Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Houses of James Means

Last weekend I attended the estate sale of a retired British antiques dealer here in DC and one of the treasures I picked up was a book on the Houses of James Means. I've been attending a lot of these local estate sales recently to feather my new nest.
The majority of Means's work is in the Atlanta, Georgia area and his name is still a catch phrase with many realtors in that region. A steadfast classicist in an age of modernity, his work heavily influenced Atlanta's residential architecture and many developers still working in the city. See a contemporary photo of the above house at Things that Inspire blog HERE.
What I find most surprising is that Means incorporated a lot of reclaimed materials to lend patina to his classical designs. Bricks from torn down churches, wood beams from barns, etc. This sounds very avant garde to many of us but Means was doing this as early as the 1950s! While rooms had been imported from Europe for generations before, actual building materials was a bit unusual.
His work was heavily split between beautiful Colonial and Georgian houses, and French Provincial. I love his lean interpretation of these French styles, many based on actual chateau.
The Haverty Residence in Atlanta was inspired by the James River houses in Virginia. No planting beds were created against the house in European fashion. The cobblestone parking court was saved from Atlanta cobblestone streets which were being torn out.
The brick on the front facade was reclaimed from the Federal Reserve in downtown Atlanta, the columns on the rear porch were rescued from another building downtown, the balusters in the terrace wall above were from a Charleston, South Carolina house and the heart pine floors throughout were rescued from a house in Athen's Georgia. 
The paneling in the interior was also built of reclaimed heart pine which took a year to collect.
The Hedges Residence was based on the Chateau Chantecaille in Touraine and sits on the crest of Lookout Mountain in Tennessee.
The brick, cobblestones, interior woodwork, doors and hardware here too were all salvaged from demolition sites. One problem during construction was to instruct the workmen to not make all of the salvaged materials too perfect and to keep some age on them!
The Moore residence in Atlanta was inspired by the houses of Charleston with a piano nobile above a full basement with double stairs to the main level.
The materials in this project were not reclaimed but were all hand-made or honed.
Each room features a custom designed surround and mantel with raised paneling and over-mantels.
A Palladian window at the staircase floods the front hall with light.  You never know what you'll find at an estate sale!


Bob Kerr said...

What a great post! The link to the contemporary photographs of his houses shows how well these designs stand the test of time. The book must be amazing...

Michael Hampton said...

Its why I love estate sales too! The book is a great find. I was not familiar with his work but will do some more research. Love the architectural drawings too!

Karen Albert said...

Stefan, what a great adventure to see these historic properties and pick up some special finds as well!

New 2012 Artists Feature

Divine Theatre said...

I didn't know you had a new home? I was out of the blogosphere for a while. I am going to scroll back and see what I can find!

The book is a real treasure.
I laughed out loud at the irony that he used bricks from the Federal Reserve, as I read several years back that the Federal Reserve has no gold bricks at all. I'm probably laughing alone. It's a Federal Reserve joke. LOL! My worthless economics degree, at least, allows for a good laugh from time to time! LOL! Insider humor...get it!?

Okay. I'm done.

I am off to Amazon to see if I can find a copy of that book!



The Down East Dilettante said...

I was only vaguely familiar with his work---and I can see I want to become better acquainted. Handsome stuff, well realized---if one is going to do traditional, do it well, no corners cut.

I'm off to see if the readers who got here first have left any copies for me to buy

Janet said...

Ah, sigh. Nothing like some classic architecture to get one's blood pumping. What a fun find. . . would love to know what else you found! J and I scored some great goodies at a yard sale up here this summer. . .

The Devoted Classicist said...

James Means was one of the Southern Classicists who led the way for quality design in revivalist architecture.

Kirk Dale said...

I am new to your blog having come here via the blog of Mark Ruffner.
I particularly like this post.
I think that my favourite is the Hedges Residence. I would like to have a grand avenue leading to the house when we build our own one.
Bye for now

ChipSF said...

What a nice selection of classical houses - the book looks like a real find! Congratulations.

ChipSF said...

What a nice selection of classical houses. The book looks like a real find! Congratulations. On my list now too.

ChipSF said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bumble at home said...

That's why I love auctions and what we call in Australia clearing sales you always find treasures that add unidentifiable layers to a house that give it individuality instead of the latest fad that everyone has.

smilla4blogs said...

Beautiful post Stefan...and all from a fortuitous find at an estate sale! I love the use of salvaged material which gives the houses charm. Way ahead of its time!

Congratulations on your new home!

Maria at said...

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If you want som decor advice..check out my new post:)

have a lovely day

LOVE Maria from

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your blog. My husband and I are the current owners of the Moore home. We love the symmetry and how it enjoys light throughout.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Anon, would love to see some current snap shots if you could email them to me!