Storybook Architecture

Fantastic in the Everyday

While little details of the real world often inspire fantasy stories, in the case of storybook architecture, a reverse process of sorts occurred. The designers took inspiration from the medieval era and fused it with the fantastic to create dwellings that look as though they sprang to life from the pages of a fairy tale.

In the 1920s, a development of unique cottage-like homes known as Hollywoodland,Β  helped this style catch on. In the years following, certain architects specialized in this sort of building, developing a distinct storybook appeal in the homes they designed. The unusual architecture of the era still attracts attention, and many appreciate its beauty and charm enough to build similar houses of their own.

These storybook dwellings convey a sense of age, even when newly constructed. They’re rich in detail, whimsical, and full of charm. The setting and landscape are an important part of the design, frequently the houses are surrounded by lush gardens that enhance the fairy tale feel. In addition, the materials used mimic those of times past–leaded windows, stucco and timbering, cedar shingles, and so forth.

You can see some examples below:

Image credit: Scorpions and Centaurs

Image credit: R~P~M

Image credit: Carmel, California

The following homes were designed by a modern-day architectural company that specializes in this style, Storybook Homes:

These lovely dwellings aside, what are some other ways speculative fiction and imagination have influenced the real world?


    • Sarah Sawyer
      November 28, 2011 - 3:01 pm · Reply

      I agree! Or if you were particularly well off, any one of these would make a charming writer’s cottage, a place to retreat from the rest of the world and weave stories. πŸ™‚

  • Maria Tatham
    November 25, 2011 - 11:45 am · Reply

    Sarah, thanks for these!! Charming and refreshing in a world where architecture is often stark and functional, or bizarre.

    I’ve seen gardens, pictures of them, that look like habitat for gnomes and fairies.

    • Sarah Sawyer
      November 28, 2011 - 3:05 pm · Reply

      So much of the architecture today lacks imagination and charm, so I was happy to discover these lovely homes. I’m glad you enjoyed them too!

      I agree, the cottage style gardens have so much appeal and “scope for the imagination,” as Anne Shirley would say. πŸ™‚

      • Maria Tatham
        November 28, 2011 - 8:33 pm · Reply

        As Jamie said, it would be fun to live in one; or as you said, have such a retreat for a time! It might be a shock to live for a while in such a place (special world), and then return to our larger, sadder one.

        About cottage style, Anne Shirley style gardens to refresh us: our small city has a tiny municipal garden that you’d never know was there unless you’d been told. It has a short path overshadowed by a mini-pergola for small children to walk through. Or hobbis?

        • Sarah Sawyer
          November 30, 2011 - 12:29 pm · Reply

          I find such hidden treasures refreshing. While we don’t have gardens of that sort where I live (at least none that I’ve discovered yet), just down the road from me are several Civil War battlefields. It might sound strange that they would be peaceful places to walk and enjoy nature, but now they are.

  • John Hendricks
    November 29, 2011 - 6:32 pm · Reply

    Sarah, great website and blog. Nice to see other kindred spirits who are into our own little “fantasy worlds” yet they aren’t as much of a fantasy as people may think. Like you mentioned, there are some great storybook communities such as Hollywoodland (though many have been replaced by modern homes over the years), Carmel, and areas in cities such as Oakland, Portland and San Diego. I love this type of architecture and wish I could design more. You might also enjoy the Harry Potter theme park in Florida – not quite as storybook, but fun (at least it looks fun – I haven’t been there yet). I have some storybook posts of my own here including a couple small designs that are in the process.

    • Sarah Sawyer
      November 30, 2011 - 12:40 pm · Reply

      Thanks, John! It’s sad to think of these lovely cottages being torn down and replaced. I stopped by your website and enjoyed the lovely pictures you captured. One day I hope to make it over to the West Coast and tour some of those neighborhoods myself.

      Your storybook cabin is amazing. I love the charm and efficiency of the design. It must be satisfying to conceive a project and see it come to life as someone’s home. πŸ™‚

  • Sienna North
    December 4, 2011 - 11:32 am · Reply

    These “storybook cottages” represent an interesting circular cycle: writers borrow from life to create their stories, and people borrow from stories to create their life/houses. It’s interesting, though, that in the transmission, the realism of old cottages is often substituted for a beautiful illustration-type building.

    The house as a work of art is quite a lovely idea–I must see about doing something of the kind someday.

    • Sarah Sawyer
      December 7, 2011 - 12:11 pm · Reply

      Exactly! There’s something fun about the dynamic exchange between art and life. And the craftsmanship that goes into these homes is impressive. All the details are carefully fashioned, from door hinges to roof shingles. It’s quite a difference from modern, mass produced housing.

  • Emily
    December 5, 2011 - 6:49 pm · Reply

    Ah, these are just splendid! So quaint. I can only imagine what it would be like to live in one… or perhaps just own as a little gettaway cottage. They look so serene and peaceful, separate from all the cares of the world. I think the first one is my favorite. Great post, by the way! πŸ™‚

    • Sarah Sawyer
      December 7, 2011 - 12:14 pm · Reply

      Thanks, Emily! They do convey a sense of peace, an echo of a time we see as simpler, and their beauty alone is restful. One of the things I love about the first one is the lush woodland around it. It appears like the perfect spot for a retreat!

      • Emily
        December 7, 2011 - 7:31 pm · Reply

        Indeed! The serene woods and landscaping (if it can even be called that; it looks so natura! πŸ™‚ ) of the first one did stick out to me. It definitely played a part in what drew me to that one the most.

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