Real estate is booming in communities of Northeast Los Angeles, affectionately known as “NELA”. Highland Park homes – as well as homes in Pasadena, Glendale, Eagle Rock and Altadena – are typified by classic, vintage bungalow homes. Even when examining Mt. Washington real estate, it isn’t unusual to see a turn-of-the-century bungalow perched next to a huge mid-century modern home or even a mansion! The availability of these character homes on the market is part of what attracts homebuyers to these neighborhoods.
One has to wonder whether the designers and architects who began working on these homes and streets realized they were doing something really cool when they decided on this approach. But how could they have known that these same homes would be bought and sold with massive profits decades later and would be lovingly restored by homebuyers and sellers alike? To answer these questions demands we look into the history of the classic “bungalow” home in NELA.
In the autumn of 1888 the Arts and Crafts Movement began in England when a group of artists and architects developed an organization called the “Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society”. Their purpose was to “turn our artists into craftsmen and craftsmen into artists.” They agreed that decorative arts and architecture should both be simple, efficient, built from local materials and most importantly, beautiful.
Their movement took off and found a home in the United States. Gustav Stickley, a furniture manufacturer from New York, wrote up these ideas in his magazine in the 1901 issue of The Craftsmen. He published captivating articles on theories and design of what’s now known as the Craftsman Style. He even included house plans for the Craftsman and Bungalow homes. Over the course of the century these ideas were taken and expanded to satisfy different habitats, tastes and cultures. Three of the most popular versions include the Craftsman, the California, and the Spanish.
Craftsman style homes are essentially giant pieces of art that people also use as their homes. Every railing, vent and shingle seems to contribute to the original glow of each home. These homes are constructed by hand with natural materials so the home blends in to whatever land it’s built upon. Craftsmen have low-pitched, front or side gabled roofs with exposed rafters and/ or beams. The braces and stickwork underneath the gables are artistic and decorative. Their porches can be full or partial width, but their support columns always extend to the ground. The chimneys are exterior and made of stone. There is typically a door or window or two with stained glass artwork. On the inside the homes are open floor plan with exposed rafters. There are functional aesthetic furnishings and built-in woodwork like cabinets and shelves. There are plenty of windows for natural light. The colors in the house reflect earth and wood tones.
A California Bungalow consists of the same warmth with architectural differences. A California has a front-gabled roof. They are usually 1 to 1 ½ story tall with a sloping roof. The eaves also show exposed rafters. They have a large dormer window over the main portion of the house. If it is one story only then an attic vent is designed to look like one. A California is horizontal in massing and also built with local materials from the land. Their exteriors are wood shingle, horizontal sliding or stucco, but never brick. They also have stone exterior chimneys with only a partially wide front porch. They have simple indoor spaces with a living room directly located from the front door. The focal point of this room is the fireplace. There is an opening into a dining room with a small kitchen. The common areas are always on the bottom floor and there are low ceilings.
The Spanish Colonial Revival Style was influenced by the American Craftsmen, the Mission Revival and Spanish Colonial architecture. A signature trait is the smooth plaster (stucco) wall and chimney. The roof is always flat, low-pitched and made from clay tile with terracotta or cast concrete ornaments. Spanish Revivals have small porches or balconies with wood casement or tall, double-hung windows. The exteriors have canvas awnings and decorative iron trim. The house structure is rectangular or L-shaped with horizontal massing. Spanish Revivals are predominantly one-story and have courtyards either indoor or outdoor. They are asymmetrical in shape and have cross-gables and side wings.
Bungalow style homes are often built together because they offer privacy and protection from two story homes. They were built in clusters in the 1920s and many cities have a “Bungalow Belt”. These spots are popular locations for gentrification and historic preservation.
Because these special homes in these special communities have become in-demand by homebuyers seeking to live in communities like Glassell Park, Eagle Rock, Pasadena and Highland Park, it is imperative that sellers who own these homes perform their due diligence before selling. Buyers should do the same before buying. It is highly recommended to consult with an experienced real estate agent who has proven success helping buyers and sellers who own or are buying a classic bungalow in NELA.