RICHARD P. FEYNMAN, FLOWERS & HISTORIC BUNGALOWS

RICHARD P. FEYNMAN, FLOWERS & HISTORIC BUNGALOWS

“I have a friend who’s an artist & has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say ‘look how beautiful it is,’ & I’ll agree. Then he says, ‘I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart & it becomes a dull thing,’ & I think that he’s kind of nutty,” states Richard Feynman, scientist, teacher, raconteur of renown & not incidentally, an accomplished conga drummer.
“First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people & to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is … I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes.
The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery & the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.”
Richard P. Feynman, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman

OK, BUT WHAT DOES PHYSICS HAVE TO DO WITH BUNGALOWS?

I never really understood why I take such joy in learning, talking & writing about bungalows. Why am I compelled to know these things about bungalows? What force makes me read Jane Powell’s books, with their truly dreadful puns & teeny-tiny print again & again? Why is every day off spent visiting old house museums & driving around vintage neighborhoods & end with a visit to an antique store?

Thank you, Richard P. Feynman. It’s to experience the other dimensions of bungalows.

When I look at a bungalow, I see its rich philosophical, aesthetic & emotional history- the degradation of the culture caused by the Industrial Revolution. I honor the memory of the wee ones who worked barefoot in the factories to provide a morsel of bread for their families & I honor William Morris’ goal to revitalize this debased society through aesthetics.
I see the long extinct old growth forests & the hard & dangerous lives of the men who cut them down. I see the boys lost in war & the mothers who grieved for them. I see the celebration of new lives being conceived, born & dying on big brass beds.
historic bungalow advertisementI see architecture born of the culture & technology of the times.  I see Stickley’s perception of the intrinsic beauty of the log cabin. I see the joyous anticipation of a family waiting at the station, for their kit house being delivered by the 5 o’clock  train. I see the joy of recapturing the details lost to trends, foolish decisions, economic necessity & outright greed.
I see neighborhoods once united by trolleys tragically bifurcated by highways, but now joyfully united by purpose. In my heart, I see those with whom I have shared this purpose. Some of them are only a phone call away, & some of them, I mourn.
Looking at a bungalow is a rich, comforting, calming but refreshing experience for me. The purpose of my blog is to memorialize those who created & lived in these wonderful houses, those who taught me so much about them & fought with me for their preservation & to share all this with you, so that when you look at a bungalow, you too can see it in all its dimensions.
BEFORE YOU HIRE AN OLD HOUSE CONTRACTOR

BEFORE YOU HIRE AN OLD HOUSE CONTRACTOR

Hire a ContractorI wrote the E-book, 7 VITAL Things to Do Before You Hire a Contractor, after reading terrible & sad stories on the old house, Facebook, group blogs. In every single story I could see the exact moment at which the project fell apart, the money got ripped off, the house got ruined, the heart got broken. After 45 years as a specialty contractor (wood floors) & old house restorer (5- here’s the most awful one!) I have seen my share of horrifying surprises, so I decided to write a little book in hopes of making someone else’s path a wee bit smoother.

I established my company based on the firm policy of always exceeding the customer’s wishes & any time I failed to do this, examined every step of the process to find out how I could make it better next time. It’s always easy to cast blame on the other guy, & with any failed job, there is always plenty of blame to go around. However, there was always some piece of it that I had to call my own whether or not it made me highly uncomfortable to do so.

So I took my experiences on both side of the contract to see if I could create some advice that would be useful to a homeowner when they leap off the cliff & hire an old house contractor.  I’m a big believer in jumping off that cliff & building my wings on the way down, but it helps to at least have a bag of feathers & maybe some chicken wire before giving it all up to gravity.

This article is just a teaser. To get the whole book, you have to sign up for my mailing list. But that’s a good thing to do. You’ll like it!

