Tuesday, February 8, 2005

Why not here?

I love bungalows.

When we were visiting some of my wife's relatives recently, I took a few photos of a whole neighborhood full of them on Bainbridge Island, Washington.

What a beautiful historic district this is.

There are a few classic American foursquares scattered throughout as well, just like in my neighborhood.

Notice the nice details like the brackets above the garage door and under the eaves of the house. My brother-in-law also keeps an artist's studio above the garage. They just don't make houses like this any more.

Except that they do.

This development is only a few years old. The developer is a devotee of bungalow architecture (obviously!), as well as a fan of old-and-new urbanist neighborhood design: sidewalks, shallow setbacks, small lots, recessed, detached garages (too bad he didn't use alleys), no cul-de-sacs, and small "pocket park" public spaces.

The houses are all built with modern materials: hardi-plank exterior siding and shingles, double-paned windows, and painted epoxy-wood composite trim on the inside.

The developer made some courageous descions regarding the outfitting of the interiors of these houses. Instead of trying to attract typical suburban home buyers with "trophy house" teases like granite counters, Viking stoves, garden tubs, and "bonus rooms," he opted instead to include classic craftsman-style detailing: built-in bookshelves, transom windows, and pillared knee-walls.

These houses don't boast the square footage of the typical multi-gabled mcmansion, but they do have some very inviting spaces, congenial to a pleasant way of life:

The houses in this development sold like crazy, even with lowly formica counters -- and for very handsome prices. The neighbors have a strong sense of community, and their kids roam the sidewalks in small packs, as I remember doing as a small child. Public schools, a library, and a swimming pool are all within walking distance.

In Greensboro, there's quite a bit of unused urban space between West Bessemer, Wendover, Summit, and Yanceyville, and there's going to be even more if the car dealerships currenly there decide to pull up stakes. I've heard that they're planning to do so eventually.

Why not build some bungalows there?

Update: Reader Anna provides a link to the Cottage Company. My brother-in-law's house is in the North Town Woods development, built by The Bungalow Company.

Hawthorn Park is another bungalow community being built in Atlanta's historic Kirkwood neighborhood.

Here in North Carolina, Duke University's Trinity Heights neighborhood of bungalows and townhouses is now completely sold out.

If any of you, gentle readers, are well-connected in Greensboro's real estate development circles, would you please send these links along to the kind of people who could make something like this happen?


Anonymous said...

Are these by the Cottage Company? ( http://www.cottagecompany.com, featured in one of Sarah Susanka's Not So Big House books )

(I have no connection with them, just lust for their houses)

Anna in Calif.

Anonymous said...

We've been house hunting for a few months now. (We have the luxury of being able to take our time.) We've been looking at in-town neighborhoods mostly but decided we wouldn't be making an informed decision if we didn't take a look at what was going up at Reedy Fork. So two weekends ago, as a light snow started to fall, we drove up highway 29, telling ourselves that it wasn't too far out, expecially if it meant we might get a taste of country living.


The homes looked okay from the outside (most of them, a two-car garage serves as the entire facade of some models), the lots are small, but the prices reasonable. Nothing especially notable architecturally, but sufficient.

We ruled it out immeadiately though for one insurmountable reason. They've mowed down every single tree in sight. I'm not exaggerating. Every damn tree in the developed areas gone! Where construction was in preperation, it looked like a moonscape -- acres and acres of bald dirt. Where the new houses have been errected stood spindly new plantings, none higher than four feet tall; one or two per yard. It was pathetic. Considering that the surrounding land is well forested, I had to wonder what compelled the developers to destroy what could have been a rare and valuable amenity: mature trees. Maybe they think they know their market and I guess we are not it. At least we know where not to look.

- Roch

Michael said...

Infill development in a neighborhood like Aycock should probably be fake historic, just like these homes, to fit into the neighborhood. However, in new development this fake historic trend bothers me. Architecture is an art which must develop over time. We cannot remain stuck on past forms. We should be building progressive buildings that take from all of the best ideas of the past but also express new ideas. But I guess that this belief is not post-modern.

Looking at the picture before I read the text and learned it was a new development, I thought that something didn't look right; the garages were up front. I do like that they are detached though.

David Wharton said...

People in Bavaria still build half-timbered houses with architectural forms that have been used there for centuries because they enjoy them and they are an expression of regional identity.

Much the same may be said of the American bungalow. It's not necessarily "fake historic" to build or enjoy them. They simply appeal to people's aesthetic sensibilities.

I categorically reject the idea that architecture -- especially domestic architecture -- must "progress" according to some abstract aesthetic, and I reject it even more when this "progress" is enforced from above by highfalutin, high-profile, high-ego types like Philip Johnson or Le Corbusier. I have no interest in the new simply for the sake of newness.

The reason that traditional architectural forms are traditional is that they have lasting appeal to the people who use them.

Anonymous said...

But can't the twin concepts of "traditional and useful" and "progress, new for newness' sake" co-exist? I'd think that their co-existence is probably a good thing for everyone involved, traditionalists and progressives alike: traditionalists can take advantage of a small, ever-changing core of fresh ideas that can be incorporated into the tradition, while progressives have the existing tradition as raw material to appropriate, re-work, inspire, or reference.

I guess I don't give much credence to the theory that the "architecture as progressive art, everything must be new" attitude comes from "on high" so much. My experience with students in at least one top-flight architecture program is that many (most, even!) are deeply interested in traditional forms. Each of them is, in some sense, an artist, and they're all looking (of course) for their own individual identity in a semi-artistic way. But there's a heavy emphasis on history, on what has been done, on what works...

My feeling is that the disdain for "traditional" comes not so much from the progressive leading-edge architecture-as-art-and-philosophy types or the traditionalist-rear-guard who build and enjoy bungalows, but from the insecure architecture-critic middle. Too insecure to stick with tradition, but not talented enough to strike out in a new directon on their own...

Maybe this is just a generic rant about "critics."

Anonymous said...


I may have to sell my beautfiul 1922 renovated GBO bungalow soon due to a job move. It's not on the market yet because I can't bear to think about selling it. If you are interested in taking a look, my email is cehli@yahoo.com.

Anonymous said...

My wife and I fell in love with the original bungalows of California, and later Seattle. We stumbled across this neighborhood on Bainbridge, and purchased one of the last homes to be developed. We consider ourselves fortunate to be a part of the community. We actually live across the street from your brother-in-law.

Jill said...

I love the arts and crafts style, and I applaud architects like Christian Gladu (who owns the Bungalow Company) for trying to keep the Arts & Crafts aesthetic alive.

I live in a neighborhood of 1950's Cape Cods and ranches, and so many people are trying to turn their houses into McMansions or tearing the houses down and building them. Architecturally they're horrible-looking, and the ones that are a few years old are dated already.

Developers like the one cited in this entry are making the arts & crafts aesthetic available to people who want modern layouts with the good things about bungalows -- the built-ins, the simple lines and natural woodwork and materials.

I'd be perfectly happy to buy one of these "repro" A&C houses if we relocate. Thanks for posting the photos; I knew about this neighborhood but had never seen it.