Tudor, a medieval, castle-like format, dates back to 16th-century England, where it was employed to construct homes — with modifications based on wealth — throughout the countryside. The style experienced a revival in England in the 1830s and thereafter spread to and quickly took root in the United States. By the 1940s nearly every American city became encircled by an inner suburban neighborhood of Tudor-style homes.
A 20th-century American Tudor is easy to spot: The brick or stone structure features patches of stucco, giant wood timbers, a steeply pitched (often stone or tile) roof and front-facing gables. Windows tend to be small casement units, often with leaded-glass panes. Inside, space is maximized, with a finished second story tucked under the eaves and little or no wasted attic space. A central foyer helps to enlarge the feel of the interiors and provides distance between the powder room and main living spaces. A multipurpose front living room, sometimes with two-story cathedral ceilings, became the precursor of today’s family room.
Truth be told, the revival design was quite progressive for its time. “The steep roof provided sleeping spaces upstairs,” says HGTV Smart Home 2014 architect Preston Shea, “and the compact, efficient floor plan offered everything you needed and nothing you didn’t.”
Fast-forward to 2014, and architects have rediscovered Tudor, tweaking an already space-efficient plan for 21st-century living. At HGTV Smart Home 2014, for example, timber-embedded stucco, a labor-intensive siding system, says Shea, is replaced by painted brick and clapboard. The cladding complements the exterior of adjacent homes and helps to downplay the large two-car garage, a modern structure that has no historical precedent in Tudor home design. Undersized casement windows and dark-stained woodwork that did nothing to lighten and brighten home interiors in the earliest Tudors, is replaced by large, easy-to-operate double-hung windows and brightly painted walls.
Although Shea played with building materials, he stayed true to the original spirit of the Tudor style — many of the rooms will serve multiple functions. The kitchen “island” is presented in the form of a full-sized dining table that can seat the whole family. Meanwhile, the dining room can double as a home office. It may even have a retractable TV screen that disappears into a sideboard when not in use. And throughout the house, cubbies and clever nooks — that pay homage to the paneling and woodwork of traditional Tudors — carve storage space out of the walls and crawlspaces. Thanks to the super-insulating spray foam in the walls and roof and state-of-the-art windows, the second-floor living space tucks right up under the roofline without fear of drafts or leaks from snowmelt. “We used today’s best materials to create a compact home that makes the most of every inch,” says Shea.
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