Author Jane Powell on Bungalow Kitchens - Then and Now

From on March 04, 2008 in Kitchen Remodel

Bungalow Kitchens

Last week, I mentioned that a surprise expert would make an appearance on the CalFinder blog. All you home lovers are in for a treat, because Jane Powell knows her stuff. She’s written several books on bungalows, covering interior and exterior details, the Arts & Crafts home, and bathrooms. She’s also dedicated an entire book to bungalow kitchens. I was fortunate enough to grab Jane for an interview for today’s post.

Read on, and find out why bungalow kitchens fall on the smaller side. Yesterday, we talked about built-ins, and today Jane will discuss those specific to the kitchen. Finally, Jane explains why she doesn’t recommend creating a state-of-the-art kitchen in your bungalow.

How would you define the mood and functioning principle of the bungalow kitchen?

Back then the operative words for kitchens were white, clean, and sanitary – people were very afraid of germs, which had been discovered in the late 19th century. There was also a move toward more efficiency in kitchens, with step-saving conveniences, since most middle-class homeowners no longer had servants and the wife was doing all the cooking. Unfortunately, the efficiency principles often led to the kitchens being a bit small by our 21st century standards.

Kitchen built-ins are popular in bungalows. Can you describe some of these?

Kitchen DresserThe most common built-in was called a kitchen dresser – a furniture-like piece with upper cupboards, a counter height work surface, and drawers and doors below for more storage. Sometimes this would be the only cabinet in the kitchen, accompanied by a free standing range and a wall-hung sink with drainboards. In the Teens and Twenties, more continuous cabinetry started to appear, similar to modern upper and lower cabinets, though often the lower cabinets were shallower than the now standard 24 inches. The lower cabinets would have some combination of doors and drawers, though another popular feature was a tilt-out bin (or two) used for storing large bags of flour or meal, and still useful for storing bags of pet food or recycling. Built-in ironing boards were often found in kitchens as well, especially before the advent of electric irons, when irons had to be heated on the stove.

What are three things you find homeowners want most to change about their bungalow kitchens, and what advice would you give to them?

What people want to change often depends on whether they have the original kitchen or an unfortunate remodel from some previous decade. The problem with putting in a “state-of-the-art” kitchen in the decade you’re in is that it will soon look dated. Putting in a kitchen that goes with the period of the house rather than what’s currently trendy will allow it to be timeless. That said, a kitchen that looks period can still have all (or at least most) of the modern amenities, thanks to fully-integrated appliances, reproduction faucets, etc.

The thing people want to change most is they want the refrigerator to be IN the kitchen rather than out on the back porch where the icebox was – often tricky to accomplish because there may be no room for it. Counter-depth refrigerators, refrigerator drawers, or undercounter refrigerators often solve this problem. Naturally most people also want a dishwasher, which can be a problem if the original lower cabinets are not deep enough – often this can be solved by recessing the back of the dishwasher into the wall. Sometimes a compact dishwasher (about the size of a microwave) is the only answer.

Countertops are the thing everyone struggles with, as there is no ideal countertop for all situations. Granite is inappropriate, though a few old kitchens might have had soapstone. Not many people want the upkeep of wooden counters, though wood was the most common countertop in the bungalow period. Tile is appropriate, but not everyone likes tile. Some of the newer synthetics look decent, if carefully chosen.

People desperately want to make their kitchens be like the formal rooms in their bungalow, which has led to a whole spate of what I call “Arts and Crafts Revival” kitchens, with furniture-like cabinets and hammered copper pulls, art glass light fixtures, granite counters, recessed can lighting, and stainless steel restaurant-style appliances. Someone building a new bungalow is certainly welcome to do that, but I don’t advise it for existing homes.

—Thanks for stopping by, Jane! Catch the remainder of my conversation with Jane on tomorrow’s post on Bungalow Interiors.


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