Various factors which have been influential in the design of the Turkish House have already been discussed in the chapters on “Historical Influences” and “Evolution of Form”. All these factors have led to the formation of the characteristics of the Turkish House. Once this house type was developed it was implemented all over the area delineated in the preceeding chapters,even though there might be great climatic differences between regions. Coming across the same open sofa both in an Antalya house and a Kutahya house is a clear indication of a stong tradition of design. This design offers provisions for both summer and winter uses within the same house, hence enabling the implementation of the same house type in many different climatic regions. Nevertheless, this does not mean that the Turkish house is a building which uses the same prototype all over. The house design is influenced by such factors as the way of life and production, the existing building materials and the construction technology incurred by their use, the topography and characteristics of the site, and the structure and wealth of the family. One other main factor is the distance of the region to a cultural centre. The most influential cultural centre was the capital, Istanbul. This was followed by Edirne and other significant cities. The degree to which the urban fashion was reflected to the suburbia depended largely on the density of the relations in terms of administration and trade between them. There has always been a tendency to imitate the style of the capital, although this has rarely been realized simultaneously. In most cases, by the time the rural centres adopted the styles of the city, the capital turned to a new or different architectural style.


The main building material in the Turkish house is wood and consequently the building method is generally timber frame. Although some information has been given on the origins of the timber frame construction in the section on the “Historical Influences”, it is difficult to say if this goes back to the times before the Turks came to Anatolia. The timber frame construction is compatible with the forest cover of Anatolia and the Trace region and is also preferable because these regions are within the seismic zones. Furthermore, this method enabled quick construction and therefore suited the needs of an ever expanding society, continuosly on the move.

For the same reason the details of wood construction are very simple; simple joints and nailed bindings have been prefered to complicated joint details. The broad-sectioned timber elements and carefully designed details seen in German, British or Japanese communities do not exist in the Turkish house. It is not just a coincidence that the same simple construction details can be traced in America, where throughout their history the people have been on the move towards the west.

This construction method also facilitated the reconstruction, within a short time when whole quarters were destroyed instantenously by fire. The way in which people view life also plays a role in the selection of timber frame construction: Human life is temporary; it is only natural that houses are also built to last for a temporary period. There is no reason for greed for wordly belongings. As a result of this outlook repairing or renewing the house as it wore out helped to update its style and meet the growing or new needs of the family. On the other hand the communal buildings and religious structures were built to last perpetually.

The timber frame construction also facilitated opening more windows; building projections and wide eaves. This provided control over climatic conditions, and enabled the building to breathe in humid climates which, in turn, helped prevent condensation and moisture in the rooms.

With boards, lathes and profiles used in combination, proportionate and rithmic divisions were provided on the facades, which were enhanced by effects of shadow and light and sometimes with the addition of coloured decoration, paintings and mouldings.


Generally the wall of the ground floor is built in rubble stone. It always has horizontal wooden lintels while sometimes it is a braced thick wall. The thickness of the wall can vary between 60 to 80 cms. The wooden lintels (courses) are placed at intervels of 1.00-1.50 metres. They look like a ladder; the short binding elements are connected to the long ones with joints or by nailing. The exterior of the wall is usually jointed. Plastering is rare. In some areas, pieces of brick and tile are embedded inside the joint bed. In the Akseki  region the ground floor walls are built of very small rubble stone without using any mortar and the joints of the wooden coursing which is layed at 0.50 m. intervals are exaggerated. They project from the wall surface so as to produce long shadows. Cut stone is orily found on the ground floor walls of very special houses. Sometimes two rows of bricks are layed in between the rows of stone.

One other material used in walling is adobe. The coursing and wall thickness in adobe walls is similar to those of stone walls. However, adobe walls are generally plastered.

The ground floor walls usually have no windows and for this reason they are very resistant. The timber frame construction may sit either on a stone }i ground floor 01 a base wall rising half a metre from the street level. This latter case enables the provision of a low basement which helps prevent
the humidity of the ground floor. In the open sofa houses, each column of the sofa sits on a single stone base.

