This Decatur Residence was recently renovated into a style we call the “American Bungalow.”
Standing Out, While Fitting In
Establishing a recognizable style, whether designing a new home or undertaking a renovation, is, for an architect, a principal concern. It is through this method that rules are established, guiding all of the decisions made throughout the design process. The style also leads to a strong “message” about what the owner feels for the house, and what the house can do for its surroundings. Selecting a style is therefore not just a matter of personal taste but of practicality. Our phrase for this balance is “standing out while fitting in.”
The American Bungalow
Although not as easily defined as “Georgian” or “Tudor”, the English vernacular style still has a language recognized by a successful blending of these preceding styles. As a reaction to the cluttered compositions of their Victorian neighbors, these homes had no pretense, and sought harmony with the landscape, as did the Medieval cottages which were their model. The American bungalow is a direct benefactor of these ideas. It became our ambition to create a high-style example that would celebrate these English origins for a like-minded family in a neighborhood they loved.
A wide lot led the original home to be exploited by spreading horizontally along the street. This cued us to distribute new second floor space through a series of gables and dormers. Therefore, we keep the overall effect of a one-story house and avoid dramatically changing the impervious footprint on the land. A recessed entry, roofs that “hug” the house, and eaves that swoop down to engage window give the home a warm feeling of security. Angled eaves and simulated – but structurely-correct – halftimbering show the “bones” of the house. They also blend with genuine timber framing at the front door lintel and bracketed overhang. A firmly-established, masonry foundation completes the effect of permanence and veracity.
An emphasis on community life is recognizable when approaching the house due to its strong connections to the street. The property was perfect for establishing a long, lateral axis beginning with a walkway from the sidewalk straight to the front door. The axis then continues through an elevated screened porch, to a deep rear lawn. The lawn is anchored by a lushly-fringed creek which acts as a unifying green-space across many of the neighboring properties.
A secondary axis begins at the arched, brick-fronted porch off the driveway, intended as a “delivery entrance.” It continues through the mudroom to a rear deck.
Once inside, a uniquely stylistic double-entry staircase shows a pragmatic solution for interior circulation. An oval window brings light into the stairwell. One axis passes from the foyer through a panelized portal – containing on its side a quirky hidden door. It continues through a well-lit rear parlor to the screened porch. The backyard includes places made for the garden, the barbeque parties, even the future wedding reception tent. It is here at the porch, and the patio and lawn that it oversees, that the owners and visitors alike find the best expression of the house: the merging of interior and exterior, of family and community.
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