How to Plan a Convenient Dwelling.
"WHEN we do mean to build a domicil,
We first survey the plot, then draw the model;
And when we see the figure of the house,
We then compute the cost of the erection,
Which, if we find outweighs ability,
What do we then but draw again the model ?"
WHY is our country so full of large, costly, and inconvenient dwelling-houses? The answer is so obvious that every intelligent person will understand and appreciate the reason as soon as it is announced, namely, those who planned such edifices did not understand the requirements of the occupants. A correct understanding, of a subject is always allowed to be equivalent to the half-doing of it. In common parlance, contrivance, planning, and judicious forethought are always allowed to be equal to half a successful battle. In building, judicious planning may properly be computed at more than half the expense of a costly villa. It is an easy matter to correct whatever may be a serious error before the edifice is erected. But after a building is completed, it will always be found an expensive and a disagreeable operation to undo what as been done amiss, and to make a satisfactory job of a piece of work that has been designed and performed by bunglers.
We will suppose, for example, that a cozy and convenient villa is required for a small family, where the wife is expected to perform the duties of a servant in the kitchen; to be the chambermaid, the lady of the parlor, and, in fact, "keep house" alone, without the aid of servants. Now then, in order to have a convenient house, and to avoid an endless amount of unnecessary and irksome "running" from room to room, the pantry, the main sleeping-room, the dining-room, and the cellarway and stairway, should be near the kitchen. The kitchen may be considered the great centre of domestic operations. The frugal housewife must necessarily spend more of her time in the 'kitchen than in any other apartment of the dwelling. When she has started the fire and put certain articles of food to cooking, she needs to have the sleeping and toilet-room as near the kitchen as it can consistently be located, so that she may step in, for a few moments, and still be where she can supervise the operations of the kitchen. If her toilet and sleeping-room be up-stairs, or beyond another apartment, the practice will be adopted of combing and dressing the hair in the kitchen, which neat housekeepers never will allow. Besides this, the main sleeping-room, which is to be occupied by the united head of the family, should open into the kitchen, or so near the kitchen as to be convenient of access in case of sickness. Then, in cold weather, the sleeping-room may be warmed, little or much, by the fire in the dining-room, or the fire of the kitchen. Besides this, the dining-room or the living-room should be contiguous to the parlor, without a broad hall between them; and the parlor and living-room should be so conveniently arranged that guests may be introduced into either room from the front door, without passing through one of the other rooms. As the mistress of the kitchen must necessarily go frequently into the cellar, from the kitchen, to carry articles of food, and to return the same to the kitchen, it would be a very unsatisfactory arrangement to have the cellar door at the further side of a room that joins the kitchen. Economical housekeepers often experience the inconveniences of such an arrangement of rooms. In many dwellings, the pantry can not be reached from the kitchen without passing through some other room, which every intelligent housekeeper will acknowledge is an unsatisfactory arrangement. There should be also a back stairway, where those in the kitchen may reach the upper story without passing through other rooms, and thence up the lobby or parlor stairs.
We have now, in a brief manner, the chief and fundamental requirements of a small dwelling, such as a newly-married couple, with limited means, actually need for their future comfort. The kitchen, we will suppose, is already erected, according to details given in the last number of THE MANUFACTURE AND BUILDER. We propose now to erect an upright part of the dwelling to the little extemporaneous house alluded to. It would be more satisfactory, however, to use such a building for a barn or stable, and erect another kitchen and woodhouse all at one time. We herewith lay down the ground-plan of both the upright part and the kitchen, in which, it will be perceived, the arrangement of the different rooms and doorways will fully meet all the requirements of a small, cheap, and commodious villa, having the various appendages alluded to, all in close proximity to the kitchen.