The Upper Floors The oldest houses which still survive today belong to the 17th century. In the first half of this century three facades of the upper floors are built in stone and are a continuation of the ground floor. Projections are very few. If the top floor has a timber frame construction, the intervals between the studs-which have thick sections and capitals- are large There are occasional in-between studs and horizontal binding. The infill of the timber frame is of brick and brick mortar layed in jointed flat rows. The exterior of the wall is left unplastered. The upper course of windows are small and have pointed arches. They are about 70-80 cms above the lower course windows.
In the second half of the seventeenth century, although some exterior walls and specially projection walls are timber frame, the stove walls are built of stone and are thick. The walls of the rooms facing the sofa are plastered timber frame, with some painted decoration. The intervals between the studs are reduced and the sections are smaller. The width of the infill which is layed in a herring-bone pattern is half a brick. The surround of the upper course windows is plastered and painted in brick pattern. These still have pointed arches and are small but they are closer to the lower course windows. The projection sits on corbelling beams, curved supports are rare.

In the 18th century houses adobe has been generally used for the infill of interior walls while the exterior surfaces have been plastered. These walls were first plastered with mud and then with lime mortar. Only the corner studs were left unplastered. The beams in between floors were cladded with mouldings. In this way the plastered areas were brought to a minimum as a precaution against possible cracks, which can result from the working of wood. Sometimes canopies provided over windows left even less plastered surface. Patterns of alternating cut stone and brick were painted on the plastered surface.

In the 19th century houses the studs of the timber frames have finer sections while the number of the in-between studs have increased, usually being placed at intervals of 50-60 cms. Braces on both sides and interim bindings support the system. The projections sit on a mixture of  S or C shaped cantilevers. Under the influence of the empirical style, the architrave of the corner columns made to resemble the pilasters of the Tuscan order. The entire exterior surface has been plastered so as to give the impression of stone construction. In most cases the lower casings bf the windows run all along the wall.

These plastered houses of timber frame construction with adobe infill were built in Anatolia up to the 20th century and lath and plaster technique has been frequently used in the exterior walls. The facades which conformed with their style of the period, whether Empire, Neo-Classical or Art Nouveau, mostly acquired this appearance through the use of wooden eaves and mouldings or architraves.

In coastal areas and forested regions the exterior walls were clad with wood on the outside while lath and plaster was used on the inside. The use of wooden cladding in the exterior became more widespread towards the end of the 18th century. Formerly it was only used on the facades exposed to the prevailing winds, and on projections and bay-windows. This cladding was done in different ways, the simplest one being the weather bording technique. Usually the boards are 1.5 cm thick and about 15 cms wide. A more refined technique is the rabbet-joint. The thickness of the boards are 2.5 cm while the width is 25-30 cms. In the later period houses the centre is seamed Mouldings are nailed on the cladding at the corners, around windows and in between floors. Pine and chestnut are the most frequently used types of wood. The Empire, Neo-Classical and Art Nouveau styles have been imitated very succesfully in wood and very beautiful compositions and decoration created, starting from the architectural whole down to the most intricate details. The best examples of these are to be found in and around Istanbul.

In villages or ordinary houses, the infill of the timber frame construction was first woven like a basket with thin cut branches and plastered with mud reinforced with straw. Subsequently both faces were lime plastered and the exterior was cladded in wood. In some regions light tuft or small rubble stone was used as infill materiapo. In the Eastern Black Sea region the timber frame was divided into small squares or triangles and a single stone or few stones was placed within.


