Letter From the Editor

Small Home Gazette, Spring 2016

Letter From the Editor: the business of un-doing

Since retiring several years ago, I am often asked what I am doing with my time. My favorite answer has become “I am in the business of un-doing.” Long-time owners of bungalows will understand.

In 1986, I had saved enough money for a down payment on a house and, with the help of a Realtor friend, I fell hard for a 1930 bungalow. I knew this house had good bones, felt cozy, and was in a friendly neighborhood. I just didn’t know it was called a bungalow. That word was not in my vocabulary. I had a lot to learn.

As its third owner, I did just what the previous ones had done. I made changes—changes that were either trendy or based on things I liked.

Owner No. 2 had replaced and enlarged the original garage but not completed the siding. What did I do? I chose to use the then-popular vinyl siding. I had a friend in construction who could do the work inexpensively, plus it came in almond (which worked, sort of, with the stucco color of the house). Made sense at the time.

gutter detail.

Gutter detail replaced.

On the house, the gutters needed replacing. I didn’t pay attention to a small detail; I didn’t tell the crew to retain the mitered “turn-back” sections on each of the four corners. So, a period-appropriate detail was gone.

I painted the living room, dining room and kitchen walls off-white. I suppose rather than trendy, that was Minnesota conservative (and the neutral color my mother often chose). I did wallpaper the bedrooms and bathroom (wallpapering, as it turns out, was done years ago) but I used the mini-prints that were so popular in the 1980s.

In the bathroom, I did more than wallpaper. I tackled its 1950s-era painted plywood vanity, metal medicine cabinet, and fluorescent light fixture (the kind that buzzes when you turn it on). I think I improved things by installing a custom-built oak vanity and cabinet but the bathroom felt more closed in.

And then there were the inappropriate 1980s ceiling light fixtures I chose for several rooms and the destined-to-be-too-large tree I planted in the front yard. The list goes on and on.

I believe in the motto “live and learn” but I wish I would have known more about the Arts & Crafts era—or at least taken the time to learn—before adding my changes to those already inflicted on the house. I am happy I joined the Twin Cities Bungalow Club when I did, exposing me to experts, resources, history and other homeowners.


Our new-old bathroom sink. I think we finally got it right.

We are still living with the vinyl siding (cringe) on the garage. The design of the house gutters has been brought back. The wallpaper is gone, and, after plaster repair, period-appropriate paint colors are on the walls. The bathroom now sports a vintage but new-to-us sink with front chrome legs (really opened up the space) and reproduction light fixture.

Having undone most of my un-informed changes as well as several done by previous owners, there are still some big ones to tackle. Popcorn ceilings anyone?