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book review: The New Bungalow

book-iconessays by Matthew Bialecki, Christian Gladu, Jill Kessenich, Jim McCord, Su Bacon

"Could anyone have predicted in the early 1920s, when the original Arts & Crafts movement died out, that it would enjoy a revival that would start some fifty years later and last longer than the original movement?" So begins architect Matthew Bialecki's introduction to Gibbs-Smith's The New Bungalow. In this and other essays, the authors investigate not so much the classic designs and styles of the American Arts & Crafts movement, but rather their modern and contemporary reinterpretations in architectural, interior and furniture design.

As Bialecki points out, A&C style "has evolved into a national style phenomenon," where cheap and often poorly-made "Mission-style" furniture is available even at big-box retailers, and local restaurants and hotels across the country are designed in modernized variants of the Prairie, Craftsman and Mission aesthetic. Bialecki, in the first essay, proposes that a modern proto-luddite rejection of the mass-produced-in-appearance (which also, ironically, drives sales of mass-produced faux-Craftsman goods) might be promoting the increasing popularity of nature-based architecture, specifically the Craftsman-styled open plans that emphasize natural materials, light and landscape. (read the rest of the review after the link, below)

Newbungalowcover The publisher, Gibbs-Smith, has included a broad selection of essays from a pretty wide array of professionals - Bialecki's "Origins of the Bungalow," which relates the beginnings of the movement to its current resurgence and meditates on the appeal of the modern Craftsman home; architect Jill Kessenich's essay on renovation and her analysis of "The Elements of Bungalow Style," which deconstructs both the currently-fashionable style and compares it to the typical bungalow design of the original American A&C movement, focusing specifically on particular issues of space, geographic and temporal context (this section includes a reasonably exhaustive listing of the time periods associated with the bungalow movement in the US, from the post-Victorian Queen Anee to the Moderne styles, giving a breakdown of the evolution of bungalow style through each era), and The Bungalow Company's Christian Gladu's essay on "The New Bungalow Revival," which focuses narrowly on new bungalows and the use of various elements bungalow style in contemporary development, with sections on planning, neighborhoods, general guidelines on square footage, and guidelines for designing various modern rooms (bath, kitchen, bedroom, workspace) which serve more modern needs while still articulating the look and feel of a traditional Craftsman home.

Other essays include architect Jim McCord's insightful "How to Get 'the Look' in New Construction," which is a must-read for anyone planning a new house to be constructed in the Craftsman style. McCord's advice is aimed both at custom-home builders and those shopping for a house in a planned community or neighborhood, and includes information on choosing developers, kitchen and bathroom planning advice, general materials and construction information, and plenty of background on cabinetry, hardware, flooring, tile, doors and lighting. Focusing specifically on lighting, Historic Lighting's Su Bacon writes an excellent and extensive piece on light fixtures in the Arts & Crafts style, with plenty of photographs of projects from Sam Mossaedi's Greene & Greene influenced fixtures to more contemporary lamps and lanterns produced by Arroyo Craftsman. Sections on sconces and the many types of ceiling-mounted or -hung lighting flesh out Bacon's essay.

The final sections give a general technical and philosophical overview of the movement and where it's gone in the past 100 years, with Bialecki showing off some of his own modern bungalow-styled interior and exterior work. This section includes drawings and some excellent large photographs that really illustrate how well modern fixtures and use of space can be integrated in a larger but unmistakably Craftsman structure. At the very end of the book, a number of photographs of all sorts of details - garden structures, furniture, lighting, interior architectural woodwork, mouldings and more - give the new-home builder (or those of us who can only fantastize about building our own perfect modern bungalow) plenty of food for thought.

This book is far more for the present or future planner or builder who looks forward to working with an architect on their own home project, and is certainly not for a strict old-home aficionado; while much of its advice can be related to the remodeling of an older home, it would be far more usefully applied to the building of a new home. Thus, I recommend this book for the builder, the planner, the student of architecture and those who are looking for and can afford a more customizable option to buying an older Craftsman home.