Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

Bungalow Fever

Seattle is one of the "bungalow heaven" cities in the US, which seems to mean a city that had a strong period of development and homebuilding just at the time when the Arts and Crafts movement was in its prime. It's actually more complicated than that -- the affordability and social movements that bungalows represented encouraged the period of homebuilding they characterized. Bungalows were small, relatively inexpensive, and built to accommodate early 20th century domestic life. My own Minneapolis and St. Paul are bungalow heaven cities. Even my apartment -- which from the outside looks like a standard brick duplex -- is definitely Craftsman in its appointments and layout.

My apartment from the outside:

My living room:

My dining room:

See what I mean? Note in particular the ceiling beams, builtins, and use of wood. Plus the openness of the space -- there is no wall between the dining room and living room -- which was novel in 1914 when the place was built (although you probably can't see that in these photos).

Most cities with large neighborhoods of Bungalows have learned to appreciate them in recent years, and there is a large cult of homeowners who have been restoring these houses and furnishing them in period style. I think Seattle is at the forefront of this effort. People started in with serious restoration of Seattle bungalows, as a movement, over 25 years ago -- which is definitely the leading edge of the revival. There is a large and active association there of people interested in the Craftsman movement in general. Thus Seattle hosts an annual Arts and Crafts Conference which, this year, included a Bungalow tour. There were many, many people working hard to organize this conference, that was quite clear, and they all seemed to know each other as friends and colleagues. The conference and associated bungalow tour were the excuse for my trip there last weekend with my parents.

Before this conference I had noticed that the people I know who live (or have once lived) in Seattle just love love love the city. It's a city of civic boosters. All cities have their resident boosters, but there's something notably strong about the affection Seattle residents feel. San Franciscans and New Yorkers mythologize their city (and rightfully so), but Seattle love has a different flavor, a more pragmatic feel. So it makes sense to me that this love for the city of Seattle would extend to a love and respect for its characteristic architecture. There seem to be an abundance of volunteers who work with the Seattle Architecture Foundation to put on their tours, and they love learning and teaching about their city. My parents and I got to reap the benefits of that when we took the bungalow tour.

The day of our tour was quite rainy, even for Seattle, but everybody just plowed through. We walked through the streets in a section of the Ravenna neighborhood that is almost entirely bungalows, many built quite in accordance with Arts and Crafts principles -- including, most notably, the planting of a single large tree in the corner of the lot. These trees are now monstrous, which may not have been what Stickley had in mind. The tour included two interiors, which is always a privilege, to see private residences from the inside where the residents have treated the house well. The tourguides were full of energy and knowledge. It was almost too much to take in at once. After about an hour you stopped noticing all the bungalows and started accepting them as a matter of course. I was reminded of my trip to the Netherlands, which I described at the time as "Another Day, Another Rembrandt".

I suppose I could write here about some of the specific houses we saw, and what defines a bungalow, but that information is available elsewhere. What I want to note here is that it's a stimulating and interesting way to spend an afternoon, walking through a neighborhood of restored and maintained older homes, in the company of tourguides who love and appreciate the homes. I developed a renewed appreciation for my own apartment, and even for the similar neighborhoods of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

I described the trip to Seattle as something of a lark. I saw a web site about the bungalow tour, learned of the connection to the conference, and thought it could be a nice little trip. My parents and I agree completely that it was well worth the doing.
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