Monday, August 1, 2016

Mid Century Summer Reading list 2016

Happy Summer!

In an old post I compiled a list of mid-century-era books perfect for summer reading (Summer Reading), but this year I stumbled upon an article on with some other books of interest. The article (a great read in itself) has a rather negative view of mid-century suburbs, but it has a nifty list of works that I have either already read, or want to get my hot little hands on. Here is a link to the article: Welcome to Disturbia

Used I come!

I wish all of my blog readers a great summer!


Sunday, July 3, 2016

Idea File: California Dreaming in Ottawa

In addition to my collection of Ottawa and Toronto-area floor plans and housing ephemera, I also have boxes upon boxes of American plans and articles - with a particular interest in Californian housing. 

Within this collection I have some favourite designs that I keep revisiting for inspiration, as I also design floor plans as a hobby (none have been built). Among my most cherished "inspiration" plans are those designed by the mid-century architect partners Robert E. Jones and Edwin K. Hom. Recently I discovered that some Ottawa houses may have been inspired by some townhouse designs by these architects. Here is what I have found:  

A while ago I published a post on the Assaly Villas built in the 1960s and 1970s in Westcliffe Estates (Bell's Corners) and Trend VillageAssaly Villas. In these neighbourhoods a series of exterior styles for the houses were offered, including the "Spanish Valencia", shown below:   
Many of the houses built with this exterior facade have been altered over the years, but the archway and balconies over the garage with curved details still remain in most cases.

Below is an advertisement from Time Magazine in 1965 showing houses built in San Juan Capistrano, California, designed by Robert E. Jones. Notice how the exteriors are strikingly similar.  
The article below from House & Home Magazine in 1965 also shows the same houses - including the floor plans.
In terms of the layouts, the main floors of the two-story designs are very similar to those built in Ottawa, yet there are differences on the second levels. Of interest is the fact that both the California project and the Ottawa versions have 2-bedroom bungalow units (although the plans are not exact matches). Larger versions of the California designs are below:
Here are the Ottawa plans:

If there was any doubt that the designer of the Ottawa houses was influenced by American design, the Colonial Williamsburg (Virginia) elevation options are a sure giveaway.
As mentioned earlier, Robert E. Jones and Edwin K. Hom are some of my favourite tract-house architects, yet there is very little written about Jones and Hom. What I do know is that they were based out of La Jolla, California, and designed a handful of very unique projects, some of which were unbuilt

In the interest of sharing their inspirational designs, I will veer away from Ottawa for a moment and present a collection of Jones and Hom plans from California:

This design for Huntington Harbor was not built for some reason, and the land was developed with detached houses instead. Yet, the designs are intriguing and I love the architecture of the houses with walls of glass and steep roof lines. I wonder what happened to the scale model they built? 

The designs for the unbuilt Huntington Harbor project above appear to have been altered for the Tennis Estates complex built south of the original site. This neighbourhood was actually built with some interesting waterfront townhouse designs. 

House and Home, September 1974
I am a very big proponent of the zero lot line concept where houses are pushed up to one side of the lot, creating a larger side yard, instead of two narrow and often unusable side yards. This enhanced usability of a lot can be further expanded with the "patio house" concept by enclosing the whole yard - including the front yard - with a wall. Although not invented by Jones and Hom, they embraced the concept in Westlake Village. In some cases an enclosed yard would allow for a pool to be located at the front of a house.  

House and Home, September 1967
Also in Westlake Village, this proposed design for waterfront houses was not actually built. I love the roof lines of the houses and the way they interact with each other. Hiding cars in an covered parkade is also an unusual idea. 

The Shores development built in Monarch Beach has a collection of zero lot line houses including one that is pushed right up to the back of the lot. A trademark of Jones and Hom's designs are their use of steep or unusual roof lines to create a sense of weight and paired with large expanses of glass.

House and Home, May 1972
Another patio home project in Huntington Beach:

In Sunnyvale, Jones and Hom designed a series of award-winning houses called Bahl Patio Homes:

House and Home, October 1974

House and Home, August 1969
The Bahl Cluster Homes are fourplexes designed in a pinwheel layout:

House and Home, September 1972
Hopefully these designs from California will help fuel ideas and inspiration for any home renovation/design projects here in Ottawa!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Costain in Ottawa - Part One: Blackburn Hamlet (Detached Homes)

Some of my long-time readers may remember that I did a series of posts on Costain a few years ago. For some reason, a few of my older posts have vanished from my blog - for reasons unknown to me. So, I have re-created this post on the builder Costain due to interest from some of my readers. On the positive side, I have been able to get my hot little paws on some new floor plans and marketing material, so there is more material in this post compared to the original (now lost) post!

In the mid-1960s the builder Costain (originally from England, but with an impressive global portfolio) came to Ottawa to develop a new hamlet in the eastern greenbelt called Blackburn Hamlet. 

Today Blackburn Hamlet is very lush with mature trees and extensive parkland, surrounded by the NCC Greenbelt. The west side of Blackburn Hamlet has 3 neighbourhoods separated by parkland, Westpark, Southpark and Centrepark. The Northpark and Southpark neighbourhoods are located to the east, and I believe that this area was developed after the west side. South of Innes Road is another area that is predominantly townhouses, with detached houses on the east side.

Costain's portfolio of house designs in Blackburn Hamlet grew over the years (they built in the area well in to the 1970s), some of which were also built in their Orleans development. This post will focus on detached houses built in Blackburn Hamlet in particular, but some of the designs were built in Orleans. The older designs are presented first, with later additions below - you will notice a change in the design of the floor plan brochures. I was recently able to get a hold of some Costain plans from Erin Mills in Mississauga from the 1970s and many of the designs are similar to those built in Ottawa during the same time. 

I have collected these plans over a number of years and some are of better quality than others. I may also be missing a handful of plans, so if any of my readers have copies of better quality plans or missing plans, I would love to share them - so please let me know! 

In terms of house prices, Costain-built detached houses in Blackburn hamlet average around $460,000 (based on sales between April 2015-April 2016). Some smaller designs have sold in the $300,000 range and some larger and fully renovated designs selling in the high $500,000s, with premiums being paid for those backing on to the greenbelt.

Stay tuned for more posts on Costain, including their townhouse/carriage home designs and their developments in Orleans.