The annexed ground-plan will exhibit, at a glance, the entire arrangement of all the apartments, doors, windows, and stairs. It will be perceived that on entering the front door into the lobby, E, a door opens into the parlor, and one also into the living-room, D. This is an excellent arrangement. Then, if a person were to call at the kitchen door, which opens on the side veranda, he can be welcomed either into the living-room, from the same veranda, or into the kitchen. Every ambitious housekeeper will be pleased with such a convenience in the plan of a house. Now, while the stranger or friend may be either in the living-room or parlor, one can go from the kitchen to any room in the house, except the library, without passing through either of the rooms where callers or guests may be waiting. Such an arrangement will be in perfect accordance with the wishes of every female who must be equipped for the wash-tub one hour, and the next hour be performing the duties of a chambermaid. The main sleeping-room, C, opens into the living-room and the parlor; and, if desirable, a door may be made to open into the kitchen. The living-room and parlor are joined in a very satisfactory manner. From the kitchen, one can go up-stairs, and down cellar, out of the kitchen, beneath the stairs. These are very rare conveniences. I represents a small clothes-room opening into the bed-room. K shows where a china-closet may be made, with door opening into the kitchen and near the dining-room. In case such a closet is not desired, the space may be employed as a closet for clothes. In the recess, P. at the end of the pantry, there may be a sink and a cistern-pump. Or the sink and pump may be placed at some other part of the kitchen, and an outside door be placed where a window is indicated. If it were desirable, a veranda might be made on the other side of the wing; or a veranda may be provided for both sides. In case a well is to be dug, let it be sank close to the end of the veranda, so that by one step down, one may come to the "old oaken bucket that hangs in the well," or to the pump.
A door is indicated to open from the kitchen into a wood-house. In case there should be no apartment on that end of the wing, a window might be made where the door is indicated; and the one in the recess may be dispensed with. It will be perceived that the library may be warmed satisfactorily by the fire in the living-room; and if desirable, the library may be occupied as a small bed-room or one person.
Now, in case this plan were thought to be too large on the ground, it would not be difficult to reduce the size of every room, except those in the wing, and still have rooms quite as large, or even larger, than the rooms of a great proportion of the dwellings in small villages and in the country. But the actual expense between the size here indicated, and a similar edifice, four feet shorter and two to four feet narrower, would not exceed forty or fifty dollars. And no ambitious family in possession of such a convenient dwelling of the dimensions indicated, would be willing to have the size of the rooms reduced for three times the amount of the actual expense. Spacious sleeping apartments ought always to be provided, whatever may be the size of other rooms. Contemplate, for a moment, the available extent of the sleeping-room indicated in the plan. By opening the doors, all the space and fresh air of the parlor, the living-room, kitchen, lobby, library, the second story, and cellar can be made to contribute to the requirements of fastidious sleepers, who ever like to inhale air that has been in the lungs and mouths of others. It will be exceedingly difficult to arrange a system of family rooms in a more satisfactory manner than this, in order to secure perfect ventilation of the sleeping apartments during the hours of repose, when the pure breath of heaven is quite as desirable as at any other time. With a window at one end, and a door or two at the other, one can ventilate his sleeping apartment so perfectly that the room would always appear as pure and sweet as a mountain spring house. The most satisfactory place for a chimney will be in the corner of the sleeping-room, C, where it will be entirely out of the way, and where the stove-pipes can enter it from both the parlor and the dining-room. If the chimney be carried straight up to the roof from this point, stove-pipes can enter it from the upper rooms also, which will be a satisfactory arrangement.
PLAN OF THE SECOND FLOOR.
The arrangement or disposition of the rooms on the second floor may be varied somewhat, to suit the convenience of the occupants. The different apartments will require but little explanation. The stairs in the lobby, as will be perceived, should be made on a circle. The landing-place is at the end of the dotted line. Beneath the lobby stairs there can be a small clothes-room, which will always be a convenient place for overcoats, overshoes, and umbrellas. A clothes room may also be made between the rooms A and B, if it is desirable. A narrow hall-way may be constructed at the head of the back stairs, or the stairway may open into the room. There can be two or three windows to light the room A, or only two. Then there can be a window in the lobby, and another on the front side of D, or not. The roof of the veranda is shown in front, a few feet shorter than the house. And it can be made simply like a lean-to roof, or of the hipped roof style, as represented. The roof of the rear part is also represented by the parallel lines.
The foregoing suggestions will be sufficient for explaining the plan. The next consideration will be to determine whether this arrangement of the pantry and outside kitchen door will correspond with desirable convenience of access from the out-buildings. The kitchen door and well should be on the side of the wing nearest the out-buildings. In case they are not, all that will be necessary will be to simply turn the plan upside down, from left to right, which will bring the pantry, bed-room, stairs, lobby, and library all on the other side of the edifice. As the plan is now satisfactorily complete, the next consideration of importance will be the most desirable
LOCATION, OR SITE AND ASPECT.
