A LOOK BACK IN TIME: 6 Listings That Revisit Architectural Styles Of The Past


Photo: Curbed

By Sarah FirsheinIf the following photogallery has you thinking, Aw, look at that charming European country estate! we urge you—plead, in fact—to please think again.

Thus begins our (by no means exhaustive) journey through the architecture of yesteryear—those aesthetics that may have had their heyday but who are still kicking around on the real estate scene. (And no, Art Deco was not accidentally left out; we’re featuring but a half-dozen of hundreds of possible architectural styles that might fit the bill.)

The McMansion

Kicking things off is the McMansion, arguably not be an architectural 'style' at all but a jaunty way to start out nonetheless. Identified much like that noisy cousin at family dinner--by the way it sticks out and its general imposition on its surroundings--McMansions rose to popularity in the 1980s and were first referenced in the New York Times on August 27, 1998: '20 mansions were planned for the development, each designed to look like the biggest house in town,' wrote Benjamin Cheever. 'The McMansion we thought of as ours had an enormous kitchen, more than two stories high.'

His description still proves apt; while not one aesthetic defines McMansion architecture, they are usually at least two stories high and they do typically have large kitchens. The one pictured to the right, for example, is a 4,400-square-foot Lexington, Ky., creation asking $699K. Perched in a subdivision called 'Tuscany,' it's got five bedrooms, six bathrooms, 18-foot ceilings, 11-foot-tall windows, and, of course, a 'large gourmet kitchen.' Also, there's a 'green space to the left of the house where no home can be built.'

Perhaps a silver lining? Anyhoo, sad news for McMansions and the developers who love them: they're on the way out. A recent story in the Wall Street Journal maintained that most of America's 80M Gen Y'ers would prefer to be in an urban centre: 'Lawn-mowing not desired.'

Here's the large, gourmet kitchen

And a bar for entertaining guests

There's also a grand dining room


Catapulting backwards a century or so lands the compass on Parkitecture, slang for an architectural movement formally called National Park Service rustic.

At the turn of the 21st century, the country's National Park System endeavoured to design visitor's centres, restrooms, and hotels that blended in with their rustic, woodsy surroundings. Think: lots of timber, lots of stone, grand fireplaces, and so on.

This iteration, in Avon, Colo., is what happens when modern Parkitecture goes forth and multiplies phenomenally. Built in 2005, the $9.185M listing has decidedly un-rustic amenities such as a wine cellar, sauna, fitness centre, and butler's pantry.

There's a grand stone fireplace in the master bedroom

Lots of rustic, woodsy touches

It feels like we're camping

European Modernism

Moving forward to 1936, here's a prime example of European Modernism in an unusual setting: Orinda, Calif., a, ahem, McMansion-happy city located some 20 miles east of San Francisco.

Designed by prominent local architect William H. Knowles, the house boasts clear influences from his lengthy European travels (the white stucco facade is a gesture toward the Greek islands) and from the work of venerable French architect Robert Mallet-Stevens.

The five-bedroom, five-bathroom property hit the market in April 2010 with an ask of $2.495M, but it has just been slashed to $1.895M. Long-lost architecture crumpled inside the bargain bin!

The dining room boasts beautiful cherry wood floors

Here's one of the 5 bedrooms

A nice open kitchen with granite countertops

Based on the artwork, it's clear the owner has traveled places

Sarasota Modern

Here's a far more obscure architectural style that rose to fame in the 1950s. Before Paul Rudolph moved to New England to take a gig as dean of the Yale School of Architecture and long before he became known as the 'Dean of Brutalism,' the architect lived in western Florida. 'Sarasota Modern'--used to describe his work during these years in the Sunshine State--met with some criticism for the way it stood out, but it also managed to put Rudolph on the map.

The Martin Harkavy Residence, shown here, was built in the mid-'50s and features 14-foot ceilings, sliding glass walls, and a backyard garden area, which created a newfangled kind of privacy. In Paul Rudolph: The Florida Houses (Princeton Architectural Press, 2002), Christopher Domin and Joseph King observe: 'This planning strategy was very much a structural inversion of traditional Southern porch culture, where informal public interaction took place along the street front. In this project, along with several others, a new precedent was set that overtly privatized the domestic life of the inhabitants by placing the main living areas toward the rear of the house.' $2.5M will buy you this teeny slice of history.

Oversized sliding glass doors make the room feel even bigger

The big, open kitchen with large windows

The place wouldn't be complete without a beautiful outdoor pool and patio

Usonian architecture

One look at the overhangs here and it's obvious that they were formed by the hand of Frank Lloyd Wright. Indeed, the American architect built this house in Houston's Bunker Hill neighbourhood in 1954; it's his only project in town and a prime example of Usonian architecture.

Key features of that movement: flat roofs, cantilevered overhangs, clerestory windows, and a courtyard, not to mention radiant-floor heating and passive solar features. In this case, the current owners expanded Wright's original 1,200-square-foot layout to more than 8,000 square feet, renovating it fully and adding cushy comforts such as a second kitchen. Another bluechip pedigree for a bargain: the property first hit the market for $3.29M but now asks $2.9M


The carpet is pretty dark, but the glass doors leading out to a balcony provide some nice light

There's a grand staircase

The kitchen reflects a mix of European influences

This French Renaissance Chateau will also take you back in time.

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