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Bungalow Bill

Evergreen, circa 1926.

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It was as if the government mandated so many bungalows per lot in Midtown in the 1920s. I am sure there was a congressional act tacked onto some weightier matter, no doubt called the Bungalow Bill.

Bungalows were easy to build. A rectangular, shoe-box shape with a moderately low pitched roof, they usually had a full-width concrete-floored porch across the front with brick and/or stone columns. The simple shape made them fit on any width city lot, leaving room for a side drive and a carport in the rear. There was often a small basement and permanent stairs to the attic providing easy access for storage. Inside, floors were oak, and trim and doors were often tupelo or black gum, a local wood that rivaled mahogany in color and grain pattern.

Bungalows are easy to maintain. One reason that home buyers have always loved bungalows is the uncomplicated layout. Halls were kept to a minimum, and public rooms opened directly to each other, and sometimes to the front porch, through pairs of glazed French doors.

Materials like oak floors and black-gum trim needed little maintenance and certainly weren t designed to ever be painted. Likewise, the outside (brick and stone) was built to withstand the test of time. The only wood outside to paint was the window and door surrounds and the deep overhanging roof eaves. This was the first easy-living house after the Victorian era.

The expansiveness of the Victorians demanded not only a different fork for each course at dinner but likewise a different room for every function (morning room, sun room, music room, parlor, library, ad nauseum). Bungalows were the standard-bearers whose motto was Stop all that nonsense. Simplify life. Bungalows were a response to the passing of the Victorian Age when bigger was not always better or even attainable.

Bungalows remain flexible. Rooms were designed to be multifunctional. The use of French doors allowed a room to be thrown open as needed for bigger gatherings but just as easily closed and used as a guest room or office. The kitchen usually had an attached breakfast room with built-in cabinetry and, frequently, a rear-latticed porch to hold garden tools and the icebox.

Both of these rooms remain invaluable. First, the rear porch could be easily enclosed providing the perfect spot to add a washer and dryer when the outdoor clothesline went the way of the icebox. Secondly, the breakfast room can easily be incorporated into the kitchen by removing the wall and thus gaining space for a breakfast bar or a seating area.

This week s house exhibits all the best attributes of the bungalow. The white-oak floors need only a good buffing, and the red-gum trim and French doors remain unpainted and breathtaking. Regretfully, the rustic stone surround of the fireplace has been painted, but a little love and some paint remover can fix that. There is also that second front room that doubles as private or public as needed.

The kitchen has been nicely updated and finished in a palette of creamy whites. The back porch has been enclosed and the attic is fully floored. The breakfast room is still discreet, but a small amount of indiscretion and a sledgehammer would change that. The rear yard is privacy-fenced, and there is a freestanding carport with attached storage room. What s needed here is a little imagination with the color scheme, a few nifty light fixtures, and some fresh landscaping. Nothing too difficult, and this easy-living bungalow in Evergreen remains as rock-solid as an act of Congress.

414 N. Willett St.
Approximately 1,450 square feet
2 bedrooms, 1 bath
$139,000
The Hobson Company
Charlotte Liles, 761-1622

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