Tudoring Lessons from Piedmont

Tudor houses are among the favorites of a lot of home experts and amateurs alike. The Tudor style (more accurately, Tudor Revival) is seen among the earlier custom homes in Piedmont, California.  Amidst rows of Craftsman houses in the East Bay, the Tudor house is seldom far away, being a not too distant relative as the grandfather of the Arts and Crafts houses.

One sees a Tudor house and can’t help but admire the inventiveness and flexibility of the style.  Half timber done in such imaginative ways, coupled with a handful of cross gables and brick water table, seems to be quite a common thread full of potentials for diversions, machinations and articulation. Steep roof pitches and tall and narrow windows complete the package.

One close look at the original  Tudor style (15th to early 17th century) mansions such as Compton Wynyates, Oxburgh Hall or Owlpen would reveal that the walls were all masonry with very little half timbering except for Fords Hospital at Coventry.  The prominent and much more articulated chimneys and chimney pots only appeared later in the Tudor Revival period (late 19th century England) where the luxury of a fireplace in each room  is something to “right” home about.  Besides, Count Rumford had only just redesigned and wrote about the more effective firebox of a taller and shallower proportion in 1796.

Back in Piedmont, California, one sees  smart adaptations of the Tudor Revival architecture. Partly because the Piedmont houses were not as large as their English inspirations, their architects had to edit down to a few gestures, sieve through a list of “typical details” and created a compact little domestic bliss of a home.

The most common adaptations found among the houses are the half timber gable ends slightly overhanging the brick main floor facade. Grey over cream seems to be the color scheme of choice.

Some houses make do with little or no brick work.  The half timber details and pattern get all the attention.

A few houses make use of the turret nested successfully in the crook of the L shaped floor plan.

I love the houses that incorporated the masonry details around the bay windows and entry doorway.

Bring on the half timber criss-cross!  Who was it that said something about “being wood and not made to woo”?  The Bard should have known better especially when the Globe Theater was half timbered from head to toe.

Another way to stay true to the Tudor style is to have masonry clad walls and rely on the steep roof, narrow windows, beautiful archways and a certain je ne sais quoi (pardon me.  Sometimes, I just have to borrow from the French).

There is this mysterious house in Piedmont that cannot be seen from the street but it has the most sensual entry and seductive introduction by way of a meandering driveway flanked by a fountain and a majestic oak tree hiding the house from view.  I imagine it’s a Tudor Revival house of the most articulated kind. “What style through yonder window breaks”? I never ventured beyond the house’s gates to find out. I want to “sleep, perchance to dream” of my perfect Tudor house.

Photos of English houses via: Wikipedia, Zafferano.co.uk. Wikimedia, thecoventrypages.net.

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