HIRE AN OLD HOUSE CONTRACTOR- STEP BY STEP

INTRODUCTION

You have purchased a 100 year old (give or take) bungalow. You have your home inspection in your hand & you want to move forward on your restoration. You are not a DIY’er & do not plan to be one. You have a demanding job, perhaps a family & other responsibilities. You’ll need to hire an old house  contractor or contractors, & you’ll be depending on the kindness of strangers to turn your house into a home. So, how do you find the best strangers?

I wrote training manuals for 40 years so I am big on proper sequencing & I loves me a checklist. So here are my suggested steps.

  1. What is a bungalow? What are best restoration practices?
  2. What are your own needs?
  3. How do I find good tradespeople?
  4. What else do I need to know about them.
    A. Referrals
    B. Reviews
    C. Go legal.

It’s only at this point that you start talking to people.

  1. How do you conduct the first interview? What should you ask? What should you request?
  2. The Proposal- what should it include?
  3. How do I make sure that the restoration is satisfactory?

I go through each one of these steps in detail, in fact, each step is a section with sub-sections! I like to break it up to make it easy to understand & doable. I talk about your goals, your expectations, your money, & living life on a jobsite. I spend a great deal of time addressing the contract because that’s the basis of all that will transpire.

(That having been said, I am not a lawyer & this is not to be construed as being legal advice. As is the case with this entire book, it is friendly advice- my tale of what has & what has not been effective for me. While I’m at it, I will mention that I have done all the steps I suggest & still gotten a crappy project. ‘Tis the human condition but, when I haven’t done it, I have gotten a crappy project 100% of the time!

I have no training beyond what I got in a ballet studio, no credentials, no licenses, no nothin’ in the construction trades nor in law. I have only my experience from which I draw & I can boast of losing over $50,000 on a single project because the contractor should have been in jail!)

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A VERY MERRY BUNGALOW CHRISTMAS

A VERY MERRY BUNGALOW CHRISTMAS

My first bungalow Christmas, in The Hare House, my 1910 Craftsman was a year in the planning. Built before electricity came to that part of, what would be, Los Angeles. 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 & didn’t feel like I would do the same Christmas with the 50’s colored lights & Blow Mold Santas.

As I planted my garden beds at the Hare House, I considered what  might be good choices for Christmas cuttings. 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.

I was lucky enough to have toyons on my property, perennial California native shrubs that had been trimmed into trees. Also know 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 its lovely, red berries on the tree to decorate my front yard.

My family lives in Northern California, my brother in the woods, so I had bags of pine cones, of all shapes & sizes. I invested heavily in candles, at the after Christmas sales & searched eBay for the perfect embroidered A&C pillow. I found it!

Of course, Mahjong was the most beautiful item of decor during any season. He loved having his picture taken & trotted around with us as we went from room to room, always posing charmingly. I think he looks like a tiny yak, here in his long winter coat.

BUNGALOW CHRISTMAS AT THE HARE HOUSE

By the next year, I was ready to host Christmas. I invited my family, mother, brother & sister-in-law from the Bay Area & Uncle Bill from Westwood. Uncle Bill was ever the life of the party. When I was a tiny girl & the family was gathered, my mother used to ask whom I wanted to put me to bed. Every time it was Uncle Bill.

Always looking like he was ready to leap out of his chair, even in his 90’s, Uncle Bill was a conductor & music teacher. One of his students said of him, “he believed in learning music indigenously, innately.” There was nothing contrived about him. He swore like a sailor, but had the vocabulary of a professor at Antioch, which he & his 2 siblings had attended, before WWII. Antioch had been his salvation after having grown up in a small town in the South with a father who belittled him for his interest in music. My rather stern & imposing grandfather insisting that he couldn’t make money as a musician & encouraged him to pursue a career in business, like his older brother who took over the family bakery when my grandfather passed.

Bill was always a crowd pleaser, holding court surrounded by women despite his homely appearance, telling tale after tale. My favorite story is the one he told about being in the Army, expecting to be deployed to the front lines in Germany. He was terrified. At the 11th hour, he was chosen to instead, play in the Army band. He guffawed as he recounted his experience of going to bed that night & peeing all over himself in his sleep out of sheer relief.

