What does today's Christmas tree have in common with Design J-96? Both are Victorian vernacular.
Vernacular refers to a decorative style arising from a particular culture and time. Housing styles are always shaped by human circumstances. Even if you know zip about architecture, as long as you understand people, history and geography, it's often possible to track down the design of your dreams.
Using history as your guide, where would you look today for Victorian-style house plans? Try going global and cruise the Internet for design firms based in Great Britain and Canada. Great Britain was the birthplace of Queen Victoria, and both countries flourished during her reign (1837-1901).
Both preserved a tradition of Victorian style that is reflected today in stock house plans from these countries. One example is the Drummond Design firm (www.drummonddesigns.com) based in Quebec, Canada.
However, not all house plans designed outside the United States will meet U.S. building codes. Where do you look if you want an "Americanized" Victorian, like Design J-96, with modern amenities that are popular with U.S. consumers, such as a private master bath, split bedrooms and a large kitchen?
Look in a state -- such as Texas -- that experienced a building boom during Queen Victoria's reign and still has a special affinity for that style. One example is the stock plan designer, Larry Garnett and Associates (www.larrygarnett.com) based in Fort Worth, Texas.
One problem with modern Victorian designs is where to house the family car, which didn't exist in Queen Victoria's era. Design J-96 solves that problem with a discreet, two-bay garage attached to the rear of the home. Just be sure this garage is big enough to accommodate larger SUVs and pick-up trucks.
Also, pay special attention to the garage entry into the laundry room, which, right now, is pretty utilitarian. Cozy it up with a window seat, and consider moving the washer and dryer to the inside wall.
Design J-96 has a formal living room. This reflects the Victorian tradition of receiving company in decorous surroundings. Before you embrace tradition, though, be sure this layout makes sense and really fits your lifestyle. In Design J-96, the family room -- a highly casual area -- is in full view of the formal living room. Consider closing in the living room if you want to preserve a classic Victorian look.
(Reviewed by Emily Smith, house plan consultant with HPR Services, PO Box 1143, Reidsville NC 27323 and on the Web at www.houseplanadvisor.com.)
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