It will be found that a large number of people to-day divide the twenty-four hours roughly as follows: Nine hours in their bedroom, one and a half hours in the dining-room, and all their leisure hours in a room which we will call the living-room. It follows, then, when we must economise in space, that the rooms in which we live and sleep should be as large as is possible and the room in which we take our meals should be as small as is practicable. The kitchen, too (especially as so many people, willingly or unwillingly, are doing without servants), should, within limits, be small. In this type of house a small kitchen, if well arranged, is an advantage, because it saves so many steps, and a scullery makes more work than it saves. The larder of many small suburban houses is wastefully planned, usually consisting of about 9 feet of floor space and 9 feet of shelf space. It is only necessary to have enough shelf room to store perishable foods, such as meat, butter, bread, etc., if dry stores are kept in the store cupboard.
The £260 subsidy no longer exists - it ceased in July, 1921 - but there are still many people who ask for a house with no more than its stipulated maximum of 1,400 feet super. By such the design shown on the opposite page should be carefully studied. It is an example of most economical planning, giving large rooms in a small house, and most admirably arranged for service. It was designed for a fairly narrow site in a suburban district, and this and its aspect have naturally influenced both the plan and the exterior treatment.
The house was planned to face south, overlooking an open green: therefore the living-room and dining-room and the larger bedrooms have a south window. The living-room is as large as can be arranged (21 feet 6 inches by 14 feet) and the dining-room will seat six people - provided that big and unnecessary furniture is dispensed with. Between the kitchen and the dining-room is a combined service and dresser arrangement, and this makes a large sideboard unnecessary. The kitchen door adjoins that of the dining-room as, even with a service fitting, there is still some traffic between these rooms. The kitchen has a large window overlooking the garden, and another to light the sink and give cross-ventilation in summer. The sink and draining-boards come between the cooking stove and service hatch, and the larder (though cut off) is not far away. There are store cupboards near the window and under the hatch. A ground-floor lavatory, with that rare thing in he small house - a proper place for coats and hats, comes between the kitchen and the living-room.
Upstairs there is a large bedroom (21 feet 6 inches by 11 feet), equipped with a hot-and-cold lavatory basin and fixed wardrobes, etc., and next this room is a dressing-room, which might, if desired, be used as a single bedroom, which would make it a four-bedroom house. The spare room is small compared with the large bedroom, but perhaps this is only logical, as the owner will probably occupy his room for 330 nights in the year, and the spare room may only be used for thirty nights. There is another small room which will accommodate the maid, if she decides to "sleep in," and the roof space provides a good box-room.
Cooking is planned to be done by gas, and all the hot water heated by a gas circulator. The living-room is to have an open anthracite fire with a boiler which will heat radiators in the other rooms, and a fireplace is provided in the large bedroom in case of illness.
The store for the anthracite is in an unusual position, but, as it will only be used in the living-room and is a "clean" coal, it is really the best place for it. To put the coal store in its usual position near the back door would only mean more labour.
This house is estimated to cost £1,600
ON CHOOSING AND USING AN ARCHITECT
BY ONE OF THEM
A great many people desiring to build homes are quite at a loss to know what are the first steps to take towards enlisting the help of a qualified adviser: and this difficulty is in no way lessened by the present freedom with which the title "Architect" may be assumed by persons of the slenderest qualifications. The choice is generally made on one of two grounds - both apt to be bad ones. First and most common - relationship; somebody has an acquaintance whose second cousin is an architect,"and so clever, you know"; a futile reason when coldly reviewed. Secondly, less unreasonable, but open to drawbacks, what is distressingly called "a local man" is chosen - with a hazy idea that he will be always on the spot, will incur no travelling expenses, and "knows the ropes." Of course, every architect must live or practise somewhere, and in either locality he is, in a sense, "local"; but somehow the term "local man" has come to acquire a rather special meaning, and in effect this sort of local man is apt to be a person of limited attainments and outlook who has failed to secure a footing in the wider sphere outside a restricted suburb - for I refer throughout to work on the outskirts of big centres of population. Though there are, of course, many exceptions, the tendency is for a local practice to come so often in contact with few firms of builders that alternatively either the practitioner cannot afford to run strongly counter to them if occasion demands, or else he becomes so unpopular that outside contractors must continually be introduced with great difficulty and at some expense of delay and cost. The travelling expenses question in relation to suburban sites is so trivial as to be negligible.
I submit that the only reasonable ground on which the choice of an architect can be made is his work. Yet how seldom is this motive followed. More often does the intending home-maker, seeing, either in the concrete or by illustration, a house which satisfies him, merely utilise it as an exemplar for some other designer or even (whisper it) for a builder to copy to the best of his ability - thereby robbing the "favoured" architect of his just reward, and assuring himself of shadow rather than substance in any good qualities which may survive the transfer.
I do not at all suggest that every home-maker should necessarily wait until he sees a house which suits him absolutely in every detail and then instruct the producer to make a duplicate, but that he should accept the house as satisfactory evidence of the capacity of its designer to solve a generally similar problem, in possibly fresh conditions, with equal satisfaction.
Having caught your architect, O client, deal with him considerately and with confidence; if you cannot give him the latter, do not employ him at all. In stating your problem let him clearly understand the essentials as apart from the mere desirables, both as to time and space. For instance, it may be essential that the total cost shall not exceed £1,500 and desirable that accommodation to perhaps twice that value should be provided. Obviously, the desirable is unattainable, and the best that can be given must be accepted. There is no harm in stating both factors, but which is to be unalterable must be clearly laid down. Do not use your architect with the idea peeping out that if you ask him often enough he will somehow be able to throw in a few more rooms, or (say) central heating, without increased cost. This sounds absurd, but it is an attitude only too common among commercial men accustomed to the bargaining of business.
It is rather harder to define my meaning as to time. To do so, an example may be best. Towards the end of a contract the builder may probably be behind time, and using his greatest efforts to complete by the specified date. In these circumstances the architect should know whether it is more essential that the work should not be hindered, or that the letter of the specification should be observed, for assuredly there will be items which he would desire to correct, but the doing of which will render completion by the due date doubtful or impossible.
Lastly, pay your architect the compliment of heeding his advice over that of your various acquaintances who will be only too ready to tell you how things ought to be done. It is at least probable that he knows as much as, or more than, they do; that is the only supposition upon which it is worth while to employ him; and as there are very few archangels even among architects, he is likely to become discouraged if he finds things generally going counter to his judgment. The worst thing of all which can happen against the best interests of the building owner is that, by interference, endless change of detail, or continual decision contrary to advice, the architect should lose interest in the work. Would a portrait painter contentedly receive suggestions from his sitter as to the nature and colour of his background, or a doctor as to the details of his treatment or drugs, or, if he did, could he be blamed if the results were unhappy ?
To sum up, satisfy yourself
as to your architect's competence before employing him, and preferably
set him to work on a manner of building for which he has shown aptitude.
State your requirements clearly, or, if your ideas are unformed, consider
carefully any suggestions he may place before you. Once instructed, change
as little as you can, interfere as little as possible, and so preserve
unimpaired your architect's enthusiasm for your work - a very real and
most valuable asset.