Rudy and Janice Calpo love their home so much that they threw it a birthday party. But their bungalow earned it. The modest three-bedroom house has survived wars, the Great Depression and recessions, development (and remodeling) plus decades of harsh weather.
Rudy and Janice Calpo love their home so much that they threw it a birthday party. But their bungalow earned it.
The modest three-bedroom house has survived wars, the Great Depression and recessions, development (and remodeling) plus decades of harsh weather.
As a neighborhood in suburban Sacramento, Calif., grew around it, this bungalow saw many more homes like it sprout on former farmland.
This fall, the Calpos' home is 100 years old, thanks in part to their loving restoration. Although it has endured a century of wear, their home sparkles with renewed energy and life, as when it was built in 1911.
In recent years, interest in bungalows and their inherent lifestyle has surged nationwide. Once dismissed as the first suburban tract houses, bungalows are now valued for their elegant simplicity.
The Calpos discovered how to keep their old house feeling young by returning it to its original design.
"So much had been done to this poor house, sometimes it was impossible to tell what was original and what was not," said Janice Calpo, a preservation specialist with the California Department of Transportation. "But we tried to capture the original feel as much as possible."
As in most bungalows, the 1,248-square-foot home makes the most of its limited floor space and seems expansive because it lets in lots of light. Every outside wall has multiple windows.
Rudy Calpo knew this was the house he always wanted; in 1992, the Sacramento architect bought the bungalow, which had been badly remodeled several times.
"When I walked in the door, I saw the character of this bungalow," he recalled. "There was all this light with all the windows. I decided, 'This is it!' "
Then the real work began. Tackling a decades-long to-do list, the Calpos restored the oak floors and heavy ceiling beams. They replaced the fireplace's butchered mantel with an oak-and-tile masterpiece.
The front bathroom regained its stately pedestal sink and hexagon tile floor. The kitchen got art deco tile accents and a black-and-white checkerboard floor of black marble and onyx.
While making the house look as original as possible, the couple also made room for innovation.
To replace 1970s hollow-core doors (part of one poorly conceived remodel), the couple learned how to make stained-glass inserts, then created Craftsman-style doors with a cloud design, echoing the vintage-inspired wallpaper.
For the backyard, Rudy designed a tiled fountain and a series of patio "rooms" that invite visitors outdoors.
That link to nature is part of bungalow appeal.
"Bungalows are designed to be close to nature," said Dan Murphy, past president of the Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association and head of its heritage committee.
Popular in the early 1900s, the Craftsman style also represents the Arts and Crafts movement, in which architects and designers brought simple yet refined style to the budding middle class.
To devotees, bungalows represent an embodiment of the American dream.
"The affordable bungalow once created a civilized existence for the common man in the United States," wrote John Brinkmann, publisher of American Bungalow magazine. "It was a home every American could dream of owning."
The bungalows' roots actually are far from American. The name comes from bangala, a thatch-roofed hut popular in the Indian province of Bengal.
British colonists adapted the bangala's basic shape -- featuring wide, overhanging eaves and good air flow -- for their homes and vacation cottages, first in India, then around the world.
Later, the bungalow made its way to the United States, originally as a resort home. In the boom years from 1890 to World War I, "bungalow mania" swept California and other locales.
Developers could build a simple bungalow for $900. It became the first affordable single-family home.
"It changed the way people thought about themselves and the environment," explained Murphy, who also lives in a bungalow.
"They were unified in basic design, but you didn't get a cookie-cutter feel to the neighborhood," Murphy said. "There's no predictable pattern."
Murphy is familiar with the restored house.
"It's fabulous," he said. "It shows how you can do a job and remain true to the original idea [of the design] and yet make it your own. They've done such a great job."
For the bungalow birthday party, the Calpos lit up the backyard with strings of overhead bulbs. More than 100 friends and neighbors came.
"The party was so much fun," Janice Calpo said. "We're thinking of making it an annual tradition."
Contact Debbie Arrington at email@example.com.
Tips on restoration
With the growing interest in restoring homes to their original look, several companies help do-it-yourselfers find rare parts and missing pieces. Here are few that specialize in bungalow amenities:
Heritage Tile (www.subwaytile.com): This Wisconsin company makes subway and hexagon tiles that not only match the originals but also come in a wide range of colors.
Motowi Tile (www.motawi.com): Based in Ann Arbor, Mich., this tile maker handcrafts art tiles inspired by the Craftsman motifs so popular in vintage bungalows.
Urban Ore (www.urbanore.com): Based in Berkeley, Calif., this company recycles bathroom and kitchen fixtures, cabinets, vanities, hardware, light fixtures, doors, windows and more. Many items were salvaged from homes built before World War I.
Ohmega Salvage (www.ohmegasalvage.com): Another Berkeley mecca, this company specializes in restoration materials for homeowners, architects and contractors. Its online gallery features examples of what people have done with their Ohmega finds.
For inspiration, check out these resources:
American Bungalow (www.americanbungalow.com): Website of the popular magazine helps bungalow owners network with a blog, events and forums.
Crafthome.com: The ultimate decor source for Craftsman-style homes, this website links to companies nationwide that specialize in bungalow-era products or reproductions.
- Debbie Arrington
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service