A Storybook House refers to an architectural style popularized in the 1920s in England and America.
The storybook style is a nod toward Hollywood design technically called Provincial Revivalism and more commonly called Fairy Tale or Hansel and Gretel. A primary example can be found in the 1927 Montclair, Oakland firehouse, and in a more traditional English cottage-style in the 1930 Montclair branch library. Idora Park in north Oakland, California is a four square block storybook architecture development begun in 1927 on the grounds of the old amusement park.
The primary architects that worked in this style are: Harry Oliver, W.R. Yelland, W.W. Dixon and Carr Jones among many other local architects.
Oliver is noted for his Spadena House in Beverly Hills, and the Tam O’Shanter Inn in Los Feliz (Los Angeles).
Yelland is noted for his (Thornburg) Normandy Village and Tupper & Reed Music Store, both located in Berkeley, California. Yelland designed homes in Oakland, Piedmont, Berkeley, San Leandro, Hayward, Woodland, Modesto, Clarksburg, Sacramento, Kensington and San Francisco, California.
W.W. Dixon noted for his work with developer R.C. Hillen in creating the Dixon & Hillen catalog of homes. Dixon is noted for Stonehenge & Stoneleigh villages in Alameda as well as Picardy Drive in Oakland, California.
Carr Jones is noted for the (il Posinto Restaurant) post office in Lafayette, California. He designed and built one-of-a-kind homes in Oakland, Berkeley and Piedmont, California.
Storybookers: A fan site for the storybook homes. Best source for information.
Salon: Ticky-Tacky Houses from ‘The Painter of Light’. – The links to the village sites are not working, at least not tonight.
Hendrick’s Architecture: Fun Architecture: The Storybook Style in Disneyland
Hendrick’s Architecture: Storybook Style: Hansel and Gretel Cottage
Flickr: Houses as in Fairytales International photos.
Flickr: Storybook Ranch Houses – Ranch homes from the postwar era – that are classified as Storybook Ranch houses. Ranches with Hansel & Gretel bric-a-brac.
Flickr: Storybook Suburban Architecture – The houses with a mid-century ranch structure, but adorned in quaintness and Olde Worlde pastiche.
Flickr: Whimsical Architecture
Flickr: Cottage in the Woods
Flickr: Arquitectura Fantastica Mundial
Flickr: Fantasy Vintage Home – Illustrations.
Screen captures from Fiddlers Green, a well done post about storybook houses.
COMMON FEATURES OF STORYBOOK ARCHITECTURE
Some of the terms used below are a bit technical; an illustrated glossary of terms related to storybook architecture will be added to this page in the near future.
CONSTRUCTION: Predominately stucco (often roughly troweled), frequently with half-timbering (often curved); use of rubble stone, crazed brick, and clinker brick are common; all-stone, all-brick, and all-wood construction are sometimes used. Turrets with conical roofs are a common feature, as are faux dovecotes.
WALLS: Often sloped or curving; almost never square or rectangular; wing walls are not uncommon.
ROOFLINES: Always curved in some way—swaybacked, sagged, concave, undulating or sharply pointed; never flat and seemingly never of the straight- and equal-sided triangular form; gables are usually jerkinhead or very sharply pointed; eaves are often rolled; use of catslides is common.
ROOFING MATERIALS: Most often wooden shingles, wooden shakes, or slate laid down in a seawave or other intentionally irregular pattern; though the original materials have frequently been replaced over time, the irregular pattern is sometimes imitated in the more modern material.
DOORS: Round-topped or batten (occasionally both), often with a peek-a-boo; doors are frequently set in an arched doorway lined with stone; when turret is present, the building’s front door typically opens into this.
WINDOWS: Sometimes wood-framed but often steel-framed (presumably to more closely resemble medieval windows); on older homes, the glass (unless replaced) is leaded or wavy; figural insets of stained glass are not uncommon.
CHIMNEYS: Chimneys are seldom regular in appearance; most feature a combination of stucco and seemingly haphazardly-placed stone or brick.
IRONWORK: Wrought iron door hinges, handles, knockers, and locksets are common, as are other wrought iron embellishments.
OTHER: Most storybook structures are fairly small, though many make use of deceptive perspective to trick the eye into perceiving them as being larger than they really are; larger storybooks are often constructed to appear as though built up gradually over time, one addition at a time. All (or nearly all) are based upon a fanciful interpretation of medieval European homes; a number of the true masterworks have been artificially and intentionally aged, lending them the appearance of structures built centuries in the past.
LOCATION: As befits their faux-rural heritage, many storybook homes are surrounded by trees and shrubbery; as most were constructed in the 1920s and 1930s, the greenery can conceal these structures from the casual observer.