Bill was one of the most alive people I have ever known, a totally entranced listener, no matter how dull the recital & the perfect uncle for a little arty girl who also did not march to the beat of the family drum.

CELEBRATING IN MY TAMPA BUNGALOW

Now this is the kitty who likes to play with everything. In his world, everything is a bug, a mouse, a lizard. Watch your shoelaces. He’s comin’ for ’em! Drawstring pants- watch your tummy! Yet, he never once even batted at an ornament, never tried to climb the tree, never disturbed a package ribbon. Other than lounging under the tree, & walking on the fully set dining table dipping his nose into each glass, nothing about the holiday seemed to interest him at all.

California Christmases always made sense to me, though I never saw a snowflake & when we wanted to light a fire in the fireplace, we opened all the windows & turned on the fans. Florida Christmases just made me think of plastic flamingos in Santa hats on the lawn under a palm tree, or the jolly old fellow himself, lounging on the beach in a Hawaiian shirt, margarita in hand.

So, the family came to Tampa. We went to the beach, We hit the botanical gardens & admired the flamingos. My husband wore his Hawaiian shirt peppered with ornaments. My brother wore his with pictures of Santa surfing. And I used cut magnolia leaves on my mantel.

I guess I was right about Christmas in Florida!

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE OF RESTORING AN OLD HOUSE?

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE OF RESTORING AN OLD HOUSE?

old-houseI long ago discovered that the biggest challenge of restoring an old house is battle fatigue. It’s extremely easy to get disheartened. I know I’m not your mother (Disclaimer: I think I’m everybody’s mother.) but I restored a Folk Victorian & learned some great lessons. I had to, in order to survive! I also had to keep going so that I would lose only $50,000 instead of $250,000.

I started the restoration with a more experienced partner who thought it would be a great project & when it turned out not to be, of course bailed on me. And, not surprisingly, my contractor was a complete bozo who bailed on me too-a blessing in the end.

To make things even more crazy, soon after I purchased the property, the Recession hit hard so my wood flooring company lost over $30,000 that quarter as we feverishly slaved12 hours a day to keep jobs coming in & our guys’ families fed. And every dollar I put into the restoration, working on it in my non-existent spare time, turned into 50 cents. Kind of like black magic. The really awful kind of magic that turns fluffy little kittens into poisonous bufo toads before your very eyes.

WHY DID I TAKE ON THIS CHALLENGING OLD HOUSE RESTORATION?

The wonderful neighborhood in which the house was located, Tampa Heights has a rich & colorful history as Tampa’s first suburb & boasts a large historic district. Most of the houses are lovely Victorians, bungalows, some Med-Rev’s with a smattering of Urban Renewal (Boo! Hiss!) infill. After decades of neglect & resultant blight, it has an active neighborhood association I was eager to contribute to its revitalization. Additionally, I’d also never put my hands on a Victorian & was looking forward to dolling it up with periwinkle paint & gingerbread. However, the house was in bad shape & the challenge of restoring the old house was ridiculous. Yet, I continued on with the delusion that someday I would have a living room (L) & a kitchen (R), looking out on the back yard, which of course was nothing but a patch of tall weeds.

restoring-an-old-house-before

JUST HOW BAD WAS IT?

Here in Florida we joke that the only thing keeping an old house standing is the termites holding hands. Well, that was pretty much the story here. I ended up saving only a tiny amount of the original structure. Everything we touched just turned to dust. Pretty much every piece of lumber had to be replaced-walls, ceiling, floors, windows-everything.

challenge-of-restoring-an-old-house

STEPS TO BEAT THE AWESOME CHALLENGE OF RESTORING AN OLD HOUSE

So what did I do in order to keep my wits sufficiently intact to get through this awful mess?

1. I focused on purpose. I have been a dedicated & vocal preservationist my whole life. My mother, born in 1919, taught me about the times in which she grew up & about her mother’s life on the farm. I loved those stories & when I grew up expressed this love by preserving the built environment where these lives were lived.

