The Center Entrance Colonial Revival is the most common house form in Massachusetts. These “Tract Colonial” homes often date back to the 1940s, and may have been renovated or altered, but there’s a “basic” form that is ubiquitous.
The Colonial Revival doesn’t have much to recommend itself esthetically. Additionally there are often problems with the proportions; the ceilings are sometimes a bit low, and since the builders were trying to maximize the number of lots on a street, the rooms are often a few feet narrower than one might wish. Since these houses are usually oriented squarely towards the street they may not take best advantage of the sun.
All these very valid complaints don’t alter the fact that this is an amazing house. There’s often a sense of neighborhood from the cul-de-sacs and abutting back yards. Between the closets, pull-down attic stairs, basement and garage there’s a fair amount of storage.
Most importantly, these houses are wonderfully adaptable about how they’re lived in, and small renovations can have a big impact on the space.
The front door opens towards the street, the driveway is to the right as you face the house. Standing in the front foyer you can look to your right to see the dining room. The kitchen is to the rear, with the kitchen sink under the back window. Still standing in the foyer, look to the left to see the living room which runs from the front to the back of the house, with an enclosed unheated porch beyond. The living room has windows only front and back, but has a glass door to the porch on the left of the fireplace and the window on the right.
The stairs to the second floor rise up straight out of the foyer. The stairs to the basement follow the stair line from the rear, and there's a half-bathroom/laundry at the back of the first floor.
Upstairs there's a master bedroom over the front of the living room, and a very small master bath above the foyer.
The three other bedrooms are small; one is over the back of the living room, the other two are over the kitchen and the dining room. Entered from the hall at the top of the stairs there's a bathroom directly above the first floor bathroom. Frequently the basement has been finished.
People who are determined to put their house to the service of their life can almost always make this structure serve their needs because the rooms can be used in many ways other than the original intention, so living comfortably in the Tract Colonial is really a matter of setting clear personal goals and a willingness to be a bit unconventional.
There are logical reasons to make very different decisions about the same house, and often the barrier to a life fully lived isn’t the house itself.
All of these households used their space in creative ways, and none tried to “stage” their home for future sale at the expense of their current needs. All of these home owners recognized the rooms as raw space rather than feeling bound by the labels conventionally applied to each room. This approach usually results in changes of space use every few years as the needs change. Owners who take this approach have a willingness to think of home as a place from which to live, rather than a place by which to be defined, as well as a willingness to be honest with themselves about their current priorities.
I didn't start out by thinking that Center Entrance Colonials were particularly lovely, but as I worked with families to mold the houses around them I gained respect for the structure: the house proved to be a wonderfully adaptable form, and I came to think of it as a type of house in which most people could live stories ranging from the conventional to the quirky in comfort.
Try thinking about how you would utilize a colonial house. Click the link below to take a Quick Quiz that lets you create a layout that fits your life-style!