An old-fashioned bungalow
[This article was originally published in the Bloomington, IN Herald-Times on July 26.]
Susan C.’s 1932 bungalow glows behind the flowers in its front yard, fresh after an exterior refurbishment by Golden Hands and a new paint job by Richard Jenkins. Walking past the flowers and entering the front door is like stepping through a portal into a warm and welcoming past. The interior is filled with Susan’s collection of pre-1850 furniture, vintage quilts and family heirlooms.
Some readers might regard a house built during the Great Depression as fairly old, but in fact it’s one of the newer homes that Susan has lived in.
“I have always lived in old homes,” she explained. “I grew up in Madison, Indiana. My parents really liked redoing old houses, so they would buy little old shotgun homes and restore them, one by one. I lived in fourteen different old houses growing up.”
In Bloomington, Susan lived for more than twenty years in the James Faris House (built in the 1850s, and now surrounded by Stier Park). With an old-house background like this, a 1930s bungalow does indeed seem “new.”
“Because I have spent most of my life living in old houses, I appreciate them,” Susan continued. “Each one is unique, each has a different story to tell, and that appeals to me.”
She bought the bungalow seven years ago, wanting to live closer in to town where she could easily walk places. Her grandchildren live only two blocks away and often drop by to visit, and the neighborhood is friendly.
“When I first saw this house, there was something about it that I really liked,” she remembered. “It’s a cute house.”
The house was in good shape, having had two long-term owners in a row, both of whom kept it in good repair. Susan nevertheless remodeled the kitchen to make it look older. Painted in white, with a green segment in the middle, the new kitchen cabinets faithfully duplicate kitchen style of the 1920s and ‘30s. The only hint that they are new is the solid surface countertop.
“These cabinets were built to match the architecture,” she said. “Phil Parker of Bedford built them, and I drove him crazy because I wanted him to use these ceramic knobs that are all different. He kept saying, ‘don’t you want identical silver knobs?!’”
In the rear of the house she added an addition which contains a spacious study, a back porch, and a new master suite featuring plank floors. Rod Lukas, a master carpenter, took on the task of doubling the size of the original home seven years ago. He designed the indoor window trim to look authentic to 1932. Two highlights were taking an old harvest table top to make the doors for the utility room and turning an old washstand into the base cabinet for the bathroom sink. His ideas and willingness to work with old pieces made the addition fit into the original home without a seam.
The rooms in that addition are filled with Susan’s prized furnishings, including a game table that her father built featuring a checkerboard-painted top. The four-poster bed has hats perched atop each post, and a painting of a pig named Edna hangs on the wall above it.
In addition to the checkered game table, Susan has lovingly displayed examples of her father’s carpentry throughout the house, including a large trunk in the bedroom and a circular table in the living room. Many of his pieces have decorative bands of incised geometric shapes on the tops.
On the floor sits a small child’s chair, painted in an eye-catching array of brilliant colors that she picked out and painted herself. This little chair belonged to her own mother when she was young, and was carefully preserved and handed down in her family. Now it’s her granddaughter’s turn to sit in it and feel proud.
Susan’s handsome wide-plank dining table was formerly a fixture of the Madison meat market. And speaking of tables, when the addition was built, new closet doors were made using old boards that had formerly served as a tabletop. When the table was taken apart the bottoms of the boards became visible for the first time. To Susan’s surprise, there were three well-worn lines of circular marks on them. The boards for the table had obviously once served as shelving in a cellar or pantry where freshly-bottled canning jars were lined up in rows, year after year. This discovery pleased Susan very much.
“I have tried to make the home really ‘me’ over the years, so that I’m completely comfortable in it,” she said reflectively. “I have things in it from people that I love, which make it feel like my home. I feel comfortable and cozy here.”
The refurbishment of the exterior has been the crowning touch that perfects the old-time feel of the house. The pediment of the bungalow porch had never quite pleased Susan, as it seemed visually too heavy, and dragged down by four supporting posts. Golden Hands’ Chris Sturbaum suggested that the inner two posts be cut off since they were not structurally necessary, and he transformed them into a harmonious part of the balustrade. He also added a small antique gable window that he’d been saving for the right project. The pediment looks architecturally lightened and the porch has been opened up as a result, and the bright new paint colors draw approving gazes from passers-by.
When told that her home feels just like an old-fashioned farmhouse, with its folk furniture and quilts, she looked delighted. “Oh, I hope so!” she said; “I hope so.”