Victorian vs. Foursquare
After striking out with the duplexes, I went back to looking at single families. My dream is to get a Victorian, but while jogging, I saw a house that caught my eye. It had a porch that didn't fit the house, but the outside of that it had an interesting look to it. Not being trained in architecture, I knew it was a classic style, but didn't know the term, so I did some research and saw it was an American Foursquare. This style of house came out at the end of the 1800s and it was a reaction to the fussier Victorian style. The name describes the style in that the house is just a box with no asymmetrical turrets or bulges. Foursquares will be 2 or 3 stories and there will be some dormers to break up the boxiness.
It's such a simple design and you'll see tons of these style houses still peppered throughout the US. They're so common that I dismissed the style but I think after looking at so much crappy new construction and learning how we've lost our way with architectural design and proportions (see McMansion Hell for a good eduction on things that are wrong with modern houses), that now looking at a Foursquare I was surprised how pleasing it looked.
We took a look at the house and it was well cared for with lots of original details such as molding, doors and windows. The problem was that the house didn't have anything quirky about it - no weird bathrooms stuffed under the stairs, no super small closets, no oddly shaped bathrooms. Most of it was from the Foursquare ethos where everything is boxed out in nice equal-sized rooms and being that the house was a little bit past the Victorian era, there was very little ornamentation where the molding was just solid blocks of wood - no bullseye plinths or fluted molding.
It felt like a very safe buy because without the quirkiness, the house felt very functional and would be a great beach house. But I like a little fussiness and it would seem wrong to try and force Victorian/Edwardian ornamentation on this modest Craftsman-era house. Reading up on preservation, one of the big sins is trying to force a building into something the owner wants rather than embracing the building's intended design.