The three century history of Hispanic rule in California ended in 1845 when the last Mexican governor’s was driven out.
Shortly after California became a state the Victorian era was the predominant architectural style for the next fifty years beginning with relatively restrained Italianate style of the 1860’s followed by the Mansard and Stick-Eastlake modes and culminating in the monumentally bombastic Queen Anne homes of the 1880’s. This style would incorporate a hodgepodge of various historical motifs with considerable amounts of applied machine made ornament of every description, all in one house.
As to be expected a backlash against the excesses of the Victorian age developed. This started in England mid-century as a revolt against the industrial age and appealed for a return to a simpler, craft-based society. In the United States, this philosophy provided the basis for Craftsman tradition, the Mission Revival and still later, the Spanish Revival.
Only in the final years of the Victorian era did the preservation California’s Spanish heritage be considered worthy of recognition and appreciation. In 1884 the restoration of the badly deteriorated mission at Carmel began. There followed an enthusiastic campaign to restore the remaining California missions, most of which had laid in ruins for decades. Eventually there was also a newfound appreciation of domestic architecture and haciendas of the original Spanish land grants, some of which were restored.
One of the foremost proponents of California Spanish Colonial architecture was Charles Lummis who founded The Landmark Club & became the city editor of the Los Angeles Times.
In 1895 he assumed the editorship of the illustrated monthly “Land of Sunshine” which became the mouthpiece of Lummis’ personal crusades, that California’s architecture should be based on the States Spanish Colonial legacy. Lummis believed that architecture should return to the romantic roots of early California living in harmony with the land, & building with indigenous materials and leading a life of harmony and simplicity. In many ways Lummis’ ideas are similar to the European Arts and Crafts movement.
The Mission Revival Style became popular about the turn of the century and incorporated such features as stucco walls, curving parapets at exterior walls or gables known as espadanas, false bell towers, known as campanaries, quatrefoils, arcades and arched openings. This style adapted itself to a surprising variety of building types such as powerhouse, factories, apartment, bungalow courts, and single family homes.
Mission Revival suffered from low budget speculative builders. Excessive use of espadanas over the more expensive arcades. Arched openings were flattened to obtain wider openings and were frequently placed in porch walls with only a single stud thickness as opposed to thicker walls typical of adobe. Roofs were not tile but flat and hidden behind an espadanas parapet with a tile cap. Windows were not recessed as they would be in an adobe building and they were double hung harkening back to the Victorian.
The Mission Revival style had a largely exhausted itself by 1910. The best residential works of Mission Revival were in the past and would be soon overshadowed by the arrival of the popular Craftsman Bungalow.
The Craftsman Bungalow was a wood sided singles or shiplap with a large front porch, and a simple yet efficient floor plan. There were several companies at the time that not only sold the plans for the house but included the lumber and all the pieces and parts with detailed instructions so that he individual could build their own home. The popularity of the Craftsman style along with the relatively low cost made the bungalow the dominant residential style during the mid to late teens.
At this time the influence of Spanish Architecture was in decline but in 1915, to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal, the Panama California Exposition in San Diego was built. The eastern architect Bertram Goodhues’s Spanish Baroque designs with their clay tiled plazas, cool fountains, shady arcades and careful attention to classic European details were a world away from the dowdy Mission Revival and glum Craftsman that the public had grown used to. Here at last was a style perfectly suited, not only to Southern California’s Mediterranean climate, but also to its optimistic disposition.
Although the bungalow remained the nations favorite home style up until the early 1920’s , there was a resurgence, at this time, of Period Revival Styles such as Colonial, Norman and Tudor but Spanish Revival soon proved to be the most popular and adaptable especially in Southern California.
The notable Spanish Revival residential architects of the 1920’s include George Washington Smith, Reginal Johnson, Stiles O. Clements and Wallace Neff. Significant architecture features of the period include wrought iron railings, balconies, garden pools, patios, window grills, outside stairways, open beam cathedral ceilings and arched openings and arcades.
Numerous commercial or institutional projects were built during this period ranging from churches to office buildings. An example would be the Million Dollar Theatre in downtown Los Angeles designed by Albert C. martin or the Hearst Castle Designed by Julia Morgan.
