Take a look at these pictures, and tell me where you think they were taken.
Are you guessing an older, established city neighborhood or a close-in suburb in a part of the country with lots of stately, historic homes? St. Louis, maybe? Atlanta? If you were, that would be a logical conclusion -- but it'd be totally wrong.
In fact, I snapped these photos in a relatively new housing development on the outskirts of the Wine Country town of Sonoma, California, where we went for a weekend picnic.
I swear, this tract is the strangest thing. The houses all look like they're 80, 90, 100-plus years old (albeit perfectly maintained). But the fact is, they've only been there for a few years and were built to mimic the Greek Revivals, Victorians, Craftsmans, Colonial Revivals, and English Tudors that fell out of favor -- at least as far as "new" houses go -- when our grandparents or even great-grandparents were in diapers.
This sort of building with an eye to the past might be common in other parts of the country (the South and East, I'm guessing, where historic homes are both common and held in high regard). And, of course, there are the Disneyesque, "new urbanism" communities in places like Seaside and Celebration, Florida. But for a new development on the West Coast it's downright unheard of, at least as far as I know.
Sure, we have swaths of tract houses springing from the fields of exurbia that offer a vague nod to older home styles -- a little Mediterranean stucco and wrought iron here, some pseudo-Craftsman porch columns there. But nothing like this. (And trust me, it was even stranger when the neighborhood first went up a few years ago, with the faux-vintage houses seemingly plopped down on barren ground in the middle of nowhere. Nick and I used to drive through every time we were in Sonoma, gawking at the strangeness of it. It looks a lot less freaky now that the landscaping has grown in.)
I honestly can't decide what I think of it. I love old homes, and -- faux or not -- I certainly appreciate these styles more than what passes for "architecture" in most new McMansion construction these days (see photo at bottom).
But the neighborhood is such a self-conscious throwback -- at least on the outside; I assume the interiors of these million-dollar-plus homes are outfitted with granite kitchens and wine-tasting rooms and "spa-like" master baths full of tumbled travertine -- that it seems like more of a curious anachronism and an architectural oddity than a true community.
What's your take? Are there any new neighborhoods like this being built where you live? What do you think about the concept of "new-old" houses -- especially compared to the alternative? Post a comment and let me know.
(P.S. Also check out Melissa from The Inspired Room's related blog posts on the new house vs. old house quandary and the appeal of "new-old" homes.)