The ‘Serlio’ Floor

This floor frame is based upon a reciprocating design first recorded by the 13th Century French architect Villard de Honnecourt. He documented floor structures that could span a larger width than the timber could allow.

Here is his work

Many centuries later, his work was replicated by Leonardo da Vinci, who produced many different theoretical examples of this type of reciprocating pattern. Though he never applied these theories in an architectural format. A few years later the architect Sebastiano Serlio produced a series of books, and within one of these books he described a more complex variation of this design. Though this does not represent the simple four timber design, I adopted the name.

From Sebastiano Serlio. ‘Tutte L’Opere D’Architettura Et Prospetiva’


Here is my work

The principle is that a large span can be bridged with timbers that are shorter than that span and hence have less depth in section. In this frame it was necessary to reduce the floor thickness to gain height in the upper storey (just 1 ½ storey building), so having a practical and aesthetic benefit.

First picture here in the yard being load tested by structural engineers.  🙂

Timber ready to raise: with lambs tongue chamfer stops, hand planed & oiled.

Now have a think about the assembly, quite a fiddle given the joints were nice and tight. You can see in this picture the joint detail for the primary floor timbers.

Wall frame goes into place.

The finished article (before being spoiled by infill, insulation and all that nonsense!)

Full details on this frame here