GREAT BRITAIN, Herbert N. Casson told us in the last issue of Maclean's, is witnessing the biggest building boom she has ever seen. She is building at the rate of 1,000 new houses a day.
In the United States, under the National Housing Act, provision has been made for three billion, two hundred million dollars in cash and credit to be placed at the disposal of the home-building industry; partly to cover repairs and modernizing of buildings, particularly houses; partly to finance new construction.
In Canada we hear rumblings of the desire for better housing. For a population of ten million, we have two million dwelling houses. One dwelling for every five persons would appear to be ample for our needs. But quantity does not necessarily mean quality.
In Ontario, the Lieutenant-Governor has been actively engaged in a campaign for slum clearance and for housing reform. Winnipeg, Montreal, Halifax, Hamilton and other cities are seeking methods of effecting improvements.
What this article is concerned with is the present or prospective home of the average householder, and the fact that now is a good time to build, repair or make alterations. Apart from Government plans, conditions point to a renewal of building activity in Canada this year. Low cost of materials is an incentive. Delayed action may result in you finding costs higher when the thousands of people who have been waiting for an upturn in business realize that the upturn has started.
Standards in home making are changing rapidly. No longer is a home to be regarded merely as a place of habitation bounded by four walls and a roof, comfortably furnished after a fashion but laborious to work in and often crudely planned. New times have created new conceptions of domestic comfort and beauty.
At the moment, domestic architecture is in a transitional stage. As yet no settled type, to be regarded as characteristic of the age, has emerged. But certain broad principles, both external and internal, are already apparent. The modern home has to be economical in space, economical in its furnishing, and economical also in the effort demanded in its management. But with all these and above all these, in place of the old uniformity it must have individuality.
From the war the architect came back to face a new world. Not houses built up to a standard were needed but houses built down to a price. Architecture became the creature and the victim of circumstances.
Then there followed years of experiment with new building materials. The war taught the architectural profession and the building industry new methods. Science triumphed.
AS AN EXAMPLE of how the homes of today have been - influenced by scientific discoveries, one finds “oak panelling” made of asbestos. A tree that once would have
served as a floor beam is now converted into thousands of feet of wall panelling or door finishings, possessing a magnificent grain and having the added advantages over its parent body of not warping or splitting.
The progress in the manufacture of durable, rustproof metals such as copper, brass, bronze and nickel adds longer life to the home, to say nothing of freeing the home owner from the annoyance and expense caused by rust. While it is true that the first cost of rustproof copper, brass and bronze is slightly higher, it is likewise true that these durable metals will save their extra cost many times over by eliminating the heavy expense of repairs and replacements due to rust. Material which lined our war-time “flea-bags” is now used as an insulating and sound-deadening material. Electricity and gas have found new uses. Not only do they heat our new buildings, but when harnessed to various gadgets they perform a hundred and one functions, even including freezing.
Air conditioning is playing a part in the reduction of our fuel bills. Rubber is finding an increasing use on floors and stairs.
In the modern house whole rooms may be lined with plywood and then veneered, for surfaces are the interesting things. The main note today is fine finish. There is no ornament to cover shoddiness.
In all matters of labor-saving as in the fine finish everywhere, the motor car has no doubt set the standard. Just
as the car now is foolproof, leaving the owner nothing to do but to drive it. so the modern house leaves its occupiers little to do but to live.
Everywhere one finds hard, clear surfaces. The kitchen. for instance, is like a small operating theatre with its electric range, refrigerator, metal sinks, built-in cupboards, exhaust fans and other gadgets. The completely fitted bathroom is the place, strange to say, where a certain elegance and even decoration is allowed to temper pure efficiency. Everywhere household work has been reduced to a minimum.
Even the air can be washed and warmed or cooled, as the case may be. before it enters; while insulated walls conserve the heat and at the same time keep in one's own noiso an imix>rtant point in these days of radio— while keeping out that of one’s neighbors.
The modem house with its new methods of construction, its many uses of concrete, its steel windows, its flat roofs now so easily laid with improved forms of asphalt and bitumen, and its labor-saving devices that make heating, cleaning and cooking so easy and so simple, has surely come to stay.
