Wondering how to decorate your bungalow for the holidays? Let this quote by William Morris, the father of the Arts & Crafts Movement be thy guide.
I grew up with a mother dedicated to creating magical moments for her family, & zhuzhing up the place for the holidays every year was high on the list. (Though her credo was,”Less is more,” I’m not going to swear that she was true to it.) In consequence, as the days at the Hare House, my 1910 Craftsman began getting shorter, & the weather started cooling, I was prompted to consider the holiday decorations that the Reverend & Grace Hare might have chosen back in 1910. Though childless, they had family nearby & were of sufficient standing in the community that it would have been expected that they would entertain. The Hares were reasonably affluent, with refined tastes, but they were not lavish spenders. The lot they chose was not on the prestigious Eagle Rock street of Hill Drive. The house had only two bedrooms & a single bath. In the bathroom they chose to use scored plaster instead of tile. The fireplace sported a modest hearth, covered in smooth tile rather than the more ornate Batchelder that was often seen in our neighborhood. I could not imagine that the Hares would change their habits for the holidays. My thought was to follow Morris’ inspiration & choose the simplicity of natural materials from Grace’s garden decorate my bungalow.
PLANNING MY HOLIDAY GARDEN
“The houses were decked with evergreens in December
that the sylvan spirits might repair to them and remain unnipped
with frost & cold winds until a milder season had renewed the
foliage of their darling abodes.”
~Quoting the Druids in CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS FROM WINTER’S GARDEN, The Craftsman Magazine, 1911.
My first bungalow holiday in The Hare House, was a year in the making. I moved in in December of 1998 & started thinking about the next Christmas. I had been living in a terrific Mid-Century hillside house in Pasadena. Because the Hare House was built before electricity came to that part of what would be Los Angeles, I didn’t feel like I would do the same celebration with the 50’s colored lights & Blow Mold Santas.
As I planted my garden beds at the Hare House, I thought of Stickley, & wanting to remain “unipped” in the cold winds of Los Angeles, I considered what might be good choices for Christmas foliage for my darling abode. Asparagus ferns are a total takeover nightmare, but I decided to plant a couple to use on the deep mantel & above the built-ins in the dining room. They bounce back even after the closest haircut & provide a nice fluffy element. I am in love with ferns, so I planted a few different types, again thinking of bedecking the halls.
CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS FROM WINTER’S GARDEN also suggested, “Of those bearing bright berries that we can gather from the woods or fields to adorn our homes at this Christmas season, perhaps the general favorite in the East is the holly—in the West it is the toyon. These two glossy leaved bushes of the scarlet berries are too well known to need words in their favor.”
I was lucky enough to have toyons on my property, perennial California native shrubs that had been trimmed into trees. Also known as Christmas berry, I knew that they would provide me with all the red berries that I would need. Fortunately, the tree in back produced a sufficient quantity that I could leave all the lovely, red berries on the tree to decorate my front yard.
When I left L.A. for Florida, I requested that my sister-in-law in California gather toyon berries & bring them to me in her suitcase. I adorned the mantel & sideboard of my 1925 bungalow with the little red berries from California, adding large, shiny magnolia, the tree of the South, leaves to the mix.
I crafted a fluffy wreath out of pine cuttings, added pinecones & a bow & hung it on my door to greet my guests as they entered, after walking up the poinsettia lined steps.
LET THERE BE LIGHT
Though Edison offered strings of decorative electric lights as far back as 1890, power would not come to Eagle Rock until 1914 so I used candles to re-create the simple, but festive holiday home of these people for whom I held such affinity & admiration.
I clipped branches of our huge, old pine which I augmented with branches of other conifers & fluffed up with the ferns I had planted the year before. These I piled the on mantel & the top of my sideboard, & strew across my dining table, then tucked in candleholders of various sizes. I added pinecones & the prickly little pods I’d gathered from the neighborhood. The pods I had sprayed gold & I handled them with care because they were full of nasty little stickers. For color I used batches of toyon berries & pomegranates from my local Trader Joe’s. I had considered apples, but discarded the idea in favor of the richer color of the exotic pomegranate.
My tree was fir. Since childhood my mother had taught me about Christmas trees adorned by candles. Because they came into common use in 1917, & the town where she lived had been electrified in 1911, I’m thinking that she, born in 1919, never got to have the experience of candles balanced on the ends of branches. My mother’s tales of these candles included stories of horrible fires so I didn’t go that route, instead opting for strings of white electric lights which seemed like a good (but sorry) compromise, though quite likely the Hare’s used candles on their tree. I had some of my mother’s childhood glass & celluloid ornaments which I embellished with the ones that I had gifted her over the years.
