Country Houses

The above quote from The Architecture of Country Houses illustrates the enormous import Downing placed on the quality of the domestic space. Downing opens his treatment of domestic architecture with a discussion "On The Real Meaning Of Architecture." He explains that it is, in part, a compound of the Useful and the Beautiful. However a third element must be present for the architecture to be satisfactory. That element is Truth.

Downing divides architectural truths into three categories: general, local, and specific truths. "The first, is the general truth that the building is intended for a dwelling-house; the second, the local truth that it is intended for a town or country house; and the third, the specific truth that it is intended for a certain kind of country house - as a cottage, farm-house, or a villa." [Downing, 31.] Taken together, Downing's main points define Domestic Architecture as the combination of Beauty and Utility, with the essential addition of Truth, an ensemble expressing "the whole private life of man - his intelligence, his feelings, and his enjoyments." [Downing, 22.]

The subjects of Country Houses are classified as Cottages, Farm-Houses, and Villas. The most suitable designs follow the Roman, the Italian, the Swiss, the Venetian, or the Rural Gothic styles. The bulk of the book is dedicated to the presentation of cottages, farm-houses, and villas in these style with directions and comments on their proper aesthetic and structural qualities.

The image to the left is typical of those included in Country Houses; a rendering of the dwelling is accompanied by a floor plan of the main floor. The design - this is A small Cottage for a Working-man" -- is introduced with a few words on its finest attributes ("This simple design is given to show how a very small cottage, built of wood, may be made to look well at very trifling cost." [Downing, 73.]) After is a section labeled Accommodation, which functions as an explication of the floor plan. Often a plan is included of an upper floor, as well as an estimate of the cost of construction and any miscellaneous information which might be pertinent.

To look at Downing's visions of the ideal along with comments on the individual designs, please follow one of the paths below.

Cottages | Farm-Houses | Villas