Purcell-Cutts House, 1913, Purcell & Elmslie. Photos by Stephen Fox.

“Baronial in Scale”: Stephen Fox Does Instagram

Stephen Fox, architectural historian and Fellow of the Anchorage Foundation of Texas, led a Rice Design Alliance (RDA) tour of Minneapolis and St. Paul during the first week of June. Fox is the author of several books including forWARDS: Ten Driving Tours Through Houston’s Original Wards. Now you can experience his inimitable tour of the Twin Cities through Instagram @RDAHouston. Below, OffCite brings you his photos and words about the Purcell-Cutts house.

One of the highlights of the tour involved the smallest building we visited, the spatially ingenious house that architect William Gray Purcell designed for his family in 1913. The living room and upstairs bedrooms face southeast, toward the street.


By patterning the glass, Purcell screened out views from the street without blocking inside-to-outside views or the daylight. The roof overhang keeps sunlight from entering during the summer but not during the winter, when the sun is low in the sky.


The story-and-a-half living room seems baronial in scale …


… as level changes between the front entrance and the living room introduce a split section that opens up space in the vertical dimension. Behind and above the prow-shaped cabinet is the dining room, unified spatially with the living room beneath the continuous hipped ceiling.


Purcell meticulously provided for daily domestic activities, such as the living room writing nook to one side of the prow-shaped cabinet. Shelves and cabinets provide space for books, the upper window transmits highlight for general illumination, while the intimate view window invites daydreaming.


This wood slat grate at the threshold between the dining room and the rear roofed- and screened-dining porch of the Purcell House captures underfoot debris before it can be tracked into the house. (Thanks to Larry Lander for propping the door with his foot.)

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