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Story Book Houses

posted by: The Royal Hotel on: February 07, 2020 06:32:44 PM

The Cranna House
Lakeshore Drive Penticton, B.C.

Image Credit: Meaghan Archer/Penticton Museum & Archives

"The Cranna House, built by Scotsman William Cranna, is a storybook-style home, based on English and Scottish cottage-style homes popular in Cranna's homeland. Cranna was a successful jeweler and former Mayor of Merrit."

During a walk on Okanagan beach on a recent trip to Penticton, I spotted a house that looked very similar to one here in Chilliwack. Curious about the whimsical look of both homes, I decided to find out more.
With towers, turrets, exaggerated chimneys, rough stucco, leaded glass windows and faux thatched roofs, these fantastical looking homes were dubbed “storybook style” and were popular from the 1920’s through the 40’s.

Chilliwack storybook style home on Kipp Ave.
image credit: Royal Hotel

Storybook style is best described as a blend of art and architecture with a dash of fantasy and whimsy thrown it. And it is where you would expect to see Snow White or other fairy tale characters happily residing.


This unique type of architecture has roots in French Normandy, English Tudor and Spanish Revival styles and made its way to North America via soldiers returning from World War 1. The small-scale homes became especially popular in California due to the influence of Spanish Revival architecture and the movie industry in Hollywood that contributed childlike charm and movie-set qualities to the whimsical designs.
Typical features in storybook homes include details that exude fantasy. With steep-pitched roofs, rolled eaves (that simulate a thatched roof); arched doors and windows trimmed with brick or stone the houses were handcrafted and individually designed.

Front entrance doors often were constructed from wide planks and adorned with heavy iron hardware and were usually recessed. Chimneys did not escape the design, were exaggerated and contributed to the doll-house look. Architects were free to use their creative and fantastical ideas to design unusual, fantastical yet liveable homes that still survive throughout North America.

Home on Maple Ave. in Chilliwack that displays some storybook home features.
image credit: Royal Hotel

These one-of-kind architectural gems would be cost prohibitive to build today requiring the specialized skills of craftsmen and large budgets to transform fantasy to reality.

Here is a link with additional information, including photos, from the Vancouver Heritage Foundation.
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