From William Shakespeare to Walt Disney, Tudor Style Inspires the Imagination
No other design in architectural history has captivated the imagination more than the Tudor house plan --- with its rustic half-timbered exteriors, decorative chimneys, and romantic steeply gabled rooflines. The Tudor home has people rhapsodizing about its Old World charm and storybook appeal.
The Tudor style - named after the Tudor Dynasty (1485-1603) - originated in England in the 15th century. During this period, the country was in the midst of a major architectural shift: from the church-inspired Gothic to one influenced by the medieval era and the Italian Renaissance. Instead of the huge cathedral-like Gothic house plans, the English were now moving toward Tudor designs that were smaller but elegant. The style was made more inviting and attractive by its decorative chimneys, sloping rooflines, and half-timbered facades.
While the Tudor design originated with the English nobility and ruling classes, it slowly evolved into one that encompassed “ordinary people” and the “commoner.” In the English hamlets and villages, Tudor homes ranged from simple structures with thatched roofs and unmatched gables to the more elegant country homes and castle-like properties of the wealthy and landed gentry.
The World’s Most Famous Tudor Home
William Shakespeare lived in what is now one of the most famous-and-most-visited Tudor homes in history, a house believed to have been built around 1529. Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway, was raised in a beautifully quaint cottage with a lush garden in a little village of Stratford-upon-Avon.
Shakespeare was born and raised in this Tudor-style home (left) in Stratford-upon-Avon. The home on Henley Street stayed with the family till 1806. In a small hamlet within Stratford, Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s wife, lived in a 12-room cottage with the thatched roof (right).
The Tudor Revival Style in North America
In North America, architects who were fascinated by the picturesque designs of the English Tudor home and the timber-frame buildings, created their own updated versions – ranging from stately manor homes to more modest “English cottages” and storybook houses. Known as “Tudor Revival” in the U.S., the style started emerging before the Great Depression – when the economy was on the rise. Although it faded in the background after peaking in popularity from 1910 to 1940, the Tudor Revival is still very much in the architectural landscape and loved for its versatility and fanciful flair.
A house straight from a storybook… with gables of alternating heights and a chimney with a chimney pot. (#126-1110). Walk through the foyer of this two-story, four-bedroom Tudor house plan (right) and step into a spacious Great Room, perfect for entertaining.
Design Features of a Tudor Style House Plan
Walk through a neighborhood and you can spot a “Tudor” right away – for its most iconic feature - the steep gabled roofline with decorative half-timbering. Usually, one-and-one-a-half to two stories, the Tudor house plan also has several of these characteristics:
1. Asymmetrical plan – unmatched gables of varying heights
2. Stucco or brick exteriors
3. Tall windows with small panes
4. Arched entryways
5. Large decorative chimneys with chimney pots.
6. Decorative half-timbering that gives the impression of the original post-and-beam construction from medieval times
Check out this two-story house plan (left, #127-1034) with the decorative half-timbering, tall windows, and arched doorway. A lovely and spacious Tudor “cottage” (right, #153-1715) with landscaped front yard has three bedrooms, three full baths, a porch, deck, Great Room, parlor, and a fireplace.
Tudor Designs in Literature and Entertainment
One of the most delightful and whimsical architectural styles, The Tudor Revival house style has figured in numerous films, adaptations of novels, and television series. The Tudor design continues to enthrall those attracted to the English cottage and castles with their turrets and moats.
Tudor Style and the Magic of Disney
Nestled in Los Feliz, California are eight Tudor cottages which served as the inspiration for the home of the seven dwarfs. According to movie folklore, Disney animators lived in these cottages while working on the animated “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”
The cottages appeared again in Mulholland Drive (2001) as the Sierra Bonita Apartments.
The one-bedroom Tudor cottages (circa 1931) were built around a courtyard with a tower in the middle patterned after the French Norman style.
And Walt Disney's fascination with Tudor style architecture didn't stop there. At Anaheim’s Disneyland, Tudor style architecture inspired and graced much of Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom.
Tudor Design in Jane Austen’s Life and Works
One of the more popular novelists of the 19th century, Jane Austen, lived in homes that had traces of the Tudor design – first at the parsonage in Steventon (Hampshire County) and Chawton Cottage. Austen wrote six novels that were a social commentary of her age. Critics and historians applaud “the quick wit, the sharp insight, and the deep emotional intelligence” she brought to Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Mansfield Park, and Northanger Abbey.
Renderings of Jane Austen’s childhood home in Steventon… and the 1820 renovation by her brother Edward- showing the dormers and chimneys with the chimney pots- reminiscent of the Tudor style.
In this picturesque Tudor-inspired cottage, Jane Austen completed her major novels and forever made a name for herself in literature.
Fast Forward to 1995 to the “Rediscovery” of Jane Austen’s Literary Classics
When Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility were adapted for the screen, the set locations were so realistic, you almost expected Elizabeth and Jane Bennet to step out of “Longbourn”; or Elinor and Marianne Dashwood to come out of “Barton Cottage” ready to work in their gardens.
“Longbourn” – Luckington Court, the location for the Bennets’ ancestral home. The tall windows with small panes and the thatched roofs of the adjoining cottages are features of the Tudor house style.
“Barton Cottage” – Efford Cottage with its traditional Tudor elements: dormers, tall and narrow windows, and chimneys with chimney pots
Tudor Style Resurfaces in Downtown Abbey
More of the Tudor house style is recaptured in the film locations of the critically acclaimed television series “Downton Abbey” – the story of the Crawley family and their servants during the reign of King George V. The family lives in the fictional Downton Abbey – which is really Highclere Castle in Hampshire.
Highclere Castle in Hampshire, UK is the real “Downton Abbey” and home to the Carnarvon Family.
In addition to the opulent “Abbey,” there are modest homes, which are more in the Tudor style – like the Dower House and Matthew Crawley’s home (shown below).
The Dower House in “Downton Abbey” (left) with its dormers, tall windows with small panes and matching chimneys and the exterior of Matthew Crawley’s home (right).
Tudor Style Today: The Romance Continues...
Over the years, the Tudor style shed some of its signature features and a “new look” Tudor emerged. It is now more symmetrical – usually one or two stories – without the half-timbered exteriors. The gabled roof is still around and sometimes, the chimney with chimney pot. The interiors today often embrace an open floor plan with high ceilings.
A few “modern” Tudor house plans are shown below.
On the left is a two-story, four-bedroom home (165-1014) with stucco and brick exterior and an open floor plan. A one-story home with four bedrooms, a gourmet kitchen, breakfast nook, family room, fireplace, and a library.
A two-story, three bedroom updated Tudor house plan (left) with formal living and dining spaces, and island kitchen that opens into the family room. A large kitchen with breakfast room is the highlight of this two-story, four bedroom Tudor style house (Plan #168-1063).
From the tranquil beauty of Jane Austen’s Chawton cottage to the modern Tudor Revivals all over the world, and in the fictional lives of the rich and not-so-rich, the Tudor style continues its fanciful flair and storybook appeal.
Do you have a favorite Tudor style home from literature or film? Or maybe, just around the block?