Many of the larger commercial projects could be classified as Spanish Baroque in the Churriguesque style with the florid richness and exuberance of the Spanish architecture of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Also used in commercial and some higher end residential work is a uniquely Spanish decorative style called Plateresque which featured effusive use of curvilinear surface ornament creating a striking contrast with adjoining plain surfaces.
The Andaluisian Style from Southern Spain was a more suitable pattern for small scaled modestly priced homes in direct competition and which eventually prevailed over the craftsman bungalow.
The popularity of this style was a radical break from the formal and monumental classic designs that inspired Goodhue. The informal asymmetrical massing of architectural features was quickly absorbed into the Spanish Revival movement by the late 1920’s and ultimately played a dominate role in shaping domestic Spanish Revival architecture.
With its irregular design and proportions Andalusian easily adopted the characteristics features of decorative ironwork, painted tile, and coarsely ornamented wood members which easily integrated into conventional wood frame and stucco construction.
By the mid 1920’s futuristic styles such as Art Deco & Streamline Modern were outshining English Cottage, Norman, and Spanish Revival designs that had flourished. This International Modern Style survived well into the postwar era. By the late 1940’s, with the exception of commercial architecture the popularity of the modern residential style declined and gave way to the Western Ranch style. It can be argued that a Western Ranch is nothing more than a hacienda at heart with cedar shake roof and a little bit of wood siding.
One of the foremost architects of the Ranch style is Cliff May (1908-1989) whose Spanish Revival homes of the early thirties remain the finest of the genre and also is credited with bringing the Ranch into prominence.
It is interesting in this modern era to observe that many newly constructed homes currently on the market have mission tile roofs, classic stucco details including arched openings, and maybe a little bit of wrought iron. Well, it appears that what goes around comes around.
Once you and your architect have gone through the building department and are ready to break ground on your dream home you may ask yourself if you need an interior designer. You may worry about all the design decisions during construction. Your friends or family may have told you that you need a designer if they want the remodel to look right. You may be afraid to spend thousands of dollars on a remodel and not get what you want.
Interior designers serve many purposes; they educate the client, they help the home owner with the decisions of the design process and they sometimes act as a translator between the home owner and building contractor. Designers may be helpful in determining how the rooms will best be used and where to place furniture and lighting. They sometimes act as a marriage councilor between spouses to find a common ground when facing big decisions. A designer once told me that the husband needs to feel like he is being “heard” at least once. From there he lets his spouse make the rest of the decisions.
Designers typically charge hourly because the design changes as it develops. Designers typically charge between $100 and $200 per hour. Some designers may offer a onetime design consultation for about $400. Typically this is limited to a review of the floor plan, cabinets and colors. Designers often charge a mark up on interior finishes bought through their offices like tile, furniture, window coverings or rugs.
The problem with a designer is the meter is always running and you can waste a lot of money. Some clients may feel taken advantage of when they are charged hourly for a shopping buddy as they peruse furniture and drapery stores. To protect yourself try to clearly define what decisions you want help with and get a rough time estimate on how long they think it will take to make those decisions. The designer may not like being put on the spot but I think it is important. I have seen the client/ designer relationship deteriorate when the home owner feels there is no end to the fees.
For a designer to select every detail of a moderately sized custom home you can expect to pay somewhere in the range of ten to twenty thousand dollars. Some people think that is money well spent. Some people are intimidated by all the decisions so they feel more comfortable working with a designer. Others are too busy with their professional or family lives to dedicate the time needed to make the design choices they just hire someone to do it for them.
There is no licensing board or test to pass to call yourself a ‘designer’. Many people with no qualification refer to themselves as ‘Designers’. When looking for an interior designer start with someone who is a member of the ASID (American Society of Interior Designers). Membership in the ASID shows that the designer has a minimum amount of years of study and apprenticeship in design. Look up a local ASID chapter in your area by looking at their web site http://www.asid.org/.
Once you find a designer you are interested in review the style the designer works in to make sure it fits to your taste. A Modern designer may not be helpful if you have a Wallace Neff Spanish home. Ask to see examples of previous work and to talk to previous clients.
