Post-war homes, many built when time, money and materials were short, have not lasted. So many have been replaced that in London and, increasingly, elsewhere, the choice is between period or very recently built homes. The latter, despite the valiant attempts of a few architects and builders, tend to be either straight copies of period designs, or glass-and-steel structures which can be beautiful at small scale but which, at any size, are just too hard for British landscapes.
A hundred years ago, our domestic architecture was admired around the world. The religiosity of the Gothic Revival had relaxed into a comfortable grand-cottage-like character. Architects such as Lutyens and Baillie Scott, inspired by Morris (see back page), looked to craftsmanship and forms derived from observation of landscape and traditional building techniques. These ideals shaped the early 20th century houses that still make such good homes today.
This is exemplified in the fabulous authenticity of properties such as the Art & Crafts house shown above. The point is made, too, by the Queen Anne house shown below. Faced with the lack of recent vernacular styles on which to draw, its modernisers have, understandably, opted for predominately glass additions in the light-touch, essentially internationalist style which modern materials allow.
Might a new British vernacular emerge? Form often follows function, so efforts to change building regulations and techniques to allow larger scale modular and pre-fabricated construction might one day herald a new era. In the meantime, our appreciation of classic early 20th century houses and others true to their period, will only grow.