This Writer’s Home: Our Bungalow, What and Why

The home Marie and I built here on our mountainside property is a bungalow. No, not a dung beetle, not a buffalo, a bungalow.

log homeInitially we were certain we wanted a genuine log home, because they just look so GOOD tucked back into the woods and because their solid log walls are touted as being highly thermally efficient. So I researched the various species and shapes of logs used, construction methods, benefits and drawbacks. I read many personal tales of folks who had built a log home, what worked, what went wrong, and how they felt about it years later. In the end we abandoned the log home idea for several reasons:

  • Initial cost of building a log home is very high.
  • Difficulty of getting building materials to our building site.
  • Required maintenance for the first 5 years as the logs shrink and settle.
  • Annual maintenance of cleaning and sealing the logs is a hassle.
  • Most log species attract infestation by ants, bees, wasps, and beetles as well as termites.
  • Installing, maintaining and modifying plumbing and electrical wiring in solid log walls is difficult.
  • “Standard” log home floor plans include a great room with sweeping cathedral ceilings and a loft where bedrooms are typically located. We preferred a sense of “cozy” in our home – cathedral ceilings are far from cozy. These areas are also very hard to heat evenly in the winter.

While a true log home has a very “mountain” feel to it, it did not meet many of our long-term goals. This is to be the home we plan to grow old and die in. We don’t want to spend the rest of our lives constantly wrestling with maintenance on the house. We decided that a conventional bungalow style home would suit our tastes better.

What is a Bungalow?

bungalow styleThe book “American Bungalow Style” by Robert Winter and Alexander Vertikoff has this to say about the bungalow:

At the turn of the century bungalows took America by storm. These small houses, some costing as little as $900, helped fulfill many Americans’ wish for their own home, equipped with all the latest conveniences. Central to the bungalows popularity was the idea that simplicity and artistry could harmonize in one affordable house. The mania for bungalows marked a rare occasion in which serious architecture was found outside the realm of the rich. Bungalows allowed people of modest means to achieve something they had long sought: respectability. With its special features – style, convenience, simplicity, sound construction, and excellent plumbing – the bungalow filled more than the need for shelter. It provided fulfillment of the American Dream.”

Of course the “American Dream” has changed somewhat over the years since. Now it seems that humongous homes are the desired norm, even for young couples just getting started in life, and the bungalow has fallen out of favor with the majority.

So, what IS a bungalow anyway? The dictionary defines it as a one or one and a half story home. Good enough, but since the period when most bungalows in the US were produced; roughly 1880 to 1930, houses of virtually every size and style have been called a bungalow by their owners. In stylistic terms, a bungalow’s chief distinction is its low profile. The most often touted benefit of a bungalow was to place most, if not all, of its living space on one floor. The advantages of this are obvious; simpler, sturdier construction, easier utility installation, ease of maintenance, and no stairways to climb.

While some homes that otherwise fit into the category of bungalow have been quite large and commodious, bungalows are most often quite compact homes. They exchange impressive amounts of square footage for charm and warmth. They nearly always have a fireplace at their core. Though small, they are packed with artistic touches.

The name ‘bungalow’ is not at all difficult to trace. It originated from the Indian province of Bengal. The native dwellings; single story huts with thatched roofs, were adapted by the British for use as houses for colonial administrators. By adding elements from the army tent, the English cottage and exotic sources such as the Persian verandah, early designers clustered bedrooms, kitchen and bathrooms around a central living space, thus creating the essential floor plan of the bungalow.

This design moved to dwellings outside the Indian cities and into the Himalayas as British officers summer homes, then spread to other parts of the British Empire where it was copied and spread by the French, Dutch, Germans and Russians. Eventually this economically practical home style invaded America.

And now we have one.

Our Mountain Bungalow

Our Bungalow Home

Our new home has many of the essential elements, the interior styling is not strictly traditional bungalowish because the living room and kitchen don’t have beamed ceilings and an abundance of dark woodwork. Bungalows used light colors in the “back” areas to create a sense of brightness and airiness, but the core areas tended to display a lot of woodwork as well as carefully collected and displayed art pieces.

Our Kitchen / Dining Area

But our bungalow does make good use of space by offering a lot of built-in storage with solid oak cabinetry, even the pewter light fixtures and lever style door handles lend to the feel of the home.  Large, bright windows bring in lots of light and offer excellent views of the beautiful forested mountain ranges surrounding us.

We have carpeting only in the bedrooms.  Walnut flooring warms the living room, for the kitchen, morning room and hallway we selected a textured PVC tile flooring that looks a great deal like granite but doesn’t suffer from being as cold and hard as ceramic or stone floors.  In the bathrooms we chose a flagstone patterned vinyl sheet flooring.

Our Guest Bathroom
Our Guest Bathroom

Counter tops are a stone-like Formica with oak edge banding in the kitchen and ceramic bullnose edging in the bathrooms.  All utilize earth tones of greens, browns and some reddish hues.

Walls too use earthy colors but not in the brown hues one usually associates with earth-tones, but cantaloupe and peach, in the living room / kitchen /dining area and honeydew, sand, and seafoam in the bathrooms and bedrooms.

While bungalows eventually migrated into city life – sometimes comprising entire neighborhoods of narrow bungalows packed in side by side – they originated as country or suburban homes that were prized by those wanting to feel closer to nature. So we’re trying to retain that feel in our bungalow in the woods.

Fireplace 003
Our Fireplace

Marie has carefully selected dishes, accent rugs, lamps, and art pieces for their overall contribution to the style of the home. I am building the majority of the furniture for our home – as I can work them in. Arts & Crafts style furniture was very popular in bungalow homes and this happens to be one of the styles that I favor most in my own designs. So I will very much enjoy building it and being able to see and use the fruits of may labor for years to come.

When I create a piece of furniture for someone I often feel a reluctance to let go of it once it’s done; it is not just a product, it’s a piece of me. Because we ship our furniture all over the country, I rarely get to see where the piece ends up or how it was used. A few customers have sent me pictures of their piece in use in their homes, but this consideration is rare. I shall truly enjoy living in a house full of my own furniture.

Is this attitude too prideful? Maybe, but it is not intended that way; my purpose is not to inform every visitor that *I* built all the furniture. In fact I don’t plan to mention it any more than I would proclaim that I laid the septic and water lines. These are all tasks that needed doing, and with God’s help and the talents he’s given me, they got done. The motivation behind that statement is that I will enjoy getting to keep and use some of my own creations instead of shipping them away never to be seen again.

Friends and relatives have made comments like, “You must be so proud/excited/happy about your new home.” And, to an extent, each of these terms do apply but more than anything we are grateful. For we are ever so conscious that this is one of the many blessings that God has brought into our lives, not something we have earned or come to deserve for anything we have done.

A wise man once said that the path to true happiness is not to have everything you want, but to want everything you have.

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