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Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Okie Influence

Over the years I have been enamored of the work by R Brognard Okie.  He was an architect, active in the period from the early 1900's to the 1940's in suburban Philadelphia.  He worked mainly in a Colonial revival, vernacular Pennsylvania farmhouse style which gained great popularity in this period in the Philadelphia, Main Line suburbs.  In Okie's hands it was far from the cliched mannerisms you might expect.  He managed to inject a light hearted sense of fun, the unexpected twist, as well as some exquisite craftsmanship which defies what otherwise might be a conventional expectation.  In a way, he is a sort of side step from the English Arts and Crafts work of Voysey and Lutyens (whose work he followed closely), to the more formal modernism which took over in the 50's.  It is no accident that he spent a summer interning for William Price, a Philadelphia architect whose work is often seen as one of the main stepping stones to modernism in this country.  He also received commissions on straight Colonial restorations (Betsey Ross house, William Penn's homestead overlooking the Delaware- Pennsbury), but for the most part his work was for clients in the suburbs wanting to create their own Pa. vernacular homestead, colored with a hint of whimsey and craftsmanship as seen in the Arts and Crafts movement.

I've done some Okie style houses in the past, but usually just as projects for my own amusement, magazine articles and such, hoping to lure some clients into enjoying the warmth and interest of his work.  This year, I've done several homes based on some of his projects and had them rendered by Bud Lichtenwalner to help promote the style and look which is so perfectly suited to a home in SouthEast Pennsylvania.  (I'm not so sure it would look right in Florida).  There is a timeless sense of appropriateness that the homes seem to exude to me as a native of the area.  I'm not sure why we so often look to Europe or the South for our inspiration, when our local heritage is so rich.  In any event here are some of the renderings we've had done recently.  At bottom is a proposed addition to my Mom's house done if not in an Okie style, at least in a Pa. vernacular manner which blends with the Colonial revival style of the existing.  It was originally designed by the local firm of Jacoby and Everett in 1937.  Herb Everett was a Penn grad, like Okie, and no doubt was quite familiar with the popular Philadelphia style at the time it was done in the mid 30's.  In a shameless plug, the house is available for sale now (without the addition).  See it here:
Another link to Southbrook Farm is here:
That is the model for the home on the right above.