My mother loved tinsel & insisted that each piece be carefully draped a single piece at a time, over individual branches. Tinsel originated in Germany as strands of thin, beaten silver to reflect the light from the candles. Being affordable to only the wealthy, the next generation of tinsel was made of an alloy of tin & lead. I’m thinking that due to the avarice of the lead industry, which was allowed to continue for decades, both our families suffered the misfortune of handling this material.
The gift wrapping at the time was very simple, usually red or green or white tissue paper, or even plain brown paper. Modern gift wrap was invented by the Hall brothers, of Hallmark fame, in 1917 & it seemed a bit out of place in our simple holiday. I did use cellophane tape though, which was not invented until 1930. String & sealing wax were used prior & I’m an admitted Luddite but with the craziness of the holidays, I didn’t feel like sitting around manipulating hot wax around the noses of overly curious kitties.
”Would we not be entering more into the spirit of Christmas by going out to meet it, as it were, by searching for these aromatic symbols of immortality & bringing them into our homes, rather than by unromantically ordering wreaths, vines & branches from the florist’s.”
My decor was very simple but elegantly brought the aromatic, natural world indoors & clearly conveyed the spirit of the holiday. As I picked up my shears & my grandmother’s woven basket, & headed out to the garden with my pussy-cat, I thought of Grace Hare & my grandmother preparing for their holidays & felt the peace of the season.
ENJOY THE HOLIDAYS AT STICKLEY’S CRAFTSMAN FARMS
The Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms is a National Historic Landmark & historic house museum, located on the campus of Craftsman Farms in Parsippany, New Jersey. It was built by Gustav Stickley between 1908 & 1917 as the most complete expression of his “Craftsman” style & provides an unmatched opportunity to experience Stickley’s ideas about the impact of architecture, design, & landscape on a meaningful life. The Log House, which was the Stickley family home, will be decorated in period holiday décor & will be open for holiday tours. Their Crafts-Mas Open Houses are: Saturday, Dec 2nd Saturday, Dec 9th Saturday, Dec 16th Their holiday tours of the log house are: Dec 3rd: Tours at 12pm and 3pm Dec 10th: Tours at 12pm and 3pm Dec 17th: Tours at 12pm and 3pm
If you want to read about my family Christmas, & my wild uncle Bill, just click here.
Chimneys in old houses can be problematic. When you are buying a house, generally, your home inspector will frequently suggest that you have a chimney inspection performed by a specialist.
Why would you want to fork out more money on a house that you don’t own, to do this?
Fireplaces & chimneys are complex systems with many elements to consider. Like most specialists, veteran chimney inspectors can easily spot problems which might be overlooked by a less experienced person. Often, they have done hands-on repairs themselves so they have a greater reality on the anatomy of a fireplace, what problems they can develop, & how to remedy those problems.
Could there be a conflict of interest? Absolutely! So, you want to get referrals, maybe a second opinion. It is very important to have a bit of knowledge of fireplaces & chimneys yourself so that when they’re there inspecting, you can follow the bouncing ball. That’s why I have gathered these videos for you!
I also suggest that you read my article on choosing contractors because they can be very good but some, not so much!
WATCH CHIMNEYS IN OLD HOUSES
Chimneys Explained #01 – Masonry Chimneys (508)
A Step in Time Chimney Sweeps
A great video explaining the parts of a chimney & their functions in keeping your house warm & safe.
Chimney Inspection Michigan | Doctor Flue inspects the inside of a chimney (4:36)
The Flue Doctor
The expert explains some of the problems that can be discovered during a chimney inspection & gives suggestions as to their remedies.
Performing a Fireplace Inspection According to the InterNACHI® SOP (5:22)
International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI®)
This video delineates what your general home inspection will cover in the fireplace & chimney section.
Home Inspection – Chimneys
Another tour of the parts of a chimney & more examples of problems that a chimney can have.
For me, Ernest Batchelder, tilemaker (1875-1957) stands with the Greene’s as an icon of the Southern California Arts & Crafts Movement. Like the Gamble House, Batchelder’s home overlooked the Arroyo Seco & like the brothers, he took inspiration from the beauty of this area with its often dry, sometimes gushing river, the tumbled rocks & the magnificent California oaks that lined the bed.
Robert Winter, architectural historian, lived in his house from 1971 until his death in 2019 & was an expert of all things Batchelder, writing the definitive Batchelder history, Batchelder Tilemaker. Winter contributed hugely to our understanding of the Movement in Southern California. We see his delightful self here in the first video.