According to the unpublished draft notes of Pertev Pasha’s grandson Abdulaziz ibn Cemalleddin, on the customs and traditions of Istanbul, the mansions are surrounded by high walls. The courtyard of the mansion is entered through a double winged gate opening on to the street. Lanterns are hung outside on two sides of the wall. Right beside the gate, there is the room of the doorkeeper. Crossing the courtyard one arrives at the entrance of the “selamhk”, the mens’ quarter, where a stepping stone with two steps on either side lead to the entrance. Once passing through the door, one reaches a marble landing. There are fire pails in a row along the wall, while other fire-fighting equipment like axes and hooks are hung on the wall. A glazed partition separates the entrance from the sofa of the ground floor. The sofa is covered with mats and measures approximately l0xl8 metres. A tall grandfather’s clock with a glazed oil lamp on top is hung on the wall. There is a round marble table in the middle of the sofa. Arms and ammunition have been provided in a case placed against the wall for use of the guards of the mansion. The sofa is lit up with glazed oil lamps hanging on the wall. Around the sofa there are rooms for various wardens, stewards and servants of the mansion; private rooms for those in charge and two dormitories for ordinary servants. Next to the entrance door to the “harem” the ladies quarter, there is the room of the “harem kahyasi”, warden of the harem. The bedrooms of the three servants responsible for carrying the food trays and laying the table are also on the ground floor. There are around eighty people serving the selamlik which means that there should be around thirty rooms to accommodate them.

There is a double flight staircase leading upstairs around 225 cm in width. The sofa of the upper floor is just above the ground floor sofa and shares the same dimensions. Again, there is a round table in the middle, mostly of porphyry, with a chandelier made up of at least thirty candles hanging over it. There are two candlesticks with glass globes on the table. Oil lamps are hung on the walls. A large carpet covers the floor. There are huge mirrors over the consoles on two sides of the sofa: Vases and clocks decorate the top of the console tables.

The room for the daily use of statesmen faces the staircase. The corner rooms on either side are used for banquets. These rooms which measure around l0x18 metres, each have at least five windows and are very finely decorated. The doors of the rooms which are placed in the centre are double winged. There are flower niches on either side of the doors. Their shelves are made of porphyry. Inside these niches there are either silver candlesticks with five candles and glass globes or seramic china vases. A precious carpet from Gordes or Usak adorns the floor, a chandelier is suspended from the ceiling and there is a round stone table in the middle of the room. Again, there are a couple of silver candlesticks on the table with five candles each and with glass globes. The walls are oil painted and framed with five lines. The ceiling is covered with canvas and decorated with multicoloured floral paintings, with a round or oval medallion ornated with reliefs of flowers. Gilded frames and casings are often used. Lined, double-wing felt curtains decorated with silk ribbons and fringes are hung in front of the windows, which have gilded metal curtain rails.

While at the beginning of the 19th century the rooms had fitted seats (divans), on all three sides, this was later abandoned and seats were provided only against the wall facing the entrance. A few armchairs, a canopy and six chairs are placed around the room. The author Abdulaziz claims that the use of canopies began with Mahmud II. Hanging a landscape painting on the wall is among the newly introduced habits.

The seat in front of the window has matresses filled with wool overlayed with thinner cotton-filled cushions covered with fine materials. The seat cover is a red, woollen textile which is characteristic of Tripoli. A gold-embroidered silken cover with a fringed edge hides the front of the seat. Silk brocade with different floral patterns in velvet which is used for the cushions comes either from Bilecik or Uskudar. Large scale works of famous caligraphs within ornate frames decorate the two side walls of the room. These are usually hung in pairs with a globed candlestick carrying three candles placed in between. Two stoves, produced in Suleymaniye or Thessalonica and placed in either corner, heat up the room in winter. The two corner rooms are kept identical, as far as their furniture and fittings are concerned.

On the upper floor there are several rooms with different functions, apart from the private quarters of the owner: the library, the room fitted with armchairs is used for accepting visitors, the fur room is used for storing the many different furs worn by the household during daytime or in the evenings of the cool seasons and the ‘mabeyn’ room is an inbetween room separating the harem and the selamhk, where, when necessary the master of the house can meet with some of his high officials in informal attire, with only a fur coat worn over his nightgown. He a1so receives his tailor in this room. The books are placed in glazed casements in the library and in the middle of the room there is a small seat with a low reading desk in front of it. On the desk there is a writing set and candlestick, and on the floor there is a cushion for the book maste.

