Exploring the I-House: A Traditional Piece of American ArchitectureThe I-house is a traditional housing style that has been popular across the United States for centuries. This style of home was named during the 1930s by a cultural geographer named Fred Kniffen, who was an expert in studying folk architecture. The I-house is known for its unique design, which has made it a popular choice for homeowners throughout the years. In this article, we’ll explore the origins of the I-house, its characteristics, regional variations, interior design, modern adaptations, and how to preserve historic I-houses.
Origins of the I-houseThe I-house has its roots in colonial architecture, an era when homes were built with practicality and functionality in mind. This style of home was originally seen in the Delaware Valley region in the late 1700s, but it quickly gained popularity and was adopted throughout the country. The name I-house was originally used by Fred Kniffen to describe the homes that featured a central hallway that resembled the letter I. The design was efficient, allowing for rooms to be easily accessed from the main hallway.
Characteristics of the I-houseThe I-house is a two-story home that is typically rectangular in shape, with a central hallway on the main floor separating two rooms on each side. This design allows for optimal air flow and natural light to enter the home. The front of the home will often have two doors, with one leading into the main hallway and the other leading into a side room. The roof of the I-house is often steep, with a gable at each end. One unique characteristic of the I-house is the presence of a long porch, which extends across the front of the home.
Regional variations of the I-houseThere are several regional variations of the I-house, each with its own unique features. In the South, the I-house was often built with a single central dormer on the roof, while homes in the Midwest commonly featured double-pen variants, with two central hallways. In the Northeast, I-houses were often built with a chimney located in the center of the home, which provided warmth to each room on the main floor. In the West, the I-house was often built with a wrap-around porch, which was an adaptation to the hotter climate.
The popularity of the I-houseThe I-house was a popular choice for homeowners in the 1800s because of its efficient design and affordability. The style remained popular throughout the 1900s, with many homes being built during the American suburbs boom after World War II. Because of its unique design and practicality, many I-houses have lasted for centuries and are still being lived in today.
Interior design of the I-houseThe interior of the I-house is known for its simplicity and functionality. The central hallway serves as the main artery of the home, with rooms located off of it. The front left room is often used as a parlor or sitting room, while the front right room is used for formal occasions. The back left room is often used as a dining room, and the back right is a kitchen. The upstairs of the I-house typically has bedrooms, with a bathroom located at the end of the hallway. Some unique interior design features of the I-house include:
- The presence of built-in cabinetry throughout the home.
- The use of wide-planked wooden floors on the main floor.
- The use of a fireplace for heating in colder climates.