Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Cracker: An Iconic House Type

No Cheese, Please

I just returned from the Chrysalis Remodeling Awards jury in Jacksonville, where I was reminded of one of the great American house types: the Florida Cracker. According to architect Ronald W. Haase, author of the excellent Classic Cracker: Florida’s Wood-Frame Vernacular Architecture, the term “cracker” originally referred to country folk in Southern Georgia who “cracked their corn to make meal.” For settlers of  northern Florida it also meant

Boyer Cottage, 1878, from Pinellas County Heritage Village






the crack of leather whips used to drive cattle and ultimately became identified with the unpretentious wood-frame houses that these individuals built. The Boyer house of 1878 at Tarpon Springs, shown above (photo courtesy Heritage Village, Pinellas County) is a good early example. A gable or hip-roofed structure that’s only one or two rooms deep with at least one porch, the Florida Cracker

800px-TlhMusFarmHs from Wikipedia

developed numerous variations, from porches on two sides, as shown above in a reconstruction at the Tallahassee Museum (photo courtesy Wikipedia); to a



breezeway through the middle forming the classic “dogtrot” type, shown here and which I have written about before, some might say obsessively (photo courtesy; to Georgian four square hip-roof versions as

haase foursquare georgian

illustrated by Haase in his book — note the front and back porches and the central hall connecting all four rooms (image courtesy Pineapple Press). As Haase points out, the Cracker is as expressive of a regional architecture as the New England saltbox or the Southwestern adobe ranch house. It’s also a very suggestive form to use as  a starting point for anyone thinking of building a house because the components —  square room, porch, and shed, gable, or hip roof — are so straightforward, simple, and easy to combine in different ways. It’s almost like playing with blocks — as actress Diane Keaton points out in her


recent book House. So here’s a quick sampling of plans that do just that, from Plan 464-4, above, which resembles the Boyer cottage, to Cabin Plan 452-3 by David Wright, below — which looks as though the Tallahassee Museum


reconstruction has simply been fine-tuned with corrugated metal and some new posts, to Plan 426-11, which reworks the four square, hip roof idea  and adapts it


for easy, modern indoor-outdoor living in a humid climate. See how the plan almost becomes a dogtrot thanks to the way the central axis cuts through the


house from front porch to rear porch and how the the central living room and the rear porch become extensions of each other. This plan  was recently purchased by a Florida family with forbears who were Crackers — so you can go home again, as long you understand that things will be “the same only different” and perhaps a little more comfortable.  Call it the “Circle of Life” — I mean Cracker.



The Bathing Pavilion Idea

Small Buildings That Make a Big Splash

In honor of Earth Day, April 22, let’s go back to basics. Take the bath, for example. We know it can be lavish, but what’s a simpler approach that’s resource efficient and exhilarating at the same time? I’m glad you asked. Heidi

889-1 exterior photo

Richardson, principal of Richardson Architects,  designed this modest but memorable 150 sq. ft. bath house for a dairy farm. You can see the context Continue reading

New Modern Farmhouse Plans

Dueling Pitchforks

Spacious porches, simple barn-inspired shapes, and informal open layouts designed for casual living are the key elements of a successful farmhouse. I’m delighted to introduce two contemporary farmhouse plans that celebrate country living in thoughtful ways: the newest additions to our Signature Collection.  Heidi Richardson, the great granddaughter of the legendary Boston architect Henry Hobson Richardson, is an award-winning Northern California architect who has designed a wide variety of buildings and once worked for William Turnbull, one

of the architects of Sea Ranch on California’s Sonoma Coast. Here’s her elegant Plan 889-2. The understated outline — a central gable flanked by porches Continue reading

Duo Dickinson and the Idea of “Seed Plans”

Patterns from the Past, Paths to the Future

Last week staffers (yours truly included) had lunch with influential Connecticut architect Duo Dickinson — author of The House You Build and House On A Budget — to hear his views on why more architects should embrace the ready-made plan idea. Yeah baby! (Read his entire guest post on Time To Build.) He sketched in the history of the architect-designed house plan and mentioned the famous popular debate fostered in 1938 when Life magazine asked eight architects to design houses for families at several different income levels (when a dollar was really worth something!).

Life Houses page one

The magazine asked  for a “traditional” and a “modern” plan for each of four families. According to Duo, it “was a forum to show that the art of architecture Continue reading