Horizontal lines, open porches, square tapered columns, deep overhanging eaves, oversized brackets, and prominent stone chimneys are just a few of the characteristics of the Arts & Crafts bungalow made popular in the early part of the twentieth century in the United States.
A truly iconic American house type, the bungalow is as relevant today as it was more than 100 years ago. The design, always accommodating climate and location, is still popping up around the country. And it was this style that Carol Stevens gravitated to when she decided to remodel a 1950s cottage on Gull Lake in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Although the location was ideal—a serene lakefront setting with mature trees and gently sloping lawns—the mid-twentieth-century cottage was a mishmash of poorly constructed additions. Stevens turned to architect Michael Klement of Architectural Resources to see if the home could be salvaged and transformed. “We went through the crawl spaces, attic, and basement and decided to abandon the idea of a remodel, after several design schemes. It just wasn’t going to be cost-effective,” explains Klement. “Once the decision was made to build new, we were able to start with a clean slate—basically make the rules for the new house instead of the old structure dictating what we could do.”
“There were lots of ‘starter castles’ going up around the lake, but we were thinking outside the box,” notes Klement. “The client wanted a modest-sized house with elements of the Arts & Crafts style, so we focused on a bungalow style just under 2,000 square feet.”
Budget was a key factor and drove many of the design choices for the house. For instance, Klement designed the house in a truss configuration with rake extensions to give it the look of an old Craftsman. “This building method is much more cost-effective than the stick-framed approach.”
The front of the house, with a quintessential open porch and an eyebrow detail over the steps, presents a welcoming face to the street and offers a connection to the community. “The eyebrow is a bit of a departure from the historical Craftsman form and updates the look,” remarks Klement.
Another money saver was to use wood for all the trim pieces and columns but a synthetic shingle-and-clapboard siding. “This kept costs down tremendously,” states Klement. “The siding is also virtually maintenance-free.” Another telltale sign that this is a Craftsman bungalow is the stonework of the foundation, porch, and chimney. “We chose to use an architectural stone veneer, which is a less expansive material than real stone,” says Klement.
The lake-facing side of the home offers a mix of contemporary and historical architectural elements. A screened sitting porch on the first floor and a sleeping porch above connect the interiors with nature. The second-story sleeping porch, adjacent to a guest bedroom, resulted more from a desire to commune with the outdoors than from a choice to use a historical element. The idea was to allow the homeowner to feel as if she were camping out, enjoying the gentle breezes off the lake.
A low open deck, accessed through a set of French doors off the living room, is another way the home stays connected with nature. The second floor is designed with a bump-out with a shed roof to add architectural interest to the façade as well as add a bit of additional floor space in the bedroom.
Because it was a small house, Klement needed to get as much utility out of the floor plan as possible. “The house really is a ‘not so big’-inspired design,” declares Klement. “We moved away from the core idea that a house should be a collection of rooms but rather looked at it as borrowing from adjacent spaces. The interiors are essentially an open floor plan. In the layout, we created long-axis views through the house so it appears much larger than it is.”
Klement also minimized halls and corridors. “We did create distinct spaces, but did this without impeding enclosures or views.” For instance, the kitchen has a built-in banquette, but instead of creating a wall separating the bench and the hall, Klement designed square clustered columns that act as a colonnade so you can see through the spaces without the view being blocked by any enclosures. “The main floor has minimal hall space, and the one hall that does exist is open and purely for circulation,” points out Klement.
Taking cues from naval architecture, Klement used every inch of space imaginable in the home. A small powder room is tucked under the stairwell; a built-in bookshelf in the living room offers plenty of storage for books. A built-in banquette in the kitchen is also a space-saver. The interior woodwork creates interest and deep shadow lines; the clients chose a cherry wood in a natural finish for the interiors. Other Craftsman touches include the inlay of Arts & Crafts reproduction tiles over the mantel, and window fenestration offers rectilinear forms in the Craftsman style.
The house is casual, welcoming, and connected to nature, with many green features such as passive cooling, double-hung windows allowing connective airflow, and sustainable cork flooring. These are common-sense design elements that were always incorporated in the past. “The Craftsman style is really a humanistic style; there is a strong sense of quality and warmth to the design,” sums up Klement. “It has a handcrafted feeling, which conjures a visceral response. We first spent time learning the language of the Craftsman house, and it was only then that we were able to create something new.”Published in: New Old House Fall/Winter 2012