In regard to furniture, the mcxdern house is becoming still more self-contained. The architect of today has to combine the knowledge of Wren. Adam. Chippendale and Sheraton. Ordinary articles of household furniture are being replaced by built-in fixtures. The dressing
table is disappearing; the old-time kitchen table is not required because the modem kitchen has no room for it.
Never in the history of architecture has any period offered such scope for invention and such opportunities for development on new lines.
Therefore, why not make an effort and strive to meet this urge to get back some of our individuality in the home, with careful thought and guidance by architects qualified for the job?
Hire an Architect
THE BULK of building operations for the past year has been concerned with moderate-sized residential houses; and if taste in these be decadent, we must not lay the blame at the door of the architect. I should say that ninety per cent of the discussion should be about the builder, and the remaining ten per cent the architect. In other words, before the owner begins to build, the architect is called upon in only one case out of ten. It is too little employment of an architect that is the cause of so much trouble; and it is a trouble from which the public, especially the prospective small house owners, are the main sufferers.
It is said that it takes a big architect to design a small, comfortable house; a house that is brimful of personality, that is good to look upon and utilitarian yet romantic in idea. The true architect thinks much more of the living
Continued on page 56
Continued from page 24
needs of a small family in a modest home than of the skilled proportions of his art.
If home life is to lxrich and alluring, it is not enough that houses be periodically reconditioned, as factory buildings are. Nor is it enough that they be equipped with such modern equipment as represent the major advances between the pioneer houses of our forefathers and those that serve us best today. Instead, to safeguard the linancial and social investments already made, it is often the part of wisdom, especially during periods of slack employment when materials are relatively low in cost, such as today, to renuxlel as well as to modernize the home.
For example, a basement may easily be converted into a recreation roonr additional room and light may be supplied to a living room by building a ba\ window; large oldfashioned kitchens offer many possibilities for modernization. If less space is desirable, a big kitchen can easily be divided oil to provide the following units: Dining alcove or breakfast room, pantry or storeroom, closets for clothing and cleaning materials, also a lavatory. A ventilating fan in the kitchen will eliminate cooking odors and grease-laden air.
One of the best ways to improve the general appearance of the interior of an old house is to replace the trim. Improving the interior without changing the trim is like wearing a celluloid collar with a fall suit. Masonry walls, when exposed to the weather or built below the ground level, should be treated with an efficient all-mineral cement paint. Thermostats will control thedraught and damper of the heating furnace, ensure a more even heat, and avoid the necessity of so many trips to the basement.
All pipes around the house which are in danger of freezing should be insulated, for which purpose there are available pipe coverings of air-cell asbestos, magnesia, cork or similar material. One could go on almost till doomsday setting forth the endless
possibilities of modernizing and remodelling the average home.
rTX)DAY, building is governed by new ■L factors and costs calculated on a basis other than that of permanent construction, nevertheless individualism can be achieved only through craftsmanship. Immediately craftsmanship is revived, it brings with it the craftsman’s individual interpretation; a general softening down of harshness, and deadly monotony gives place to considered variety.
It is in this field of interior decoration that the architect is finding enjoyment, as there are now so many additional materials at his command such as glass, new metals, flexible woods and plywood, synthetic materials, new paints and new methods of applying paint, lacquers and textiles.
Color is understood, and it seems that we are on the threshold of a new era in its use-. And, just as new sculpture and new architecture give us ideas for projxirtion and line in furniture and even motor cars, so, tcx). the modern artist has influenced color schemes in interior decoration and in the pattern of our fabrics.
So what have we? In the first place, there is something moving in the building industry, more particularly so in moderate-pria d house-building. The public is sensing the goods on the bargain counter in the way of materials at comparatively low cost. Science has provided the open sesame to new methods and new materials, and lias also found the way to reduce the labor of running a home.
Building a new home, remodelling or modernizing it or both, has become in the nature of an exciting adventure; and when undertaken in the company of an architect who knows his job, (he adventure becomes a pleasure and a safe investment.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.