Next define the terms of your business relationship with the designer. Clarify the hourly rates, percentage mark ups on items purchased through the designer and how involved you want the designer to be during the construction process. Next try to educate yourself on your time. Having a better idea of what you want can help the designer more effectively and quickly make decisions. You don’t need to spend a hundred dollars an hour to learn about Colonial or Craftsman home colors when you like Spanish. Knowing what you want before you start can save you time, frustrations and money.
Craftsman homes and bungalows in Southern California
The Pasadena area is a treasure trove of numerous fine Craftsman and Bungalow style homes. After you see enough Craftsman homes you begin to appreciate and perhaps fall in love with the simplicity, efficiency and the details of the Arts and Crafts movement.
Craftsman architecture was developing in the United States at the turn of the 19th century. In Southern California the Craftsman movement evolved quite differently in many respects. These unique differences, details and styles make Craftsman Architecture special to us here in Southern California.
The Arts and Crafts movement began in England with the prolific writings of John Ruskin and William Morris who stressed the virtues of hand made goods as opposed to the machine made goods of the industrial revolution. Gustav Stickley in New York was one of the first Americans to adopt the philosophy of the Arts and Crafts movement shunning the Victorian and Classical style in favor of simple unadorned handmade basic structural forms.
In the Pasadena area the Arts and Crafts style was being adopted by several local artisans; Ernest Batchelder the tile maker and designer, Highland Park’s Arroyo Guild, including William Lees Judson the Stained glass artisan and founder of the USC College of Fine Arts, and of course the architectural firm Greene and Greene that opened their offices in Pasadena in 1894.
The work of Charles and Henry Greene has come to represent the heart and soul of the Craftsman movement with its simplicity and meticulous attention to materials and detail. The historic Gamble House featured rooms on the first floor that opened onto a terrace and the second floor bedrooms that opened onto an unscreened sleeping porch. The extension of the living space to the outdoors was a revolutionary concept at the time and could be interpreted as a celebration of Southern California’s temperate climate.
Charles Greene, the prime designer in the firm, was said to be under the spell of Japan. The
Asian influence can be seen in the corbelled bracing design of the Blacker House which was common in many Japanese temples. He featured the cloud lift which is of a centuries old Chinese design and the use of heavy carved structural members integrating the building and nature. The beams and rafters often extended beyond the roof line accentuating the design. The use of the picture rail above the door and window openings around the perimeter of the room unified the various interior elements of a room such as the doors, windows, fireplace, inglenook and built in furniture. The plastered freeze above that rail to the ceiling had the effect of making the room seem larger.
The Greenes used several interesting details in wood joinery such as strapping several wood members together with metal straps and clevis. Wood beams where spliced together with scarf off set or Z splices with square keepers with all edges sanded round. Perpendicular board intersections where mortised together with round peg keepers. Board corners where joined with finger joints rather than a simple mortise. Beam ends often protruded beyond the intersecting face with all edges sanded round. First floor parapet walls used indigenous river rock, quite often with a Clinker brick cap. Hardware and light fixtures had a distinctive Craftsman design which to this day is duplicated and in demand.
The cost of the Craftsman home with its beautiful detailing and the use of many exotic woods was just a little beyond the average home builder’s budget. Thus keeping with some of the same characteristics and techniques of the Craftsman home, a more modest design evolved referred to as the Bungalow.
The term Bungalow evolved from an East Indian hut called a Bangala which was anglicized into the word bungalow. In England the term came to describe compact no frills resort or vacation housing. In America the bungalow came to represent an affordable, practical, fashionable home greatly influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement.
The popularity of the Bungalow movement spanned the teens and twenties and swept various parts of the country particularly trend setting California. The typical Bungalow floor plan started with a generous front porch which could act as outdoor seating area. The front door opened to a living room with a fireplace located along an exterior wall. This room was intended to be the main living area for the family and for receiving visitors. Quite often the living room opened directly into the dining room with a cased or framed opening for visual separation and frequently had a built in buffet. Next was the kitchen with built in cabinets including a cupboard. These kitchens were laid out so that it had enough room for a small informal dining area, a new concept in the kitchen design. Bed and bathrooms were to the side or rear of the forgoing function or on the second floor. The plans generally where compact and quite functional.