As a neighborhood activist for many years, I know the power of neighborhoods. I had been connected with the neighborhood association from pretty much the first moment I arrived in Tampa Bay. The first house on which I put in an offer was just around the corner. I knew & loved many folks in the area who had put blood, sweat, tears, time, $$$ & heart into revitalizing this terrific remnant of Old Tampa.

2. I took really good care of myself. My inclination when I get stressed is to head for the ice cream & potato chips. I chose veggies & protein instead & religiously took my supplements. I went on at least one walk every day & did my yoga stretches. This point is very important because if you fail to maintain your health, it becomes more difficult to perceive, to think, to make good choices & to maintain your jolly disposition.

The challenge of restoring an old house can make you old. Time & money, the main buzzkills in life are being stretched to the max. Whatever you thought it would cost, you’re going to 3X it. You’re going to sleep less, worry more & even with your PPE, you’re going to be in contact with some grisly stuff.

Yeah, I do think I’m your mama, so watch these videos on health & nutrition. I am so not kidding here.

3. Part of my staying healthy was making sure that I did not expose myself to construction debris. My first walk through of the house resulted in a sinus infection that lasted 8 weeks. I got myself a nice stock of N95 masks & made sure I wore one any time I went in after that. I learned this lesson doubly hard when one day, I stopped by, maskless & decided to just peek in. At that very moment, a wall came crashing down like nuclear blast of mold & plaster dust. And probably cockroach detritus. I was filthy from head to toe. I went home, totally grossed out by the clothes I had been wearing & jumped in the shower. A second 8 weeks of painful nose. I expanded my mask policy to include peeking in.

This is a group of videos about the importance of wearing the correct PPE. It applies any time you are on a jobsite. Whether or not you are performing the work, you are in a potentially unsafe environment.

4. I made a list of the tasks that needed to be done in sequence. Each step that looked scary, I broke down into bite size bits. If they still looked scary. I chopped them up more. This is the important part. The chopping.

5. I evaluated my resources, determining what I needed for each of my steps & wrote a plan for securing items/people/skills that I didn’t have. My contractor was a scumbag who showed up some days but not others & left the jobsite such a mess I got cited by the City & had to buy many materials twice. Hey! This is Florida! If the termites don’t get it, the moisture & the heat will. And Code Enforcement’s riding right behind!

I got rid of him & called everyone I had ever known searching for a replacement. This took quite a bit of time but I had already experienced the time & money that could be wasted with a funky contractor. In the end, I hired a construction manager. He was an extraordinary man with many years of experience & a he had a very kind heart. He lived in the next county so he visited one time, gave me a sound plan of action & the rest of the project was accomplished by phone & photographs. I paid him by the hour & he worked to keep it minimal. Things got so much easier with someone who actually cared on board. Not easy, just easier.

There was still a ridiculous amount of work to do, including going backward because we had missed some framing inspections. Here in tropical storm country they take those hurricane clips seriously!

I kept 1 through 5 going because without those I was doomed. It is too easy to become discouraged during an old house restoration & allow those things to slip. Too busy, just a few potato chips today- I’ll be better tomorrow. Nope! I held firm making sure my special treats gave me the nutrition I need to withstand the stress of running a project 37 levels about my knowledge base. I focused on one task at a time, completed it & moved on to the next. I love check marks & I accumulated them like a miser with his gold.

7. I celebrated every win & tossed the failures out the window. (I had quite a pile!) I stoked that purpose by cruising the internet for gingerbread choices & pictures of restored Folk Victorians to keep me looking forward. Finally, it was time to face the last challenge of restoring an old house- go outside in the Florida August heat, humidity & mosquitos to plant the garden. We’d wait until the sun went down when it was marginally cooler, put on our bug repellent (Mine was olive oil with crushed garlic which didn’t smell too great but made my skin quite lovely.) pick up our handyman, don our headlamps, & work on the dark gardens for an hour. Any longer was unbearable.

