Big house, little house

A few weeks ago on a Thursday Doors post, Denise at Fernwood Nursery suggested I read “Big House, Little House, Back House, Barn.” So, I checked it out from my local library.

It tells the history of the attached houses in old New England. I smiled the whole time I was reading through it. My grandparents’ small dairy farm had the same layout. If you click the layout photo, it will enlarge and you can see that  it all makes practical sense.


My grandparents’ big house included a dining room, parlor, bathroom (no privy in the 1950’s, thank heavens), and four bedrooms. The small house was the kitchen and attic. The back house housed a woodworking bench and tools, a mud room type area including clothes lines, and a woodshed. From this area, you walked right onto the main floor of the barn with a hay loft above and the cows down a flight of stairs. Good memories.

I liked that book so much, I bought my own copy.

I wanted to share some other examples of this type of home so I drove down the road and captured these photos.


These old New England homes just always warm my heart, but I know once they are gone that will be the end of an era.

Practical matters keep this type of home from being constructed today. There are very few farming families and not many of them would even need something this large, it is very expensive to keep up, and there are major fire hazards.

I consider myself lucky that I can drive around town and still sees these beautiful examples of days gone by. 🙂

On a totally different topic, if anyone is using a Mac and running Photos as part of OS X El Capitan, and would be open to a question, would you drop me an email. I updated last week, and I have one stumbling block I can’t seem to find a solution for. Thank you. If not, I guess it’s back to Portland and more slabs.  🙂

About Judy @ NewEnglandGardenAndThread

Master Gardener who enjoys gardening, quilting, photography, and traveling.
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46 Responses to Big house, little house

  1. What a wonderful story and photos of these houses and how nice to live close by!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Norm 2.0 says:

    Wonderful shots. As I mentioned on your Thursday Doors post, this was totally new to me but it so makes sense for our climate that I just don’t know why it was never done here too. I have to look into it further.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Laurie Graves says:

    I grew up in a house just like that!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. joey says:

    I have never seen anything like this, so I’m all kinds of interested and impressed. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. pastpeter says:

    I love this old style! When we retired to NH I hoped we could live in one of these, but they are much too large for our needs and require so much upkeep. Even many in-town older homes have this same interconnected layout – everyone needed a mud room, woodshed and barn!


    • When we moved up here, I wanted to live in a barn that we could renovate. That was my dream until I got the estimate. Then, once I picked myself up off the floor I got back to reality. We have a big barn that needs a new roof so I hold my breath every time we have high winds hoping I don’t look out and see tin sailing through the air. 🙂


  6. A perfect fit for the climate and work of those times, like the dogtrot-style home in North Carolina that my grandmother was born in.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ogee says:

    Now I know how to redesign the rescue! 🙂 Perfect.


  8. fernwoodnursery says:

    So happy you liked this book, Judy. It is a great read and story of the practicality of attached buildings! My very good neighbors barn is built with several attachments…I love going there and looking at all the stuff that gets ‘stored’ or left in these areas before entering the house. They tend to also be a ‘ catch all’ for things that don’t need to go into the kitchen. Great post!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Dan Antion says:

    That’s a very interesting book and concept. I worked in a house like that when I had my cabinet shop, but I didn’t understand the layout until today – Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Joyce says:

    My impression was the same as yours – how simply practical a place to live with everything laid out like that! We still can’t seem to figure things out – a few decades ago, people ditched a separate living room from a family room in favor of a “great room.” Now it seems the trend is reversing to the former arrangement. If I had cows, I’d want to live where I didn’t have to go outside to feed them!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Nancy says:

    Such beauty! And that is why I want to travel to New England to see such beauty! And how practical it was and really still is!
    I don’t have a MAC. Sorry…

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Paige says:

    I have this book … always fascinated me!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I like looking at them and thinking about the lives lived there too. I have never been in one. Sometimes I think that houses were added on to as families and financial means grew. I especially like the indoor clothes lines. Just being practical me I guess but how much easier for the women in the winter since they didn’t have dryers then. Hanging things over chairs and racks all over would get old!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. germac4 says:

    I love those photos of barns and houses, so beautifully kept, I feel as if I have jumped right into a story book. New England looks lovely, especially in the winter.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. What a wonderful piece of social history Judy! The houses are very beautiful too, delighted to have learned something about New England!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. They are lovely photos, and very nice homes. It is interesting how what we need in terms of a house changes over the generations. I went from Aperture to Lightroom, so I am not using Photos, I’m sorry to hear you are having an issue, best of luck getting it resolved.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Well this was such a fun read! So interesting and I am glad that some examples were close by!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. pagedogs says:

    I loved this post and will have to look into the book. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. So beautiful. You’re indeed fortunate to be able to hop in the car and tour these beautiful homes. Thank you for sharing, as I fear they’ll be long gone before I have a chance to visit that area.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. pbmgarden says:

    You do live in a picturesque area. The homes are wonderful. I use El Capitan and Photos. Will try to help if I can: pbmgarden(at)gmail(dot)com


  21. Eliza Waters says:

    With connected buildings, you didn’t have to go out in inclement weather. Like you, I relish these old homesteads. You might enjoy this ode to the farms that we are losing.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Nadezda says:

    These old connected houses Judy reminded me our Northern houses, there big house was connected with barn and farm with cows, horses etc. The weather was not warm there and people lived in such houses so similar to New England’s ones. I love your photos especially the first in your collage.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That first house looks like the homeowner has sufficient funds to keep it in pristine condition. The reddish/brown house has a new home owner and he has been doing a lot of DIY on it . The gray house has been on the market for a couple of years with no one living there. It is falling into kind of sad condition. I like thinking about the families who built them and raised their families there – another day, another time. :-).


  23. Grandma Kc says:

    Are you sure you don’t just want an excuse to go back to Portland for those slabs?! I would!

    Those houses are beautiful and I’m glad you found a book that brought back such wonderful memories for you. It really is sad that most local farmers are gone, same in Michigan.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Beautiful old houses, built when space and heating were not at a premium.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. treadway says:

    That really is the sensible way to build….till you don’t have to get out in the weather. I hope those places stay around a long, long time.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. reocochran says:

    Oh my goodness, I looked back at this post and it brought some happy memories of riding in a car through Ohio to New England. Many unique houses are located in the country side around Massachusetts. My Great Aunt Marie was in her 60’s (my age) and no children. Her love story was one of my first year’s stories. Her husband, Petey, lived married bliss only 10 years out of her 90+ life. She took me under her wing, since I spent my 16th summer in Rockport. We would go to Ipswich to get a clam roll or out for ice cream heading into the farming areas. Stopping along our way home to get blueberries. These multiple connected buildings look very familiar and beautiful post. That book looks great, Judy.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Sammy D. says:

    Fascinating! So delightful to learn about historic countryside in the far reaches of our magnificent country – we truly are a multitude of riches.

    Liked by 1 person

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