Although the above described is quite common there was considerable variation in the style often incorporating classical and Victorian motifs. Southern California was different in this respect with less influence in the traditional style and in some cases influenced by the Mission style in the San Gabriel Valley. With Californian’s temperate climate and no snow loads the roofs where allowed a lower slope with strong horizontal lines. Structural elements were simple and strait forward. Rather than beam or rafter tails having classical or birds mouth profile, they where strait cut with rounded edges and often projected beyond the roof eves or post supports. Parapets, pilasters and fireplaces using indigenous river rock were a significant feature of the in the Pasadena area. Large entry porches sometimes extending across the entire width of the house where an endorsement of outdoor California living.
It is difficult to say who was responsible as the major influences in designing the multitudes of bungalows across America. Needless to say there was quite a bit of plagiarism between plan books. In most cases we really don’t know. Of course there were less common instances of custom built one of a kind bungalows attributed to an architect but many of the bungalow designs were the creations of unnamed designers, architects, or anonymous underpaid draftsmen. Plans were marketed by the use of books whose complete plans including details and specifications and were sold by numerous sources such as Sears and Roebuck and Montgomery Ward for as little at ten dollars.
An innovation arising from the plan book was what became known as “Kit Homes”. These “Kit Homes” where complete packages of carefully labeled house parts including structural elements, built in furniture, fixtures and finished millwork all meticulously labeled so that handy home owners could build their own houses for as little of $1500 ordered by mail.
There was no uniformity of style in the plan books that spanned the gamut of architectural influences from Victorian to Classical. You can see direct copies of Gustav Stickley homes right here in Pasadena. The house on your block might be a significant copy of a famous architects work. Next time you stroll down the historic streets of Pasadena don’t forget to appreciate the beauty and the history of the homes amongst you.
Solar tubes or skylights are a great way to bring natural light into your home. Solar tubes are easier to install than traditional skylights and offer similar advantages. Solar tubes typically take up less space and offer more options in their installations. A skylight installed can cost from $600 to $3000 depending on the condition of the roof and ceilings. A solar tube will cost you about $500 installed.
A solar tube is composed of a dome at the roof level that lets in the light. That dome is connected to glass panel in the living space through flexible reflective tubing. This flexible tube offers more options and ease of installation than a traditional skylight. Solar tubes can be installed during the construction of a house or at a later as a retrofit with ease.
The solar tube offers passive lighting during the daylight hours that saves on lighting costs. Solar tubes are good to install in otherwise dark internal hallways or rooms without windows to provide a constant light during the day light hours.
After coming up with a good plan for the location of the solar tube the most important thing to consider is the penetration at the roof. This penetration at the roof is the Achilles heel of all solar tubes and skylights. The condition of the existing roof is the most important issue. An improperly installed solar tube can cause more damage than good. An older roof’s waterproofing is often compromised when solar tubes are installed improperly. The condition of the roof and the location of the penetration are critical when installing a solar tube or skylight.
Only a licensed roofer can tell you the best location and installation technique and tell if it is even a good idea to install a solar tube in your roof.
Natural stone is a great option for countertops in kitchen, bathrooms or fireplaces. Granite and Marble are natural products which are composed of various minerals. They are formed under metamorphic pressure giving each martial its unique and beautiful color and veining characteristics. Granites have been formed over millions of years and marble is more commonly formed over tens of thousands of years. Granites are extremely hard materials made primarily from igneous rock (volcanic) and therefore are extremely resistant to acids in the kitchen, hot objects, scratching from kitchen knives and fading of color.
Marble is much more fragile than Granite. Marble is primarily formed from calcium and is less dense than granite therefore making it more susceptible to acid etching of the polish. It is best not used in kitchen application.
All natural stone products are porous to varying degrees. It is strongly suggested to seal all natural stone with a penetrating sealer closing off the pores at least temporarily then resealing over time. This will dramatically help repel damaging contaminates like fruit juices, sodas, perfumes, fatty foods, oils, etc. Marble especially stains when exposed to oils.
Ernest Batchelder was a local tile manufacturer in the San Gabriel Valley. His tiles where used extensively in the Craftsman homes that accentuated the Arts and Crafts Movement of the early 20th century. Earnest Batchelder had a studio on Arroyo Blvd just south of the Colorado Street Bridge before moving to Los Angeles as his business grew.
