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By Any Other Name

Buyers can pick architectural styles ranging from all-American to pan-European.

Houses are built to live in, not to look on; therefore, let use be preferred before uniformity, except where both may be had.—Francis Bacon

Certain architectural styles tend to instantly conjure images of Florida cities. For example, Miami has Art Deco while Palm Beach has Mediterranean. Sarasota has even spawned a post-modern style named for the city—practitioners are said to be adherents of the "Sarasota School"—while Key West architecture is exemplified by colorful, Craftsman-style homes unique to the tropics.

So, does Northeast Florida have an architectural style to call its own? Well, no it doesn't. In fact, of all the regions of Florida, the Jacksonville area is probably the most architecturally eclectic.

Following the Great Fire of 1901, which wiped out much of downtown Jacksonville and the surrounding neighborhoods, the region became a laboratory for adventurous architects who were involved in the huge rebuilding effort.

Older neighborhoods still reflect this diversity of architectural vision. Victorian, Mediterranean, Colonial, Queen Anne, Georgian, Greek Revival and Gothic Revival homes can all be found in Riverside/Avondale and Springfield, along with Prairie-style homes designed by disciples of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Now, although the so-called Golden Age of Jacksonville architecture may be past, new developments remain eclectic in their look. That's partly because, unlike other Florida markets, Northeast Florida retains a certain genteel, Deep South sensibility that is decidedly un-Floridian.

The landscape also dictates architectural differences. Jacksonville has the ocean, the river, marshes and innumerable lakes and tributaries that residents want to enjoy, and their homes are designed accordingly.

Finally, an aesthetic shift seems to be taking place—and it's not unique to Northeast Florida. Architects—along with builders in every price range—say homebuyers are tiring of cookie-cutter facades.

"Many of the people we meet with say they want their home to look different from their neighbor's home," says Larry Klaybor of Klaybor & Associates in Orange Park. "That all-stucco South Florida look is starting to wear thin."

Interiors, says Klaybor, continue to get a modern treatment, with the now-standard kitchen/casual dining/family room combination.

Russell Woods of Jaycox, Reinel & Associates in San Marco agrees. "The open kitchen, breakfast room, great room combination is something everyone wants," he says.

But beyond that, anything goes. As a result, Northeast Florida's new homes reflect as many architectural styles—and as many combinations of architectural styles—as there are buyer preferences.

Kevin Gray of Residential Designs by Kevin Gray in Deerwood says that if there's any indigenous regional style, it's likely to be Coastal Cottage—a design that can be one to three stories tall with comfy porches on each floor and a slightly boxy appearance.

Once seen in towns throughout the southeast Atlantic and Gulf coasts, the Coastal Cottage style was more recently popularized in neotraditional developments such as Seaside in the Panhandle and later in Celebration outside Orlando.

"We're doing a lot of those kinds of homes now and they're very popular," Gray says. "It's a style that fits the area and the way we live."

In addition to porches, typical Coastal Cottage characteristics include metal roofs and horizontal siding. And, if the home is more than one floor and located near the water, there may also be a third-story observation deck.

Clusters of such homes, newly constructed, can be found on Amelia Island and around St. Augustine, with individual examples popping up in new and established neighborhoods.

In addition to these retro cottages, Klaybor, Woods and Gray identified the following architectural styles as becoming more popular in Northeast Florida:

GEORGIAN

This symmetrical, rectangular design, usually made of brick, is an American classic, appearing in New England and throughout the South from 1690 into the 1800s. Styles such as Colonial Revival and Southern Colonial have Georgian roots. Georgian homes are two stories with wood trim around the windows—and, in some versions, shutters—along with white columned, covered entryways.

"The front door might have a Palladian window above it," says Woods. "It would have a steeper pitched gable roof of shingles or slate with triangular gable ends."

Although the basic form of a Georgian home is rectangular, there might be a one-story wing off the back or sides. A center hall layout would be typical, but a modern adaptation could have a front door that opens onto one large room.

Count on a brick or decorative concrete walkway leading to the front door.

MEDITERRANEAN

Although this style pays homage to European and North African homes around the Mediterranean Sea, the truth is, Mediterranean as an architectural style originated in the U.S.

