Mott Schmidt Biography

Country Houses
by Mark Alan Hewitt

Schmidt's country houses explore the same themes and demonstrate the same strengths as his urban buildings. In them we find a characteristic fascination with elements selected from American and English Georgian houses, and a rigorous theme and variations process in which the model is adapted, restudied and refined. In the transformation of eighteenth-century manor house plans, Schmidt was required to make room for live-in servants, cars, household machines and modern mechanical systems, often within a very small and rigorously proportioned envelope. Schmidt's plans worked flawlessly from both owners' and servants' point of view, making the daily routines of country life function smoothly in a graceful environment. As Arthur Holden wrote of the problems in planning a country house in 1930: "No house is well-planned unless the unavoidable daily tasks may be carried out in it with the least possible irritation and monotony. But the well-planned house should be more than a tool to make life easy. It should stimulate those human faculties which make for cultural and racial progress. Thus, we might say in a few words that the ideal home is one where the vexations that make the human spirit mean and ugly are reduced to a minimum, and those influences which make the human spirit large and beautiful are increased." As Schmidt's clients would affirm, his houses epitomized this ideal.