He featured nature scenes in his hand made tiles and accents. He is most famous for his fireplace mantels that are featured today in some of the most beautiful Craftsman homes in the area.
The clay tiles where handmade and air dried. The subtle colorations in his tiles where accomplished by using multiple layers of mineral stains applied with small sponges. After a month of outdoor drying while birds would often land on the tiles giving them minor indents the tiles where kin fired at 2000 degrees to fuse the colors and make the tiles extremely durable.
Original Batchelder tiles are quite valuable. Common 4” square field tile often fetch $40 each. The decorative freezes often go for several hundred dollars. If you are not lucky enough to live in a home with a Batcheler Fireplace there are reproduction tiles available. They are made the same way and reproduce the same beauty the Ernest Batchelder captured some one hundred years ago.
Redwood decks are a big part of the Southern California lifestyle.
You can’t think of an afternoon in Southern California without a thinking of congregation of friends on a redwood deck grilling some burgers. Decks are great place to enjoy the outdoors. Redwood decks are gorgeous when first installed but the elements and time take their toll. Deck owners are always painting and repairing their decks. Most decks have a couple boards that everyone knows to stay away from because they are loose, rotted or just plain dangerous.
Decks and decking materials have come a long way. Typically decks where made of Redwood. Back in the 50’s-80’s redwood was great quality and inexpensive. Many of those old growth forests have long been chopped down and made into patio furniture and wood decks.
Today there are new options available for decks. They fall in three categories; Composite decking like Trex, Exotic hardwoods like mahogany and Ipe and lastly good old fashioned clear Redwood. There are also new ways to install the decking to keep those pesky nails from popping up and boards from getting loose.
Composite decking like Trex has come a long way and is a good long lasting alternative to natural wood. Composite decking runs about $3 to $4 per linear foot of decking material. It comes in a wide variety of colors and textures. Composite decking is made of wood and plastic. The wood gives it a more natural feel and protects it from UV damage and the plastic protects it from rot. This decking material can last 50 years and never needs repainting because the color is integral to the material. Most composite decking is also available with channels cut into the side of the material so hidden fasteners can be used for a cleaner smoother look. Composites are a great alternative to Redwood decking.
Hardwood decking is another great option to Redwood. Redwood decking is very soft and brittle. Hardwood is more resistant to rot and breaking. Hardwood decks are the nicest option. They have a rich natural feel that will enhance your outdoor experience. Hardwood decks are of course more expensive and more difficult to install and maintain. Examples of hardwood are Mahogany, Mangaras, Ipe and teak. They are either installed by either top screwing or installed with hidden fasteners on the sides or bottom. Some are available custom milled with channels to make using hidden fasteners easier to install.
Hardwoods are too hard to accept penetrating sealers. Polyurethanes and varnishes do not hold up outdoors under heavy foot traffic. Typically you use a Penfin or teak oil to seal the wood and it needs to be reapplied every couple years. Hardwood is the best but comes at a price and has additional maintainence issues.
Good old fashion Clear Redwood. Purists go for good old fashion redwood. The problem it clear good quality redwood costs nearly the same as composite decking at about $3 a linear foot. Redwood is typically installed with screws from the top. There decking clips that can be used but they don’t always work well with Redwood. The deck should be painted with a solid body stain every couple years to keep the wood healthy and looking its best.
The often times bigger issue with Wood decks is the structure holding the deck up. Water kills decks. Every effort should be used to keep the decking on top and more importantly the structure underneath dry. Do not put big pots on wood decks unless they are moved around often or on spacers to keep the deck dry. Do not over water these pots. If you want plants on the deck try using plants to sip water.
Keep an eye on what is going on under the deck like broken sprinklers or dirt in contact with the deck structure. Code calls for wood framing to be a minimum of 6 inches away from the soil. Make sure the deck is well ventilated. Code calls for a half inch gap between the decking boards. This may be tough on guests with heels but it helps keep the underside of the deck well ventilated. Check the connections of the deck framing to houses or walls. This is where the deck typically fails. Most decks are built attached directly to another structure. Try to provide an air space between any ledgers and the house and make sure to use pressure treated wood and stainless steel fasteners at deck connections to houses or other structures.
Well now that you have your gorgeous rot free deck for enjoying Southern California’s great weather put your feet up, light the grill and pour a cold one for me.