Magazine article Sunset

Why We Still Love Bungalows

Magazine article Sunset

Why We Still Love Bungalows

Article excerpt

THESE HUMBLE. PRACTICAL HOUSES WERE BUILT FOR WESTERN LIVING. NO WONDER WE'RE APPRECIATING, RESTORING, AND REMODELING THEM.

The bungalow was the model T of home design. It took the country by storm. Usually one or one and a half stories, with a low-pitched gable roof, wide caves, a front porch, and an exposed cobblestone or clinker brick chimney, the bungalow offered craftsmanship and character at an affordable price. During its heyday, between the turn of the century and the Great Depression, it found especially fertile ground in California. Pasadena, for example, became an architectural incubator where bungalows burgeoned in the city's benign climate and Arts and Crafts-oriented milieu. A 1911 issue of Sunset called Pasadena bungalows "those nests of comfort for storm-harried Easterners, those lures to the romantic," and concluded that "the bungalowner" could live almost like a millionaire because he would not have to spend anything on health or fuel bills.

The rose-covered Pasadena, or California, bungalow quickly became a marketable symbol of affordable Western romance. Versions of it appeared in such diverse locations as Hanover, New Hampshire, and Sydney, Australia. You could buy a prefabricated model called The Hollywood from Sears. And the bungalow cropped up in postcards and even popular songs, like the one architectural historian and Pasadena bungalow owner Robert Winter croons in a rich bourbon-throated baritone to his college classes. Titled "In the Land of the Bungalow," this 1929 tune about Los Angeles tells of a man pining for his girl "in the land of fruit and honey, where it does not take much money, to own a little bungalow."

Now a new chorus is chiming in, and though it takes a lot more money to own one - a two-bedroom Pasadena bungalow that cost about $2,000 to build in the 1910s and 1920s sells for around $350,000 today - a bungalow appreciation movement is under way. Two new books on bungalows are due out later this year, adding to a rising publishing tide that includes reprinted plan books like California Bungalows of the Twenties, by Henry L. Wilson (Dover Publications, 1993; $8.95), and exhibition catalogs such as The Arts and Crafts Movement in California: Living the Good Life (the Oakland Museum and Abbeville Press, 1993; $35). …

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