Meals are taken on the floor of the dining room of the selamlik upstairs. The candlesticks are not placed on the table, they are instead carried by two servants throughout the meal. Small silken cushions are placed on the floor all round the table. The quarters for prayer rituals are located close to the harem. Called the “Lihye-i Saadet” this area consists of a sofa, a mesdjid and the “Sakal-i-serif” room, which is also how the quarter is reffered to. The floor is covered with prayer rugs. Framed caligraphic panels and candlesticks are hung on the walls and there are brass candlesticks on either side of the mihrab. The men of the house perform the early morning, evening and bedtime prayer rituals here, accompanied by a private imam. There are separate toilets for the master of the house and his sons.

The stables and kitchen are in separate buildings. The stable can house around 50-60 animals. There is also a storeroom for barley, a barn for hay, utilities room and a water reservoir. The Vezir himself owns around ten horses and there are as many for the officials in his service. Eight of the horses are harnessed to the carriage while two are mounted by the attendants. There are two more floors over the stable. One for the grooms, the cartdrivers and servants and for the valued equipment, and another one for the rooms and dormitories of the cooks, the kitchen maids and the “kavas”. The kitchen is a large soace with windows on all three sides. There is a water reservoir beneath the kitchen floor. In front of an almost 10 metre wide arch there are the stoves, the oven, meat logs, vegetable boards, dishwashing basin and shelves for food ingredients of daily use such as salt and tomato puree. On the other side there are cupboards for storing 20-30 table tops, tablecloths, large trays etc. Food is cooked over logfire and chimney hoods exceed 3 metres in diametre. Apart from the kitchen there is also a large larder and storerooms for wood and coal, all under the responsibility of the chief steward.


The harem is entered through a door from the selamlik courtyard, but there is a second door opening directly onto the street. A high wall separates the gardens of the selamlik and harem. The door opens on to the harem garden and crossing the garden one can reach the harem itself. There is a wooden cupboard revolving on an iron rod, fitted into the wall separating the two quarters. This is used for exchanging messages or for serving meals without being seen. The sofa of the harem is fitted with rush mats. The other elements of decoration are very much like those of the selamlik. On the ground floor there are the coffee stove, the fine larder, the water storeroom, the coffee room apart from several rooms for various stewardesses and servants either in charge of or responsible for different tasks within the house.

A double-flight staircase leads up to the sofa of the middle floor. On this floor there is the room of the lady of the house, a guest room, rooms for sons and daughters, a storeroom and small apartments for married children. Also on this floor there is the private quarters of the lady of the house, comprised of a bedroom, sitting room, storeroom, library and guestroom. The decoration of these rooms are similar to those of the selamlik. The fitted seats or divans are still in use in the harem, they have not yet been replaced by armchairs or chairs. The divans can be either on all three sides of the room or if they are only along one wall, they are complemented with lower seats for three on either side. These may end with single seats propped up with cushions for the priviledged. On this floor there is the iron-railed and shuttered treasury room which can only be used by the master. In the harem, there is also a kitchen for preparing special meals. There is a laundry next to it. A private hammam meets the needs of the master and his family. The hammam quarters is comprised of a room with a window facing the garden, a tepidarium for dressing up and relaxation, the domed hammam with three tubs and toilets. There is a separate hammam for the ladies in charge and some of the servants. The private toilets of the harem cannot be used by anybody from the outside.

The selamliks of these grand mansions referred to by the author also serve as the official premices of the vezier in charge. Most of the state affairs are dealt with here. The employees serve the state but are payed by the vezier. The organizational framework is very similar to that of the Ottoman palace. Apart from the official responsibilities towards the state, each employee has the obligation to serve the vezier privately.