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CIRCA School: Palladian Arch

by Jon Valalik (photo by Don Shall) In CIRCA School, we uncover the fascinating facts behind everyone’s favorite old house details. Today’s lesson on the Palladian Arch takes us all the way back to the 2nd century!   Having a discussion about historic American architecture is next to impossible without mention of Andrea Palladio: Italian architect, High Renaissance master, and owner of a pretty incredible beard. Because of an immense amount of talent as well as very influential connections and clientele, Palladio’s influence has been shared throughout the world for nearly 500 years. His ability to adapt ancient Roman architectural ideals to what were modern types of buildings played a major role in his popularity and ultimately led to what may be his single most recognizable motif: The Palladian

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CIRCA School: Quoins

In CIRCA School, Amanda uncovers the fascinating facts behind everyone’s favorite old house details. Today’s lesson is on quoins, those Tetris-like stacked “blocks” that line the corners of buildings.   When it came to my architectural history classes, I was one geeky undergrad (well, I was probably geeky in general, but that’s another story). I just loved it all! Besides being able to travel the world and go back in time without leaving the lecture hall, my professors gave me an appreciation for the many wonderful layers that make up old buildings. The transformation of many architectural features from structural to decorative was a topic that always fascinated me. And so on that note, I thought today we could chat about quoins. An unusual word, isn’t

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Dentils: C’mon Old House, Show Us Your Pearly Whites!

Welcome to CIRCA School, in which Amanda uncovers the fascinating facts behind everyone’s favorite old house details. The dentists among us will get a good laugh at today’s lesson!   Welcome back from a long holiday break. School’s back in session! If all that eggnog didn’t mess with your memory, you’ll recall that last time we traveled back to the Middle Ages to look at the origins of half-timbering. Today, let’s go back even further to antiquity – over some 2,000 years ago – to chat about

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Half-Timbering: A Tale as Old as Time

Welcome to CIRCA School, in which Amanda uncovers the fascinating facts behind everyone’s favorite old house details. Today’s lesson has been around since the Middle Ages, so it’s about time we learned it!   After a nice holiday break, it’s back to school we go! Let’s take a look at half-timbering, one of those wonderful Old World treasures that really took off on our shores in the 19th and 20th centuries. These flat timbers – typically paired with stucco or brick infill – were used to great decorative effect on the upper floors and gables of Tudors, Queen Annes, Craftsmans, and a few other house styles of a century or two ago. But did you know that half-timbering has practical roots that date way back to the Middle

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Mansard Roofs: All Hail the Second Empire!

Image courtesy of GeorgetownMetropolitan.com.   Welcome to CIRCA School, in which Amanda uncovers the fascinating facts behind everyone’s favorite old house details. We’re taking a field trip to Paris for today’s lesson on mansard roofs!   On my trip to Paris last month I was surrounded by boulevards of beautiful buildings capped with mansard roofs — or, as I once heard someone call them, “French hats!” Better still, I stayed in a hotel topped with a mansard. With views of the Left Bank out my dormer window, a big part of the room’s allure was the sloped ceiling formed by this roof’s charming shape. But what exactly is a mansard

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Eyebrow Dormers: Architecture with Attitude!

Welcome to CIRCA School, in which Amanda uncovers the fascinating facts behind everyone’s favorite old house details. Blink and you’ll miss today’s lesson on Eyebrow Dormers!   Have you ever gazed at a home and thought it kind of looks like a face? Well, you’re not alone! Some homes are so full of personality that their architectural elements demand to be named after our very own features. One standout is the aptly named Eyebrow

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Flemish Bond: Fit for Kings!

Welcome to CIRCA School, in which Amanda Davis uncovers the fascinating facts behind everyone’s favorite old house details. Today’s lesson: Flemish bond!   Oh, I just LOVE old brick houses. So much detail and variation can be had with such a simple shape as a rectangular brick. One of my absolute favorite treatments is Flemish bond. Like a checkerboard spread across walls, this brick pattern gets its elegant look by alternating stretchers (the long side of the brick) with headers (the short side) on each and every row.   It’s mighty pretty, indeed, but did you know that Flemish bond was as much a status symbol back in the day as fancy clothes and fine

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