Tuesday, August 22, 2006

If it Quacks…

O, how we have pondered this question: What type/style is our soon-to be house? Is it an Arts & Crafts cottage, a Craftsman Bungalow, California Bungalow, Prairie House? We figure that the closest typology is a Prairie Bungalow, but even that shoe fits kind of funny. The fact is that there are a significant number of homes very similar to this one in Vallejo, all with slight variations in size, detailing and quality but with essentially the same layout. The house in Berkeley previously mentioned (the rotting one without the floor mentioned here) was of the same design even, and I understand there are a number of them in Eureka, CA as well. But then again, I suppose that there are only so many different ways to design a 2 bed/1 bath house on a deep/narrow lot with an 8’ ceiling and 2/12 slope hip roof. Ultimately it really doesn’t matter WHICH style it is, because all ‘styles’ (as well as stereotypes) are manufactured descriptions anyways. This house is merely what it is. But it’s a curious question, none-the-less.

The nearest description I could find was in the book Vallejo’s Architectural Heritage (1977) which lists this house under the heading of 'Wrightian Speculative Units'. They are defined as speculative (read as proto-tract) housing for Vallejo’s working class dating from roughly 1911-20 and distributed unevenly throughout the old neighborhoods. They cite Frank Lloyd Wright’s early publications of prairie houses (seen in House Beautiful and Ladies Home Journal of that era) as source material, but little real similarities can discerned. Most probably, these are houses designed not by architects but by the carpenters who built them. It’s also possible that they were from kits, though the broad range of variations make that seem unlikely. If my assumptions are correct, I would love to confirm them by seeing the supposed published plans in a book or magazine. Distinguishing characteristics:

- Horizontal emphasis as a 1-story house (sometimes w/ basement)
- Low-sloped hip roof w/ wide boxed-in eaves
- Conjoined living-dining room separated by built-in bookcases

(and specific to this house..)
- Bedrooms face East; Living/Dining face West
- Emphasis on square in detailing
- Double-hung windows w/ single pane on bottom, and 2-then-4 (6 total) on top
- Flaired watertable

Another question I have: Is that flaired watertable detail specific to West Coast craftsman homes? I am having difficulty finding any references to it elsewhere but see it commonly 'round these parts. I may not even have it named correctly. Anyone? By the way, the stucco you see does not appear to be original to this house as the original 'Garage Unit' off the back alley has small-scaled cedar clapboard as siding.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


And thus begins the transition into Phase 2 of this project (and ‘blog). With our offer accepted, signed, and in escrow, we can almost call ourselves ‘Homeowners’. Almost. Transition. Quasi-domo. Had I mentioned that R is kinda pregnant, 8 months kinda? So why can’t we call ourselves homeowners yet? I figure that we are or we are not until proven otherwise.

This is our fourth bid for a house in this town (when they say three’s a charm…what’s that make this?). So let’s first do the numbers:

1917 craftsman/prairie house
2 bedroom/1 bath
1124 sq.ft. living
4333 sq.ft lot

Allow me to introduce to you:

And to revisit our previously posted checklist-

Here is what we need for our fulfillment of "home":

  • minimum 2 bedrooms with the ability to expand to 3 in the future
  • a sizable enough yard for our girls to safely play in
  • SF Bay Area
  • 'safe' neighborhood
  • workshop (detatched space for eventual home-business)
  • painting studio [not as yet..but soon]
  • under $400k [no, but close]

Bonus points for the following:

  • Arts & Crafts bungalow
  • an 'old' home (+/- 100 years)
  • all original doors/windows, hardware, fixtures
  • near downtown living [1.5 blocks away]
  • solid/cohesive neighbors & 'hood
  • 9'+ ceilings [sadly, no]
  • 'corner market' nearby [1.5 blocks away]
  • park nearby [1.5 blocks away]
  • historic significance [nat’l reg. historic ‘hood]
  • water views [Mare Island and upper SF Bay]

Bonus-Bonus points for yet more:

+ top of hill on south slope
+ alley access & non-decrepit garage
+ built-in bookcases & buffet
+ plate rails & painting rails
+ double-hung
windows that work
+ porch w/ classic A&C door!
+ fireplace!

We will need to do alot of paint stripping and carpet ripping, among other tasks. Also noting from the above picture, a boxed column (or 2) is/are missing! As are the cabinet doors on the bookshelves. O! workworkworkwork.....

Our next task is planning for the renovation, long- and short-term, big and small. This will mean contacting contractors and drafting drawings. So I will need to get in there again soon to start measuring for the as-built plans. What, you might ask, are we planning on doing with this our 'old' house? Well, firstly, we want to lift it and replace the buttressed foundation with a proper one (more on this later). While it’s up in the air, we plan to give it a proper basement, or more accurately, a ‘downstairs'. This means adding 6'-7’ to the house, and getting an even better view in the process. Can you say "Sweet"?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


How else do I express that we have Home-age (and Mortgage)? More info coming soon.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Have I forgotten you, Gentle Reader?

No, I have not, though I have bitten my proverbial tongue to a rather raw stump as of late. Yes, I have a post that's been brewing and unfortunately, it will have to wait. Let me just say that R & I are still looking and have another bid in place. The aforementioned house (see here) seems to have wafted away. Perhaps the owner is waiting for that active leak (read as 'domestic spring') in the basement to wash the house away, hoping to collect on the insurance. Well, actually, they are holding out for their listed "there's no problem with the foundation, and we rather like the outhousey bathroom" price. Well, good luck to her, I say, followed by "next!"

One house we were considering was loctated o-so-close to the downtown library, water front, ferry terminal and main street...2-blocks actually from each. The price was steep, it had a buttressed foundation (aka- faux foundation), it was tiny in size but it was so, how do I say,...cute (cringe). Regard!

It is owned by the listing agent who prettied it up and staged it nicely. Days after our viewing, we noticed all the windows were sweating from the inside. When I say 'all the windows', I mean even the windows on the built-in buffet doors. It seems the plumbing burst and flooded the interior, with the relative humidity going through the roof, as they say. Looking in the front window, we could see the nice wood flooring with a high gloss finish that only comes from a large pool of water sitting on top. It was the end of the weekend, and I dreaded to think how long it had been left like that. We called and left a message with the realtor and then drove away. Well, any consideration we might have given it was a moot point because there was already an accepted offer in processing. Besides, it had a 15' wide public sewage easement in the back yard. Lovely. 'Next!"