The Craftsman Bungalow
No style is better suited to the environment of the Pacific North West as the craftsman house. This concept of house design grew out of the arts and crafts movement initiated by the libertarian socialist William Morris in the late 19th Century. The idea was to build solid, tasteful houses of local materials that fit into the environment.
Fit in they did. Constructed of lumber and stone, they had steeply pitched roofs and wide eves for the rain. Deep verandahs on the front and sides provided natural air conditioning in the summer and an outdoor room in the mild but wet months. The houses were placed near the street and with the front porch made for easy communications with passers-by and thus helped stimulate community. The slight set-back meant for a large back yard on an otherwise small lot.
Most of the craftsman bungalows were one and a half stories high, allowing for upstairs bedrooms. Such compactness once again allowed for a smaller lot. It also meant that construction costs were cheaper than a sprawling one story structure. An extra four feet of wall costs far less than an 20 feet of roof and concrete foundation. Since heat travels up, these bedrooms cost less for heating. The problem of hot rooms in the summer could be offset by window placement and awnings.
The more expensive craftsman are truly a joy to the eye. Stained and beveled glass above the windows and the front door. Oak doors, wainscotting, stonework and stone fireplaces were common. This is a style that was never ostentatious, phony or tawdry, unlike some of the houses that came later. If the owners were trying to send a message to passers-by, it was one of good taste, modesty and decency.
Craftsman were built roughly 1905-1930, though I have seen houses dating from the 1940s still influenced by them. This perfect West Coast style was replaced by the idiocies of fashion and design disconnected from the environmental and social necessities. First came the ersatz Southern California Spanish style of flat roofs and pseudo adobe. So perfect for our rainy weather. Then the phony ranch house, sprawling across the enormous lot, now needed. Today, the hideous, vinyl-clad, three car McMansion, a true monument to bad taste, bad planning and poor construction.
The depths of this idiocy were plumbed with the “leaky condo crisis” here in BC. The building regulations were set for dry Manitoba and not the wet coast. Naturally the condos leaked. Thanks to the criminality of corporate law, those responsible for this travesty were never held to account and the poor devils who purchased condos had to cough up for the highly expensive repairs.
The change in house style mirrors perverse socio-economic change. From solidity and modesty to trashy, disposable show off. This represents the corporatization of society, something largely absent in 1905. Alienation is at the core of corporate domination, so it should be of no surprise to you that the front porch had to go and the houses were deeply set back to eliminate communication. The sprawling house needs a bigger lot and so the cost was driven up. The garage, at one time hidden in the back lane, is moved to the front and it its latest manifestation, the snout house, obscures the dwelling completely. Neighborhoods begin to look like industrial parks. This shouldn't surprise you, given that the corporatist mentality is essentially totalitarian.