I’m going to allow the videos to tell his story.
THE TILE OF ERNEST BATCHELDER
House of the Green Rabbit: The Ernest A. Batchelder Bungalow (16:31)
Robert W. Winter Batchelder architectural historian & tile expert talks about the life & art of Batchelder. We get a nice tour of the home, in which Winter lived after his death & we hear from Alan Batchelder, the grandson of Batchelder.
History At Home: Ernest A. Batchelder
Pasadena Media (2:22)
More about Batchelder & his work & some views of more of his wonderful tiles.
Batchelder Fireplaces – The Cat’s Meow (5:20)
See some beautiful surrounds adorned with Batchelder’s tiles.
Handmade tiles with Pasadena Craftsman Tile
Pasadena Craftsman Tile
Tile artist Cha-Rie Tang creates custom handmade relief tiles in the Arts & Crafts style & Batchelder revival tiles. She’s who I want to be when I grow up.
Wondering if the tiles in your house might have been made by Batchelder? The Pasadena Museum of History is compiling a database of tiles & is offering to identify yours. Click here for more information on how to access this great service.
To see more examples of his art, visit my Pinterest page here.
Bungalows are well-known & loved for their abundance of moldings- strips of wood that are used to cover transitional areas, such as those around doors or windows. Bringing the natural wood in, wood beautifies & warms our homes like no other material.
All the videos I have chosen to tell you about making the correct choices in bungalow moldings, feature Brent Hull. Carefully researching traditional woodworking methods & materials, Brent creates custom historic windows, doors, cabinetry, paneled walls, stairs, mantels, moldings. He is dedicated to imparting his knowledge of preservation in his seminars & videos. I kinda love him!
Often, bungalows have sadly been stripped of their interior woodwork. The task of figuring out how to replace it can be frustrating. Bungalows are simple & it is easy to want to go beyond the original, more simple profiles & elements.
In these videos, Brett explains the history of molding & explains what to use in your bungalow.
History of Crown Molding and 3 things to consider. (7:09)
What about using crown molding in a bungalow? Brent has been doing some reading & he’ll tell you!
Moldings for an Arts and Crafts Home- Authentic details you need to understand.(
Brent Hull (12:00)
What is the proper molding for your bungalow?
How to Choose Good Moldings
Brent Hull (24:57)
Applying basic design principles to choosing your molding.
How and Why to Make Custom Moldings (5:52)
Brent advises, “The value of custom made is the difference between good and great.”
I’ve been telling folks about appropriate bungalow molding for a long time & nobody has believed me. Now that Brent is saying it….
I have learned a great deal about the Southeast U.S. from visiting house museums. After having read so much material on old houses, it is wonderful to visit the complete homes, most restored with the best preservation practices. Often they contain at least some original furniture & household goods. Generally you are provided with information about the family & their contributions to local history as well as a glimpse into their lives & the life & culture of the time.
I live in the Southeast, but I have toured house museums all over the U.S. & find each experience to be enlightening & entertaining. The videos are broken up by region so that you can hopefully, hop in your car & for a weekend getaway in time. This one, about the Southeast contains videos of many of the places I have been. Check back! I’m not done yet!
LET’S VISIT SOME OF THE HISTORIC HOUSE MUSEUMS IN THE SOUTHEAST U.S.
Cracker Country – A rural Florida living history museum (2:03)
The City of Tampa
This was my first taste of Florida history after having moved here from Los Angeles. I was rattled by the move & the 8 back-to-back hurricanes. Visiting these early homes served to ground me. My curiosity is always my best friend & Cracker Country opened wide the door to a whole segment of history & architecture with which I had no familiarity. Hm-m-m. Maybe
Truly one of the most stunning & creative houses in the world, the house is only one attraction in the Ringling complex in Sarasota, Florida. In addition to viewing the video, take a look at my post on the other attractions. If you visit Florida, you cannot miss experiencing The Ringling!
Relocated to Heritage Village in Largo, Florida in 2014, now, nearly 10 years later, the restoration is complete & you can tour this bungalow, built in 1915. In the Village museum are displayed Turner family artifacts, covering every decade since the home was constructed in 1915.
Constructed in 1895, the richly ornate Conrad-Caldwell House in one of America’s largest concentrations of Victorian homes, is a site of cultural & architectural significance to the city of Louisville.
I hope that you will have the opportunity to visit the historic house museums of the Southeast U.S. The rich history of the area is represented in these old houses & they contain much information about the development of the architecture, technology & culture that created our world today. They answer the question, WHY PRESERVE?