Restored-old-house

And then one day, it was complete & I received my certificate of occupancy & the newly restored house was added to the inventory of contributing structures in the historic district! A few months later, I was awarded a banner from our local preservation advocacy organization for my “outstanding historic preservation project.” My beautiful little periwinkle with plum doors, Folk Victorian!

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CHILDHOOD PETS IN MY BUNGALOW NEIGHBORHOOD

CHILDHOOD PETS IN MY BUNGALOW NEIGHBORHOOD

by Barbara Farrar (October 6, 1926 – March 29, 2011)

Child-with-dog-in-front-of-bungalowAs I recall the years of my childhood spent in “Tampa Town,” I am always cognizant of the changes that have accompanied our metamorphosis into a much larger city. One of them has impacted the daily lives of today’s neighborhood children. It has to do with pets and the different role they presently play. In those days, we all had pets, but they were not like the pampered, purebred or exotic ones prized by children today. They were “adopted” stray dogs and cats (Heinz 57 variety), plus many other varied forms of wildlife….and I do mean wild.

You see, Seminole Heights was not thickly populated, and was surrounded by acres of undeveloped woods. The Hillsborough River was a source of water and habitat for the native animals which frequented our bungalow neighborhood, and to which we children were hypnotically drawn. Likewise, they seemed to trust us, and we openly, or surreptitiously, fed them. Occasionally, these wild visitors were injured or just seemed sickly, so we established a “hospital” where we took turns caring for them. This was usually in one of our garages. Baby birds, squirrels, bunnies, possum and raccoons were frequent patients. We also cared for field mice, injured water birds, bats and songbirds. We raided our families’ medicine chests for various ointments, antiseptics and bandages. Produce boxes that came with ventilation holes made great cages. Chicken feed, cat and dog food and milk were the usual infirmary diet that kept them alive. However, I must admit that the survival rate was not very high. But, you can be assured that each deceased patient was given a full funeral from casket burial to flowers and a headstone in a nearby “pet cemetery”.

Pet care was, totally, the child’s responsibility. Any failure to assume this responsibility resulted in strict discipline and/or removal of the pet. Responsibility was developed at an early age.

No pets, domestic or wild, were ever allowed in the house or the car. Canaries, parrots and goldfish were the only indoor pets. Bad storms and freezing weather were the only exceptions to the house rule. Dogs and cats were fed canned pet food and table scraps. They were allowed to eat in the kitchen before being sent outside. Fresh drinking water was always available both inside and out. Dog and cat diets were supplemented by our trips to the local butcher shop. The owner, who was a neighbor, saved meat scraps and bones for the dogs and beef liver pieces for the cats.

Oddly enough, our cats and dogs were rarely ill. There were very few vets in the area, except for those who treated livestock. Once a year, our dogs got a rabies shot and tags to wear as well as an “annual worming.” The dogcatcher was quick to impound a tagless dog. There was no need to “walk the dog”. Wherever we children went, our four-footed friends trotted with us. We played so closely with them, that they seemed almost like siblings. They really enjoyed pacing us on our bicycles, the faster the better. Playing “hide and seek” was a favorite activity which they always won. The real challenge came during baseball games when the outfielder often had to out run the dogs for the ball. In retrospect, our dogs were tolerant and long-suffering. They endured many bumpy rides in our wagons, while dressed in some pretty weird outfits that only a child could create.

A special neighborhood pet was the green chameleon. We all had one which we confined with a collar of silk thread and wore on our shoulders. What we didn’t understand at the time was why it occasionally inflated that bright, red bubble under its throat. Eventually, we learned it was done to frighten enemies. The poor thing was terrified! We just thought it was pretty!

Today, I see only adult dog walkers pass my home. The majority wear headsets, and show impatience with the animal’s frequent “scent stops”. I often think of the sheer joy and wild abandon that neighborhood children shared in play with their pets. Tampa Town was truly a kinder, gentler place in which to experience reciprocal affection with one’s pet. Its disappearance is a tremendous loss.

