Our first year in Toledo, OH, we rented a home built in the mid-1950s, a Cape Cod reminiscent of the Barones’s on Everybody Loves Raymond (right). We moved from the South to Toledo in early September when the fall air was mild, crisp, and inviting, when neither the home’s air conditioner nor heater needed to be switched on.
By the time December rolled around, however, things were not as pleasurable. Since the house’s original windows hadn’t been modernized, since the cracks around said windows hadn’t been properly caulked, and since the insulation (we’re assuming) wasn’t updated, our winter there was dreadful. For instance, when working from home we completed most tasks with fingerless gloves. And at one point, our monthly heating bill—for an 1,800-square-foot house, mind you—was over $600, and we were still cold.
After this experience, we vowed never again to rent or to buy anything more than 15 years old. So serious were we about this that the construction on our next rental property was completed a day before we moved in. Everything was new.
A few years later we relocated to Chicago. We moved into another new place, this time a four-year-old townhouse in the suburbs. Quality built and energy efficient, this 2,200-square-foot home (although pricey) served our needs well. Our electricity and gas bills were about the lowest we’ve ever paid, and no fingerless gloves were required. Again, in our minds, new = better, more comfortable.
But when we began looking seriously to purchase a house in Chicago, we discovered the area we liked didn’t offer “new” properties, and there were virtually no lots on which to build. Rather, the quaint streets were lined with Victorians, Georgians, Colonials, farmhouses, and bungalows, most of which were constructed between 1880 and 1930, and some just a few years after the Civil War ended and before the Chicago fire of 1871.
Consequently, if we wanted to move into this location—and we did—this meant two things: first, our mindset about “older” homes would have to change, and second, we would need to research heavily early twentieth-century construction, renovations, etc.
As recounted in this post on the history of the bungalow, over the past seven months we have learned a great deal about the features of these homes as well as how well-built many of them are. Indeed, something we’ve tried to keep in mind is that turn-of-the-century houses have stood for decades and weathered many storms; as well, many of them were constructed by hand by genuine craftsman, with meticulous attention to detail.
Here we will document our process as we go about “rebooting” or renovating a 1924 bungalow (above) for the modern era. Our goals:
- to maintain the layout, look, and feel of the original home by adhering to books and guides;
- to post pictures (before and after) of our modifications (e.g., adding dormers to the attic along with a master suite, extending a staircase, opening up the kitchen, refinishing original hardwood floors); and
- to inform readers of the ins and outs of the American bungalow.
Hang on. This is sure to be a bumpy ride.