Friday, September 16, 2011

The Enduring Foursqaure

When one pictures what a MCM house looks like, most often a low slung bungalow or side-split will come to mind. This makes sense as these were the most popular types of houses built during the mid-century and have become icons for the era.

The less common two-storey house of the period will be the subject of this particular posting, with a focus on the most ubiquitous two-story house design: the Foursquare.

Most mid-century two-story houses have the same basic boxy shape, with a standard arrangement of rooms. The house layout has its roots dating back to early in the 20th century with a style of house called the Foursquare (sometimes called the Prairie Box). Much more simple than earlier Victorian houses, Foursquares are straightforward in their square (or rectangular) footprint, and in their simple exteriors.

Plan from the Aladdin mail-order house catalogue, c. 1930.

The standard floor plan of a Foursquare had 4 rooms on the main floor: Hall and Living Room at the front, and Dining Room and Kitchen at the back. The second floor usually had 4 Bedrooms.

Sears mail-order house plan c. 1908.

The straightforward design of the Foursquare made it affordable and easy to mass-produce. Mid-century builders would have also been drawn to the same type of house for its affordability and that it also allowed for simple, modern facades. One of the biggest alterations to the traditional plan was the addition of a Breakfast Room or Family Room next to the Kitchen - seen with some of the plans later in this posting.
Campeau, Various neighbourhoods, late 1950s and early 1960s.
Campeau's two storey designs from the 1950s and early 1960s were a variation of the traditional foursquare as the stairwell was pushed to the side. The front Living Room and Hall, with the Kitchen and Dining Room across the back are more in keeping with the typical Foursqaure plan.

Assaly and Johannsen, Woodroffe on the Green and Glenwood Park (Aylmer, QC), 1963.
This design is very similar to the historic Foursquare arrangement of rooms.
Connelly Homes, Glencairn, 1966.

Campeau, Playfair Park and Russell Heights (Hawthorne Meadows), 1965.
Even with the attached garage to the side, the floor plan follows the same arrangement as a typical Foursqaure.

Campeau, Leslie Park, 1966.
This is a variation of the Foursqaure that has a Family Room space next to the Kitchen.

Campeau, Leslie Park, 1966.
Another expanded version of the Foursquare adding a Family Room.

Campeau, South Keys, 1967.
A.B.Taylor, Glencairn and Copeland Park, c. 1966.

Teron, Kanata (Beaverbrook), 1960s.

Minto, Parkwood Hills, 1966. 
This plan takes advantage of the space behind the garage as the spot for the Family Room. It really just looks like an appendage to the classic Foursqaure plan.

Minto, Graham Park, 1966.

Many mid-century bungalow and side split plans had main living spaces that followed the basic Foursquare arrangement with the Living Room and Hall at the front and Dining Room and Kitchen at the back.

Campeau, Various neighbourhoods, late 1950s and early 1960s.

Minto, Various neighbourhoods, 1960s.

My own house is based on the Foursquare, and I find it to be a very practical layout with great flow. I was also drawn to the house as it reminded me of the house my mother grew up in (and my grandparents continued to live in during my childhood).
 The house my mother grew up in.


  1. Thanks for another really interesting post! I'd be interested in reading about colours used in MCM houses, if that's something you know about.

  2. Great idea! I will do some research and create a posting soon on colours used in MCM houses.

  3. quick question... I have the campeau carillon model in this article, and my neighbour has the campeau "cape cod" what is the square foot difference?

  4. the at-70-66 cape cod above sorry i posted the last post but didn't realize there were more than 1 cape cods.... would the price be different on each of these homes when they were new???-

  5. Loving your blog! Very informative. As a new MCM home owner in the area - I am finding your research fascinating. Thank you.