Lord Bacon's advice to beginners, when they were about to choose a site for a dwelling-house, was to avoid ill ways, ill markets, and ill neighbors. In addition to such excellent suggestions, it is proper to add that there are other considerations of quite as much importance as any that have been alluded to. Location, in all its phases, should be studied for several days, or, at least, until one is entirely satisfied that he has decided upon the most desirable location that is available. In latitudes where cold, northerly storms prevail, it has been affirmed that none but a ninny will ever erect his dwelling on the summit of a hill, unless there should be another hill at the windward of the location, to shield the dwelling and out-buildings from the cold and furious storms of winter. In contradistinction to such a quaint maxim, it has been contended that he who builds his dwelling in low, flat ground, by the side of a river, furnishes custom for the apothecary and physician, employment for surgeons and coffin-makers, and frequent jobs for grave-diggers. If the sunny side of a slope is available, or the south side of a ridge or hill, such a locality will be exceedingly desirable. In case the farm should extend back over one fourth of a mile from the highway, it would be matter of great convenience and economy, in many respects, to locate the dwelling and out-buildings near the middle of the cultivable land. It is bad, in any respects, to choose a location near the highway, simply because the custom is prevalent of erecting the dwelling and all the out-buildings near some public street, when there are other locations far more desirable near the centre of the farm.
Another point of no small importance on many farms is to choose a site, when it can be done conveniently, where water can be conveyed from some fountain to the out-buildings and to the house.
Touching aspect, no rule can be given that will bid good in all localities, as a northern or eastern aspect, in some sections of the country, will be found uncomfortably cold and cutting in winter; while, in other latitudes, a southern and western aspect will be disagreeably hot and wet. Every person must decide for his own locality, what aspect will coincide most satisfactorily with his particular site. In many sections of the country, the coldest and most severe storms always come from the north and west. In such places, a southern aspect will be found decidedly preferable to any other, as a kitchen and living-room would be more pleasant and comfortable on the south than on the north side of the dwelling, during cold weather. By such arrangement, the pantry will appear on the north side of the kitchen, which will be a more desirable place in the summer than if it were on the south side. In localities where furious storms prevail in winter, the aim should always be, if practicable, to locate the buildings behind some hill or forest, where the dwelling-house and abodes of domestic animals may be screened from the chilling blasts and pelting storms. A great many beautiful rural residences are constructed entirely according to the direction of the highway, rather than the aspect. But aspect should never be sacrificed in a dwelling-house, and in the arrangement of farm-buildings, to the variable direction of a public street. Let locality and aspect always be chosen without any regard to the highway, even if one corner of a dwelling, rather than the front, or side, be presented to the street. Above all, let the common practice be avoided of squatting a dwelling-house so near the borders of the highway that every passer-by can peep into the front windows. In the country, it is always desirable to provide for a spacious door-yard. Half an acre or more ground between the front door and the street will not be lost, as it can be appropriated to the production of grass.
DESCRIPTION OF Perspective.
The perspective on page 359, which was originally engraved for Moore's Rural New-Yorker, represents one style of finishing a structure that corresponds with the ground-plan and the plan of the second floor, which are given in the present number of the MANUFACTURER AND BUILDER. It will be perceived that the boards are put on vertically. But the same frame could be covered with clap-boards, if such a covering were preferred to vertical siding, with battens over the joints. The form of the roof may be varied to suit the taste of almost any person. In case plastic slate or tin were employed, the roof might be nearly flat, as represented by the skeleton of a portion of time frame preceding the elevation. In case a steeper roof or even a Gothic roof were desirable, the style that might suit most satisfactorily could be adopted. If two windows only were made in front above the veranda, a pediment over each dormer, window could be grafted into the roof. The front veranda could be made the entire length of the dwelling; or, which would appear more tasty, six feet shorter than the front. In case the roof of the upright part were flat, the roof of the veranda should also be flat. If the main part of the structure were finished with a bracket cornice, a bracket cornice of corresponding proportions should be made on the veranda.
In the perspective a tower is represented, the cost of which was not computed in the bill of materials, and which may be omitted or adopted, as one's fancy may dictate. The cost of the tower will depend, of course, entirely on the manner of finishing the inside and the roof. If winding stairs, built around a centre-pole, were adopted, the expense would be very much less than if winding stairs were made with a hand-rail and a well-hole. A neatly-finished tower would give a very attractive appearance to such a villa, especially if the roof were finished with a well proportioned cornice. Such a tower should be made about eight feet square. Then, at the top, a charming little room could be finished off as an observatory or a cool sleeping-room for a student in the summer. Such a tower should he supported by four corner-posts, about 4 to 6 inches square, and the studs need be only 1 ¼ x 4 inches in size. In case corner-posts 6 inches square were employed, the inside corners of each post should be cut out square to receive the ends of the latter.
Taken from The Manufacturer and Builder 1869