"Most Mediterranean designs today were taken from Addison Mizner's work in Palm Beach," says Gray. "He traveled to Europe and took elements of French, Italian and Moorish architecture and created a fanciful style that worked in the Florida climate."

Locally, Mediterranean homes are likely to be characterized by low-pitched, barrel-tile roofs of red or orange tones, stucco exteriors and concrete balustrade railings with wrought-iron trim.

Loggias or arched porch areas are common, with decorative cast-concrete window surrounds. Mediterranean homes tend to be asymmetrical, with differing roof heights and irregular window placements adding interest. Tuscan, Doric or Corinthian trim might be added.

Inside, heavy cove-type moldings, stone or tile floors, textured walls and wrought iron accents would be typical.

SPANISH COLONIAL

Spanish architecture is often lumped in with Mediterranean and vice-versa, but shouldn't be.

"Imagine St. George Street in St. Augustine," says Gray. "That's Spanish Colonial. Essentially, it's a Colonial-style home, rectangular, without porches and it's covered in stucco."

Unlike Mediterranean designs, Spanish Colonial homes have steep-pitched, gabled—as opposed to hipped—roofs made of split shakes or tile. Entry foyers are common, although points of entry can be centered or to the side.

Exterior trim on authentic Spanish Colonial homes would be simple and minimal, with exposed rafter tails.

"There may be more detailing on the inside of the home, with arched doorways and relief on the trim," says Gray. "The floors would be hardwood, stone or tile."

Klaybor notes that some modern Spanish Colonial homes in Jacksonville opt for stone or stone-look cast concrete facades, arched exterior doors and stained-cedar detailing under the eaves.

CRAFTSMAN OR BUNGALOW

Jacksonville's older neighborhoods, such as Riverside/Avondale, are dotted with prime examples of one- and one-and-a-half-story Craftsman-style bungalows.

Bungalows have become quite popular on the resale market, but architects say some homebuyers are commissioning new versions of this classic look.

"A lot of people are interested in traditional houses with front porches," says Klaybor. "We've used some Craftsman-style and Prairie-style elements in some of the new houses we're doing. We've used lap siding, shingle siding and even some board-and-batten looks, plus column details."

Shingle roofs with long overhangs, brick chimneys and porches characterize Craftsman-style homes, which first became popular during the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th century.

The movement prompted a number of influential architects to abandon ornate looks and adopt a clean, organic approach that respected nature and used handcrafted materials.

In Craftsman-style homes, brick or stone may serve as a base for porch columns and windows are rectangular and may be shuttered.

Inside, rooms are rectangular with simple trim. In traditional floor plans, one room feeds into another, without much space devoted to hallways. Floors are generally wood.

FRENCH COUNTRY AND FRENCH NORMANDY

After World War I, American soldiers came home with notions of building homes like those they'd seen in France. Consequently, French architectural styles—from cottages to mansions—began turning up.

New versions of French-accented homes in Jacksonville have included the ultra-simple and understated Acadian style—which looks like a variation on the steep-roofed Cape Cod—and the more detailed French Country styles, with steep-pitched, hipped roofs, stone and masonry accents on stucco or brick fa├žades and rambling layouts.

Inside, exposed beans and stained or painted wood trim, textured walls and stone or wood floors might be expected.

"The French Normandy style is a little more elaborate," says Gray. "Often a turret of some kind will predominate, and the roof will have varying pitches."

Roofing materials could be metal in some areas, slate or wood shake in others. Exteriors would likely be stone stacked with heavy mortar. Windowsills or window surrounds may be small or nonexistent, but operable shutters are typical.

Stained, heavy timbered doors with iron accents are common, as are exposed clay flue pipes and eyebrow dormers.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Other styles architects are seeing in Jacksonville include Shingle Style, a big, rambling Victorian-era design featuring huge porches. The style is also characterized by a covering—sometimes including columns—of stained, rough-hewn shingles.

Another favorite is the Caribbean-inspired beach house, often a two-story structure with big, open galleries, large windows and possibly operable Bahamian shutters that hinge at the top.

"This is a laid-back style, rambling, that may have wraparound porches," says Woods. "The home will have wood siding with very simple trim and detail. Most of the windows will look out onto the porches."

Fittingly, both styles are perfect for coastal living.