It’s rare when the designs of the outside and the inside of a house are equally well thought out. The builders often think, Oh my gosh, we lavished all this attention on the front, the inside can just have nice furniture. In this instance, the lavish attention was on the interior. In retrospect, this seems the wiser choice because the exterior is easily improved, whereas matching the interior trim detail today would require hitting the jackpot at the racetrack.
This house sits on the corner of Vinton and Cleveland. The location gives it unobstructed light on three sides, and mature evergreens on the Cleveland side filter the noise of traffic. The house, in the Arts & Crafts tradition, combines several exterior materials with rough stucco in the gables over brick below. The full-width and extra-deep front porch is one of the most inviting entrances I’ve encountered.
A new exterior paint job would do wonders. The Craftsman style emphasized natural materials, so earth tones would be appropriate. The stucco should be a different color from the brick. Likewise, the window sash might be a different color from the trim. Trellises at each end of the porch would be a nice detail. The front door is eight feet tall, filled with large panes of glass and matching sidelights. It is also honey-colored oak in and out. Don’t even think of letting a paintbrush get close.
Inside, the clear winner in the public rooms is the amber-hued wood with meticulous joinery. Door headers and arched openings between rooms have hand-shaped pieces assembled with dowels crowning each passage like a fine furniture bonnet. The living room encompasses the whole front but is divided by an archway and a step-up to a cozy inglenook around the fireplace that’s also oak-wainscoted with integral glass-fronted bookcases. The fireplace is of a very distinctive, thin brick that emphasizes the horizontal and suggests the influence of the American Prairie School of architecture that originated in Chicago and was exemplified by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright.
The elegant craftsmanship extends into the dining room. A wood window seat runs the length of the multiple-window unit, and the crown molding, usually at the wall and ceiling juncture, is pulled down about a foot (another F.L.W. trick), blurring the juncture and making the already 10-foot ceilings feel like they “float.” I couldn’t resist adding a subtle up-light in this cornice to further lift the ceiling and enhance the effect. Interior doors are eight feet and give you the sense of being Alice in Wonderland for a moment.
The breakfast room is unusually spacious. Often a token space better thrown into the kitchen, this one is quite workable and still has its glass-doored butler’s pantry. The kitchen has been renovated. The original pine floors were uncovered and refinished, and there’s a new commercial stainless-steel range. But the real front-runner is the countertops. They are hand-cast concrete with an ashlar face and have small pebbles and blue glass in the mix. This adds depth and color and is further enhanced by the cobalt tile backsplash. There’s even a walk-in pantry, and the laundry is conveniently located on the enclosed back porch. A large floored attic is handy for storage or as expandable space.
And there’s still more. The backyard has a brick patio and a metal hair-pin fence along the street. Amazingly, there is a garage with automatic door under the house now used as workshop space. And finally, the current owners turned the third, rear bedroom into a master bath. There is a jet tub, a double-headed shower, and two pedestal sinks in a privately sited sun-room setting.
By now I’m sure you can see the hidden values of this unassuming bungalow in Central Gardens. It may not have all the bells and whistles on the exterior, but in the heat of the rat race, this dark horse would be the one I’d bet on as eminently livable.