The lobby-entry house is the typical house of a child's picture: a door in the middle, a window on each side, and a chimney above it. It was the basis of English domestic architecture for many centuries, and marks the transition between the Middle Ages and modern times. The key element is the chimney.

In the Middle Ages all housing from the shepherd's cot to the baron's castle was arranged around a central room with a fire to heat it. The smoke drifted up to the roof and out. A small house might have nothing more than a bit of storage space on an upper floor, and that only at the side of the open room.

Peace came to England in 1485 with the end of the Wars of the Roses, and in the 1500s was followed by increasing prosperity. There was a building boom in the latter half of the century especially. Small landholders adopted patterns suitable for their families, not for feudal entourages ranged around a great hall. By directing the fireplace up a chimney they freed the whole of the upper space. It could be covered over in its entirety and divided into rooms.

The lobby-entry pattern is the most efficient use of space in a small house that needs a staircase and a chimney. The chimney goes up the middle. It warms the rooms that adjoin it at both levels and on both sides. Behind the chimney is the stairwell, and in front of it is a lobby, a small anteroom that allows the outer door to be opened without sending draughts through the inner doors that lead to the main rooms on either side.

Beyond this basic shape, you can, depending on your wealth and pretensions, add wings, or a porch extending the front door forward. These derive from the older nobleman's house with courtyards within it. In the new climate of peace and the centralized state it was no longer politic for citizens to build fortified houses, but the styles trickled down into the middle class and influenced vernacular design.

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