ABOUT BARBARA

Barbara-FarraI had the great honor & extreme pleasure, of meeting Barbara when I interviewed her for the documentary film, Seminole Heights, An Intimate Look at the Early Years, that I produced about the neighborhood. In her 80’s, she was warm, bright, perceptive, articulate, & possessed a whimsical sense of humor. I have to say that she was the star of the show.

Barbara had spent her whole life in the Seminole Heights, attended our neighborhood schools graduating from Hillsborough High School in 1946, & in 1990, she was inducted into their Hall of Fame.

Barbara graduated in the first class of the newly established Florida State University in 1948 with a degree in journalism, & continued her education to get a Master’s Degree in Social Work. She went on to work for 41 years as a social worker.

In addition to being the champion for hundreds of children & families, Barbara worked as a volunteer for many organizations, focusing on our neighborhood. Serving as Editor of the Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association newsletter, The Advisor, Barbara strove to build a sense of community & respect for our history.

In addition to being featured in the documentary, you can see more of her story in the print version of the article in American Bungalow on the neighborhood.

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HOW BUNGALOW AUTHOR JANE POWELL CHANGED MY LIFE

HOW BUNGALOW AUTHOR JANE POWELL CHANGED MY LIFE

Into every life walks a handful of people who impact your life profoundly. Jane Powell, bungalow  author, restorer & advocate, was one of them for me.

Mid-century-living-roomIn the winter of 1998, I walked out of my 1966 MCM house in Pasadena where I had lived as a renter for 8 years & gasped to see a FOR SALE sign in the yard. My landlord, who was a darling fellow, had purchased the house shortly before the housing crash in1990, & after having it on the market for some time, decided to put it up for rent. We had moved from Arizona where housing prices were about 1/3 of what they were in L.A. & we decided that renting was our best choice. We were very happy there & eventually would have probably purchased it but for the fact that it was 3 stories hanging off a cliff and my knees were starting to object. And the earthquakes were pretty pretty wild suspended 100 feet up. But hey, my husband always assured me, our house was on bedrock!

Faced with having to move, I kinda panicked. I am not known for being easy to please. I am known for my ability to kick 100 houses to the curb & here we were with an unknown deadline. The L.A. market was heating up, the house was stunning, the area, amazing & I was trying to run a contracting business, set up a lender & find a house that I desperately wanted, totally uncertain as to how long I had before my bags were packed & on the street.

THE SEARCH FOR THE PERFECT HISTORIC HOUSE

Spool-televison-in-a-bungalowI looked at my 100+ houses.  At that time, you didn’t have the option of cruising through images online.  Your Realtor printed a list of options for you & you drove & drove & drove. The main area in which I was looking, Eagle Rock was hilly & the streets very windy so it was challenging to find the houses, aided only  by my trusty Thomas Guide. (Life is way easier now!)

Eagle Rock is a bungalow community in N.E. Los Angeles. Later I learned its history & its culture, but at that point, I was just looking for a house, a horrible undertaking given the amount of destroyed historic fabric I encountered. I mourned the loss of these features & every day I would come home & cry, & end up with a tummy ache. I realized that I was going to have to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT, but at this point,I was clueless as to what this might be.

Then one day, I found my house-a 1910 Craftsman with long, matted, pink shag carpeting that reeked of eau de doggee. Looking up from the scary carpeting I gazed at sprayed popcorn ceilings & wondered at the lumpy stuff coating all the wood trim- wainscoting, plate rails, & box beams. (Yeah, someone had sprayed between the beams.) A heavily resin coated spool table sat squarely in front of one of the leaded glass bookshelves that flanked the fireplace. A television sat on the spool, clearly a place of honor as all the furniture pointed at it.

On the positive, I had walked in through the original door with its 1910 hardware & beveled lites. The living room was large with a nice, big picture window, looking out at a mature pine. The original gas lights were still there on the box beams, now fitted with electricity. x The leaded glass doors were still there beside the fireplace. All the interior doors were there with their lovely old hardware.  All the original woodwork was there & I could imagine the wood floors under the gross carpet, waiting for me to come & rescue them.

