Letter From the Editor: living in a bungalow “museum”

Small Home Gazette, Summer 2009

Letter From the Editor: living in a bungalow “museum”

Do you live in a bungalow museum? If so, your goal is authenticity based on a specific time during the life of your house. Perhaps you have vintage appliances, and original woodwork, lighting fixtures, kitchen cabinets and windows. Or if you don’t have originals, then you strive for period appropriate reproductions.

Or do you live in a bungalow that interprets for the 21st century the themes of simplicity, efficiency, livability and artistic workmanship that drove the Arts & Crafts movement? If so, your goal would be enhancements that increase your bungalow’s artistic flourishes, energy efficiency and modern technology.

Or would your house-related choices fall somewhere in between?

We recently sent a survey to people who have left the Bungalow Club. A couple of respondents eloquently and forcefully described their perception that our group is too narrow in its beliefs.

One respondent said bungalows and the Arts & Crafts era represented a return to simpler living—being more in tune with nature and our pocketbooks. So the respondent asked, why isn’t the Bungalow Club more favorable toward putting solar panels on the roof; replacing old, drafty windows with newer, tighter ones; or installing energy efficient appliances rather than buying vintage appliances that use more energy or resources? Another respondent pointed out that the Arts & Crafts era celebrated the artist, and so why should the Bungalow Club look unfavorably on someone who takes artistic license with their bungalow?

Conversely, other members over the years have reported a keen interest in keeping their houses as original as possible. They’ve asked us for recommendations of craftspeople that are able to repair or authentically re-create every detail of their home, inside and out. They’ve expressed curiosity about how the original bungalow dwellers lived, and they collect vintage furniture and decorative objects. They point out that there’s nothing more environmentally friendly than re-using vintage items and keeping the original portions of their homes, including windows, out of a landfill.

Defining where the Bungalow Club stands on this museum-versus-interpretation question is difficult. Your board members also have differing opinions on what we should support. And I think we’re okay with that. At least, the issue isn’t keeping us awake at night. But it does create confusion for you, our members.

One of the things I take from the survey comments is that some of our members want an opportunity to discuss philosophical issues that lead to practical decisions. How we, as a volunteer-led organization, provide for this interaction remains a question. We have several ideas but are struggling to choose the best one that will remain manageable and useful to our members for years to come. Also, a solution doesn’t necessarily have to come from the board. Your ideas for member interaction are welcome.

The difficulty of making decisions for your bungalow is the context. Would solar panels on the front roof of your bungalow harm its visual integrity? How noticeable would those glass block inserts look in your basement windows? How will those particle-board kitchen cabinets age? The only way to answer these questions is to discuss them with others, gather information, and make your own, well-informed decision.

So when you attend our events, ask the person sitting next to you some questions. How do they feel about aluminum siding, recessed lighting or replacement windows? I’m sure you’ll get a good response—perhaps more than you intended—but we, and the Bungalow Club, will be the better for it.