Steve Walsh visited the Roycroft Inn in East Aurora, New York, while he was in graduate school in the 1980s: “I still remember how captivated I was,” he says, describing his reaction to the simplicity of the spaces, the use of wood and stone, the metal strapwork and oak trim lit by glowing lanterns. “I knew that someday I would have a home furnished like this,” Steve says.
Fast-forward a few decades . . . Steve was in Seattle in 2011 to see his brother when he noted that picturesque bungalows are prevalent in many of the city’s older neighborhoods. It didn’t take long for Steve to decide to move to Seattle, where he bought a 1921 bungalow on a steep lot overlooking Lake Washington and the Cascade Mountains. Still charming, the bungalow had deeply bracketed eaves and its wide, covered front porch ran the length of the house. Steve imagined lemonade days during the long, temperate Pacific Northwest summer.
Inside, the living and dining rooms were open with wide archways in between, a space perfect for entertaining. Box-beam ceilings retained their period appeal. Living space was all on one level, a plus for later retirement years. Steve was committed to downsizing, so the house’s two bedrooms would be plenty.
Not to say there were no problems. The porch piers had loose bricks and were tilting. The bathtub in the single bathroom had leaked for so long that water had seeped into the exterior wall and created significant rot. The original double-hung windows remained, but they had been painted shut and many were missing their sash cords. A spider-web of old knob-and-tube wiring crisscrossed the attic, and there was no insulation anywhere. Most distressing, the previous owners had painted everything, including the fir woodwork, in a palette of French and baby blues to “freshen the house” for sale.
Woodwork is celebrated in Arts & Crafts homes, and Steve knew the importance of getting it right. Thus he started with the messiest job, ridding the woodwork of blue paint. He had every room stripped from box beams to baseboards. For refinishing, he chose a warm stain with red tones for the fir, remembering again the lustrous paneling and trim at the Roycroft Inn.
Steve chose earthy, nature-inspired paint colors inside, most from Sherwin-Williams’ Arts & Crafts palette: Ruskin Room Green, Studio Blue Green, Hubbard Squash, and of course Roycroft Copper Red.
For inspiration, Steve pored over vintage periodicals and books, including Roycroft founder Elbert Hubbard’s influentialmagazine The Fra. He combed antiques fairs and shows, and slowly the rooms began to fill with hand-hammered copper and brass lamps with glowing Handel and Quezal shades, elegant Roycroft copper candlesticks, bowls and vases, and serene woodblock prints—by artists from William Seltzer Rice (1873–1963) to today’s Kathleen West and Yoshiko Yamamoto. A collection of ca. 1900 orotone (gold-tone photography) views of local Mt. Rainier anchors a wall in the living room.
Previously remodeled, the kitchen was simple and functional. Walsh has done little but replace glaring can lights with ca. 1900 pendants made of hammered iron, brass, and slag glass, and paint the walls in Roycroft Copper Red.
Furniture in American Arts & Crafts interiors was meant to be sturdy and functional, revealing “honest” construction and with minimal ornamentation. With Roycroft interiors in mind, Steve chose a handsome but plain Morris chair by Limbert, which he put next to the fireplace with a Handel floor lamp to read by. He balanced the room with a Limbert settle and an L. & J.G. Stickley paddle-arm Morris chair. Linen curtain panels and table runners by Dianne Ayres help absorb sound and soften the rooms, adding to the Arts & Crafts ambiance.
Other kitchen approaches: oldhouseonline.com/kitchens-and-baths-articles/bungalow-kitchen-restorations
More recently, Steve Walsh redid the exterior colors. The bungalow had been painted white, which rendered it nondescript. A county tax assessor’s photograph from 1931 showed Steve that the house had timber and stucco pediments on the center gable and above the front porch; both had been covered with vertical board siding. Steve drilled small view holes through the boards and could see stucco and timber intact beneath. He removed the siding, repaired the stucco, and created a period paint-color scheme based on Olive #162 and Leather #066 by Rodda Paints, and Roycroft Copper Red from Sherwin-Williams.
The Bungalow's Exterior
A bungalow with three front gables, the house had been compromised when the stucco-and-timber treatment was hidden beneath vertical board siding painted white. The gables were restored and the bungalow painted in an Arts & Crafts palette of olive, brown leather, and copper red. Part of the porch was enclosed in the 1930s, creating the sunroom on the left.