In the dining room, little Dollar Store pigs modeled tiny straw hats bedecked with itty-bitty flowers, atop the Douglas Fir plate rail because, as the homeowner explained, she loved, “Country.”

There was a vinyl pop-out window behind the sink in the kitchen cheerfully adorned with more molded resin tchotchkes depicting life on the farm. The bathroom had blue plaid wallpaper, with pink flowers trailing through it.

The closet of the master bedroom had been turned into a half bath & a truly disgusting vanity with a sink sat outside the closet door, in the bedroom. Yeah, I yanked it out & replaced it with a antique washstand & ceramic washset, but I didn’t use them!

But, it had many original features that were beautiful & I could see past the pigs & spool to know that this was my house.

We put in our bid. On the street, on the hood of my Realtor’s car. Trembling, while trying to look casual. My husband hadn’t even seen the house & here I was, leaping alone into this huge decision. I didn’t care. It was meant to be my house.

BUNGALOW KITCHENS ON THE CHEAP, BY BUNGALOW AUTHOR, JANE POWELL

Magazine-with-old-bungalow-kitchenI was terrified. I had no idea what it would take to take this house back to 1910 & I was already 30% over budget. The kitchen was my greatest concern. I jokingly told my husband that I needed to find an article called, “Bungalow Kitchens on the Cheap.” I was on the edge of retracting the offer. I mean, I’d seen The Money Pit, & though I’d never owned an old house (or any house for that matter) I had lived in several & knew their tendencies.

That night we took a walk through downtown Pasadena & went into a bookshop. I poked around the magazine rack whilst Hubby browsed the Sci Fi.  This magazine sat on the shelf with an article by Jane on creating old kitchens on a budget. Honest. This really happened.

The deal closed & we started rehabb’ing, pulling out the carpet, scraping the gooy stuff of the woodwork, & refinishing the floors. A month later, we moved in. I couldn’t live with the chemical smells so kept the house wide open during the day, but at night, closed it (It was late December, chilly even in Southern California) except for the windows above my bed. And I ran a fan. I slept in long underwaer & sweats & wore a knitted hat pulled down over my ears & almost to my eyes. Yeah, I was cold, but I didn’t care!

DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT’

I had seen Realtor signs about the neighborhood & one day ran into said Realtor at Trader Joe’s. It was home tour time in nearby Pasadena & for some reason I asked when we’d be having our tour. She told me that the committee was meeting that night to start planning the first one. Honest. This was the answer to my question of what could I do about it?

I rolled up my sleeves & became a neighborhood activist. I learned how to speak for these buildings, telling their stories that I could hear clearly, but found that others needed to have the volume turned up.

PLEASED TO MEET YOU, BUNGALOW AUTHOR EXTRAORDINAIRE, JANE POWELL

Bungalow-author-Jane-PowellAfter the first tour was pulled off beautifully, I invited Jane to come and speak at a town meeting. She had written Bungalow Kitchens & Bungalow Bathrooms which I adored. I was stunned when she agreed to come to our little town.

Jane was so much like me that it was scary. We both had red hair & drove P.T. Cruisers. Purple was our mutually favorite color & we loved kitties. We both fervently believed that there was a special place in H-E-double-chopsticks for people who destroyed historic buildings. We were a coupla loud broads on a mission.

I have always loved old things- houses, furniture, clothing. When I was 6, I had an elderly neighbor whose very elderly mother was bed-ridden. She was left alone all day so every day after school, I scooted over & listened to her tales of how the world was when she was young. It changed me. Growing up I owned a vintage clothing store, collected antiques and always lived in old houses.

But my passion was unkindled, my path undetermined, until I bought that magazine & met Jane Powell.

Jane passed in 2012. Her heart & her humor left an indelible imprint on many of us. She transformed my life giving me beauty, purpose & community.

These many years later, I am still made happy & content by old houses. Now retired, I have the time to indulge myself & my chocolate is still bungalows.

Thank you, Jane Powell, bungalow author, expert preservationist, delightful individual & darn good friend.

Old typewriterSTAY IN THE BUNGALOW KNOW!!!

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