What is a Storybook House: Beautiful Storybook Style Homes
Fairytale, Alice & Gretel, and Storybook are all names for a delightful style that was popular for a short period yet never fails to bring a smile to people’s faces. From witch dens and hobbit houses to miniature castles and royal courts, these surreal structures in the so-called “storybook style” seemed even more out of place when they were built in LA than they do now, strange as it may sound because they were built amid the modern movement in America and Europe.
The storybook style was an architectural style that looked tailor-made to offset the cold and mostly dull modernist movement in the United States. It was first popularized in the 1920s in England and later in the United States.
What is a Storybook House?
Storybook house is a specialized house type that originated in Los Angeles during the 1920s and has since expanded across the United States. These houses defied architectural conventions to accomplish something altogether new, combining art and architecture, whimsy and functionality.
This dramatic architectural structure consists of elements designed in an exaggerated medieval or otherwise “aligned” style. Like thatching, crooked walls, and expressive roofs. It’s easy to compare these eye-catching houses to a life-size gingerbread house that continues to captivate children of all ages.
English Cottage, Tudor Revival, or French Revival styles have a lot in common with storybooks, and it’s sometimes lumped in with them. Its defining attribute is the kind of dwelling one can envision Seven Dwarves or some cheerful Hobbits returning to after a long day at work.
These houses can be found from Milwaukee to the stretch of Maryland, in Washington, D.C. and Asheville, N.C., and even in some parts of New England, though they are not common.
History of Storybook Houses
At the end of WWI, many young Americans who bravely served in the UK and Europe returned to their countries fascinated by the Old World rural architecture they had seen and experienced. This adoration resulted in a renaissance of European construction styles in the US, particularly in California.
The style extended from San Francisco to the rest of the United States and up the West Coast, eventually settling in Vancouver Island and Greater Vancouver, including Vancouver’s North Shore.
In addition, the cinema industry was thriving, storybook houses like this were published in newspapers all over the country, and they were so unique and unusual that they started a trend as well as piqued people’s interest. Celebrities from the 1920s like Humphrey Bogart as well as other wealthy Los Angeles residents were able to put their fascination into practice by commissioning one-of-a-kind and flamboyant homes.
So, it’s safe to say that Hollywood designers’ attempted to recreate and gave birth to the storybook aesthetic. It was easier for fans to take notice, as they do with most styles from Hollywood actors, as did architects and builders who profited on the notion and started building them. A home with Storybook elements was frequently featured on the covers of home magazines and publications, further increasing its appeal.
5 Characteristics of Storybook Houses
What is a Storybook house without some asymmetrical elements? Numerous, small, off-centre windows, roof sloping longer on one side, off-center entry door, and roof peaks of differing heights are all asymmetrical elements that differentiate a storybook house from others. Storybook house architectural style is not looking for perfection or precision. A slightly uneven floor and a wall that isn’t merely painted drywall serve as reminders that the Storybook house is a human-made environment.
The roof types of the storybook houses include steep-pitched, sloped-to-ground on one side, jerkin-head, rolled shingles over eaves, entrance gable nested into the bigger front gable, timber shingles steamed into a wave pattern, cedar shakes, and curved roof peaks. These types of roofs aim for a soft and friendly fairytale home with a large roof that folds and becomes one with the house.
White stucco, half-timbering, exposed brick, curved river rock, stones, creams, browns, rusts, and other hues that tie the house to the ground are some of the main characteristics of Storybook style homes. But that doesn’t rule out the use of bright colours like orange, pinks, yellows, blues, and reds in a Storybook house. These hues, whether used in the landscaping or as architectural elements, keep the Storybook architecture from feeling too solemn.
Form of Storybook house:
While firmly planted in the ground, a Storybook house emphasizes verticality. The Storybook house is usually anchored to the ground by a massive stone foundation, while the roof pitch, windows, siding, and the rest have a distinct lift that draws the eye upward to the sky. On the one hand, overly dramatic curves, cartoony shapes, circular entryway doorways, and covered entryways exaggerate the overall scale of the Storybook homes.
The house doesn’t feel too big and intimidating because of the smaller windows, which are made further smaller with diamond panes. Tiny and ornate, gothic in shape, led, curved, round, nested dormers, and wooden shutters are some of the window styles. And the entrance invites us in with its softness.
Examples of Storybook Architecture
1. Classic Storybook House, Greater Vancouver
A few storybook house plans in Greater Vancouver and Victoria are built with classic storybook style architecture.
A Classic Storybook contains numerous Storybook elements that appear iconic. Outside of Los Angeles, most of the houses were stripped-down versions of the often-expensive “Classic” Storybook style. A roof consisting of layers and layers of steam-bent hardwood shingles in a wild, wavy design to simulate a thatched cottage is one of the most expensive aspects of a Classic Storybook house, called A “sea wave” roof. This type of Storybook feature took a long time to develop and requires experienced craftsmen.
