Letter From the Editor

Small Home Gazette, Winter 2012

Letter From the Editor: club founder shares house repair mistakes

The following editorial by Kristi Lee Johnson, the founder of the Twin Cities Bungalow Club, originally ran in the Summer 1998 edition of this newsletter. Her words are timeless.

I’ve been called the “Martha Stewart” of bungalows, and at this point in my career it would be easy for me to simply recline in my Gus #369 and bask in the glow of my vast expertise; secure in my knowledge of interiors and exteriors, of breakfast nooks, encaustic tiles, pergolas and piano windows.

But I must confess. It wasn’t always so.

Though I knew that the house Gene and I bought in the Longfellow Neighborhood of south Minneapolis in 1990 was a bungalow with an interior that seemed suspended in 1926, there was, lurking in the back of my brain, a vast amount of ignorance waiting to be expressed.

Aluminum doors.For instance, I was not jarred by the fact the entire exterior, including the window trim, had been spray painted a blinding white. I did not flinch at the sight of the 1950s aluminum front porch door. I found the combination windows “practical.” And for the expansion space, I thought a really, really huge window to replace the pair of charming little attic windows facing the street would be ideal. I actually drove to the Pella Window Sale and picked up what might be indelicately referred to as a “big, honking piece of plate glass.”

Luckily, it wouldn’t fit under the roof peak, so I had it installed at the back, overlooking the backyard. Thus a major disaster in aesthetics and serious damage to my future status was averted.

Then there were the “repairs” I made to the brickwork bordering our foundation. In some spots the mortar had crumbled, so I decided to fix it up as good as new with a bag of ready-mix powdered concrete. Let me tell you that despite the advertisements to the contrary, this stuff is not mortar and doesn’t look like it. My attempts ended up looking like I had slopped plaster-of-Paris between the bricks. (This lapse in good bungalow taste I like to blame on “a previous owner.”)

Further errors were avoided by simply not having any ready cash during the first years of bungalow ownership. Thus, we don’t have a glass tub enclosure in the bathroom, nor a gothic-arch stained glass window cut into our house above those much-maligned front attic windows.

And even better, by 1990, I (and the rest of the country) had finally emerged from the “golden oak” era. The decades when every round oak table and built-in bookcase had to be stripped of its patina—and very likely its original color—and forced into wearing a shiny, golden glow. Those were the days when people snapped up cheap pressed-back dining room chairs and flat irons and walked right by Limbert chairs and Weller pottery. So remember, the decade you are in can get its clutches on your sense of taste.

Letting your house—not the current decade—take the lead can help create a home where everything looks and feels “right.”

And that’s a good thing.