Craftsman Bungalow Renovation

In 2015, we began a meticulous renovation of our 1917 Craftsman Bungalow home with a view of completing it for its 100th birthday.

LOCATION: Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada 

DATE: Built 1917; addition 1947

SCOPE: Restore exterior and surviving elements of a builder’s bungalow in poor condition; add a proper gabled entry porch; renovate the interior by introducing a more open plan through the use of period colonnades in place of extraneous walls; upgrade systems; create gardens around the house and extending to a shared space with one neighbour. 

The original porch had been enclosed as a sunroom; these owners added the new 9′ x 10′ gabled entry porch to expand outdoor “rocking and talking space.”

Tom Buchanan Photographics

The journey to our recent labour of love began when my wife, Aleyna, was a child. Her family of seven always bought large old houses, which inevitably required considerable repair. She grew up in established neighborhoods with many Craftsman-period homes. But Aleyna’s favorite was her grandmother’s Craftsman Bungalow; it boasted a wraparound porch with wicker rocking chairs, and was surrounded by lovely, old-fashioned perennial gardens: “Grandma’s house was special. I didn’t want to leave. I used to tell her, ‘when I grow up, I’ll want a house just like yours’.”

At that old house, the millwork of Douglas fir gave every room warmth. As did the built-in window seats, desks that flanked the library fireplace, the glass-front cabinets on either side of the living-room fireplace, and the large spacious kitchen with a built-in breakfast nook. The kitchen had cheerful windows overlooking the garden and bird feeders.

The fireplace sits where the door to the kitchen once was located. Millwork is Douglas fir; tile by Weaver Tile.

Tom Buchanan Photographics

When Aleyna started over after a divorce, in 2004, she spotted a Craftsman Bungalow for sale across from a small neighbourhood park, here in the historic London Road area of Lethbridge, Alberta. It brought back her childhood memories. The house needed a great deal of work, but Aleyna wasn’t concerned, because she grew up around renovations—and she’d built and renovated houses during her previous marriage.

A few years later I came into her life. I was game to help Aleyna bring about her vision of what this house could be. We spent our spare time reading through the many books and magazines on Arts & Crafts architecture, and even went to Pasadena to tour the Gamble House.  

The small lot has been designed for year-round interest and has discrete seating areas. 

Tom Buchanan Photographics

The small property was landscaped for maximum viewing pleasure from rooms inside. Before planting, the owners corrected drainage problems, and created winding pathways laid with antique bricks.

Once I had a better understanding of why Aleyna loved Craftsman style, I applied that to planning a renovation. We consulted structural engineers about how to reconfigure load distribution to improve the floor plan. With drawings done, there was no turning back.

The unheated front porch became an insulated sunroom—a welcome, south-facing extension of the living room. (“Alberta winters are long.”) 

Tom Buchanan Photographics

A great deal could be done in the basement regarding systems, enabling a change to the stairwell even while we lived in the house. During that time we also purchased all the authentic-reproduction lighting, electrical switches, hardware, doors, sinks for the kitchen and bathroom, plumbing fixtures, tiles—everything down to the doorbell cover, the house-number plaque, and the mailbox.

The master bedroom and en-suite bath now occupy the rear addition. The lamp is from Ragsdale Home Furnishings in Michigan. 

Tom Buchanan Photographics

Here in Canada, few companies are dedicated to restoration, so the majority of finish materials came from suppliers featured in OHJ and Arts & Crafts Homes magazines. We had items shipped to a border warehouse in Montana. Periodically, we’d go down for a pickup, saving on brokerage fees and shipping.

With planning and purchasing in hand, we were able to proceed to the aggressive stages of building. All the trades were lined up, permits were in place, and lumber was ordered. Demolition and removal of the old carriage-house garage came first. Then we proceeded to the main house, where we removed and stored many parts while the main floor was reworked. We rented a house a few blocks away while the house was unlivable.

Period-style vanities and medicine cabinets join a clawfoot tub in the master bath. 

Tom Buchanan Photographics

Aleyna began to struggle with a health condition that previously had been well managed; during demolition she was bedridden. A new medication led to an unexpected remission and she was able to act as general contractor, overseeing skilled tradespeople. I kept our clinic running, dividing my time to work on the house. We did 60 percent of it ourselves.

A tiled laundry room, a bedroom/office, and a three-quarter bath are located in the partial basement. 

Tom Buchanan Photographics

After we moved back in, we continued with finish details while prepping and painting the siding. This extraordinary journey tested our willpower, but we focused on the timeless beauty of Craftsman architecture. Our house expresses the love of home and garden.

The sink was moved to an exterior wall, overlooking the garden and trellis between houses. 

Tom Buchanan Photographics

A Better Kitchen

Counters are granite. In an area that had once been a down-the-hall rear bedroom, a breakfast nook was added.

Tom Buchanan Photographics

 The old kitchen, not original in any case, was awkward. It was reconfigured: the sink was moved to an exterior wall, overlooking the garden and trellis between houses. “We didn’t put a fence between houses; the feeling is more spacious, and we can look at each other’s gardens.” Featuring illuminated top cabinets with opalescent milk glass, custom cabinets were built by the Kitchen Centre in Lethbridge, Alberta. The island is Douglas fir. An additional prep sink is located in the center island; counters are granite. In an area that had once been a down-the-hall rear bedroom, a breakfast nook was added. 

The change allowed installation of a low china cabinet with interior lighting, which is visible from the entry door and provides visual continuity. 

Tom Buchanan Photographics

A period colonnade took the place of a wall between the kitchen and the breakfast nook. Opposite the breakfast nook, a new, wider opening to the basement stair was built, and the stairs reversed to counter their original steep configuration. The change allowed installation of a low china cabinet with interior lighting, which is visible from the entry door and provides visual continuity.

Opposite the breakfast nook, a new, wider opening to the basement stair was built, and the stairs reversed to counter their original steep configuration.  

Tom Buchanan Photographics

Submit your successful project, large or small, here.

Resources

hardware & lighting

Cape Cod Brass Retailer of superb period hardware 

Classic Accents Pushbutton light switches, wall plates, picture-hanging hardware 

Craftsman Hardware Online supplier of period furniture & cabinet hardware 

Destination Lighting Affordable supplier of period & contemporary lighting 

House of Antique Hardware Hardware & lighting from Colonial to Mid-century 

JDRS Craftsman Signs, plaques, house numbers 

Nostalgic Warehouse Well-crafted hardware in vintage styles 

Restoration Hardware National retailer with period-inspired furnishings, lighting, hardware, bath accessories 

Vintage Hardware & Lighting Hardware, sconces, chandeliers, lamps from Victorian to Art Deco

details & furnishings

Arts & Craftsman Seller of clocks, art tiles, textiles 

Arts & Crafts Period Textiles Embroidered & stenciled A&C pillows, curtains, portieres, etc.; period fabrics; kits; printed sheets; specialty window hardware 

Craft Home Craftsman-style home furnishings 

The Handwerk Shade Shop High-quality roller shades with period hems, stenciled decoration 

Mission Motif Virtual furniture showroom for Stickley & others; Arts & Crafts rugs; lighting; accents 

Ragsdale Home Furnishings Craftsman/Mission lamps & lighting, tables, small furnishings 

Weaver Tile Decorative & handmade tiles 


Tags: bungalow craftsman OHJ April 2021 renovation

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