2. French Storybook, Knowles Residence
The Knowles Storybook House, constructed by local builder William Knowles in 1909, was influenced to some extent by old, French architecture. In true Storybook design and Storybook style architecture it uses this towering tower with several leaded windows and a bell hipped roof, partial timbering.
Additionally, a huge, curved entryway, a little dovecote on the roof peak, and a roofline falling considerably farther on the right than on the left represent this style. With this Storybook house style, Rapunzel letting her hair fall from the top tower window is easy to visualize.
3. Livingston Ave, New York, Storybook Rancher
This Livingston Avenue beauty effortlessly rises from the woods like a fairy tale castle, making itself a fantastic example of a Storybook home on a greater ranch style home. If fairy tales are to be believed, this is where the stories may have unfolded.
4. Hansel and Gretel Style Storybook
The Spadina, Hansel and Gretel-style Storybook house, located in Beverly Hills, California, This Hansel and Gretel home, dubbed “The Witch’s House,” is the last thing you’d expect to find amid upscale Beverly Hills. It is one of the most well-known examples of Storybook architecture.
The house was described as “A Future Home With an Aged ‘Old World’ Appearance” in Dixon’s magazine in 1926. According to the paper, “Even the metal bars in the windows are not constructed straight, and all lines in the patterns are odd, crooked, and twisted. All of this, together with the colour scheme utilized to paint the house, gives it an aged, weathered aspect.”
Pros of a Storybook House
- More aesthetically experimenting with design options: A storybook has more leisure and freedom to experiment and design alternatives than a normal home because of the varying styles.
- As Storybook houses were out of style in the 1940s and 1950s, the majority of Storybook houses you’ll discover now are older and full of history. Some may even be listed on your local historical registry or have previously been the home of a notable local. If you enjoy history, this is a definite pro.
- The Storybook houses’ strong structure also implies they require less care than homes of similar age — or even those built more recently, depending on how quickly they were built.
- Slate roofs, a common feature of Storybook houses are exceedingly robust and do not weather as easily as other roofing materials.
Cons of a Storybook Style House
- Due to the bigger base, roof coverage area, material, construction style, and craftsmanship, Storybook houses are more expensive than any other type of house.
- Because Storybook houses are typically older, they are more likely to require repairs than newer construction or even homes built within the last 30 to 50 years.
- Owning a home as vast as most Storybook houses can be a challenge when it comes to cleaning if you don’t have a large family (or the means to hire a cleaner).
- Many of the elements in the Storybook house are built with stucco (and a long time ago), so they will ultimately decay and require repair.
Storybook house architectural style may elicit a strong emotion from potential home buyers; however, people who like large, light-filled rooms or a slick modern style will not appreciate the small scale and unique appearance of these homes. People looking for a warm and inviting home, on the other hand, will fall in love.
The important point is to start with an existing house design based on this architectural style that will help you keep your budget under control if you’re considering developing a Storybook house. Knowing their influences and common design characteristics listed in the blog may help you build your one-of-a-kind of Storybook house.
1. Where Did the Storybook Craze Go?
In the 1920s, storybook houses were all the rage, but the style was short-lived. The more grandiose version of the design swiftly fell out of favour by the 1930s, as the Great Depression made this sometimes expensive style of the storybook house difficult to justify for most people.
Storybook houses remained popular in a more subtle, cheap form until the early 1950s when “modern” architecture took hold. Storybook homes’ charming, gorgeous Old World appearance felt a world away from developing architectural forms like West Coast Modern. Closed off, medieval-type rooms gave way to more open floor plans, while small, gothic windows made way for huge picture windows.
2. What Is Storybook Landscaping?
Without their fancy landscape, storybook homes would be far less fanciful. Landscape hallmarks of the style include slightly overgrown plantings, stone walls, soft-curved gates, lanterns, and fences, flower baskets and boxes, thickly planted spring flowers,
Additionally, more flowering trees and shrubs, clipped and shaped miniature trees and hedges, and the imaginative use of natural materials are all the main characteristics of a storybook house.
3. What Is a Storybook Ranch House?
Even though the Storybook Ranch style is most commonly associated with single-family homes, it was also used in multi-family buildings.
Beginning in the early 1950s, the Ranch house became the most popular home design in Fullerton and across the country. Unlike pre-war housing, which was designed and built by designers and local builders, most Ranch houses were built with tract housing by little-known businesses that operated as suburban community developers. The nostalgic and fanciful Storybook Ranch, created by Anaheim developer and designer Jean Valjean Vandruff, was a popular subtype of the Ranch house.
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