The American Country House
Throughout June, we have looked at country houses around the world: the iconic British, the traditional Italian, and the charming French styles.
Today, we leave Europe behind to explore another quintessential style: American. From Canada in the north to the pampas of the south, the rustic style over the pond has captured the imagination of generations through films and literature. Classics like Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery and The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende take place with the backdrop of a country house.
The word ranch refers not to the farmhouse but the type of farm: land dedicated to livestock-raising, but it is no coincidence that the word evokes images of specific architecture. The northern-American style is very different from the colonial southern-American style (which has a different regional name in every country).
Wood, which is a common feature of the interiors of the country houses in every country, is a prominent feature of the exteriors. A porch is the most widely recognised difference, and something shared with American architecture in general.
Another striking feature is that the interior décor is mostly dictated by functionality, in a way that is much less prominent in Europe. For example, open shelves and cooking utensils becoming a feature of the rustic look of the kitchen, and the layout itself focused on a central working surface that allows easier multitasking.
While private homes tend to reflect the taste of the owners to an extent, ranches that also function as guest-homes tend to incorporate the life of the ranch in their décor too, with horses or motifs belonging to the traditional culture of the area.
The Colonial Estate
These historical houses come in a variety of styles, but tend to share common features like arches and columns which are reminiscent of European architecture (especially Spanish under the Mores). Coming mostly in white or light colours, and often with features like porches to protect people from the heat of the region, they were residences for the landowners rather than a core part of the working estate. For this reason, they were not only big houses but also lavishly decorated. Unlike the examples we have seen in colder countries, few textiles make an appearance, and those that do are mostly light fabrics in light colours (with the exception of some houses with traditional large carpets). The architectural features themselves, like floor tiles, walls and iron rails, and paintings and plants are what makes the look rich. The final effect is that of an elegant simplicity that impresses with the quality of the taste, and the touch of exoticism.
As the popular streaming service Netflix debuted its own remake of Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, one last style I wish to look at is that of this iconic Canadian country house. The real Green Gables which inspired the novel stands to this day on Prince Edward Island, with its white and dark green wooden structure. The interiors are a gem of shabby chic décor, with white flowery wallpaper and white furniture from the period (the house dates back to the 19th century).