California – Residence In The Land Of Sunshine

ONE of the most hard-worked words in California of recent years is bungalow. In its name so many architectural whimseys have been indulged that it has at last become impossible to de-fine the term with. exactitude. Anything from a plain, unvarnished shack to a two-storied palace with tiled roof and patio may be dubbed a bungalow, and few dwellers in the Land of Sunshine are willing any longer to own up to living in a house or even a cottage; for while in the East, the climate almost restricts the use of a bungalow to a sort of plaything—a vacation-camp or a week-end shelter—in California it is taken seriously as a permanent residence.

But though it is not possible to draw a hard-and-fast line at which the California bungalow style stops and something else begins, there is one thing sure : that when you see a cozy one or one-and-ahalf-story dwelling with low-pitched roof and very wide eaves, ample porches, lots of windows and an outside chimney of cobble or clinker-brick half hidden by clinging vines—that is a bungalow, whatever other houses may be. In Pasadena and Los Angeles there are literally miles of these delectable little dwellings, hardly any two just alike. Those two cities appear to be the special places where the bungalow habit seriously began, though the fashion has spread very largely through the State. In size, the popular taste is for five or six rooms (exclusive of the bath), but eight or nine rooms are not uncommon, though this greater number usually necessitates an upper story. Nowadays, since the luxury of outdoor sleeping has come to be appreciated, the sleeping-porch is an indispensable adjunct, and this may be part of the ground plan or set jauntily, like a yacht’s cabin, on the roof.

The building material is generally redwood on an Oregon pine framework, the foundation being cobble or concrete ; and there may or may not be a cellar. In former years, building was often started right on the ground, but California ground is damp, in winter especially; and if you want to escape rheumatism, your floors should be at least a couple of feet above the earth. An artistic effect is produced by the use, in some cases, of cypress shakes for the sides, and some bungalows are built entirely of concrete, but this material stares you out of countenance until its hard surface is broken up and softened by vines and shrubbery. The style of construction may be what is locally known as a “California house”–that is, unplastered, with battens and burlap inside to stop the cracks but this means a maxi-mum of cold in winter and of heat in summer, and while less expensive, is not so comfortable as the ceiled bungalow, which is the customary sort now built. Within there is usually paneling half way up the walls in the beautifully grained Oregon pine, stained, not painted; there is a built-in buffet in the dining-room, and in the living-room and den built-in book-cases and settles, and open fireplaces.

The properly appointed bungalow inside stands for comfort, leisureliness and cheerfulness, comporting with a climate which makes for the same qualities. Bungalow life is informal but not necessarily bohemian, and at its best is simple, without being sloppy. If it is winter, the open fire that greets you as you enter directly from outdoors into the livingroom—there is no hallway—is a pleasant thing for the spirit, even if hardwood does cost fifteen dollars a cord.* The ample windows fill the house with Iight, not glaring, but subdued by the generous over-hang of the eaves ; and there is the perfume of violets or roses, or both, in the air—they have not come from a florist’s, but from under the window outside. If it be summer, the house is cooler than the out-doors; and the lowered awnings outside the windows and the dropped screens on the porches, temper the indoor light to a restful half-light. Opened doorways and windows admit the breeze with its manifold fragrances from hedge and garden, while complete screening throughout the house keeps out insect Iife. Rugs and couch-covers in cheerful col-ors, Oriental or Indian; Indian ollas of quaint de-signs for flower holders; Indian baskets set here and there for receptacles or hung on walls as plaques; pictures of characteristic California scenes, such as snow-capped mountains, cool cañon depths, the crumbling Missions-all such things help to give the unconventional touch which goes with bungalow living.

While the delight of bungalow life in California is largely attributable to the quality of climate which, winter and summer, calls you out of doors, or failing that, to open wide your casements and invite outdoors in, a generous share of credit is due also to good architects and first-class builders who have brought into the country the best ideas of their art and craft. There is not a facility to comfortable living known to the world that may not be found in the better class of California towns, and at reasonable rates. Electricity for lighting, electrical de-vices for cooking or for otherwise lightening labor, gas-ranges and grates, and gas water-heaters, the most approved plumbing, telephone connections both local and long-distance—these are matters of course in every modern bungalow in California tourist towns.

The cost of bungalows has been reduced to a formula. As a rule of thumb,, for a one-story, modern, frame structure, you can figure on a dollar and a half per square foot of ground covered by it, and you will not be far astray. This applies to what may be called the “bungalow of commerce” built by a contractor to sell; but it covers good work and is the sort that the average family of four or five buys with from $2,000 to $3,000, exclusive of the lot which may be anywhere from $500 up, according to the locality.

To the family of moderate means a very appealing feature of bungalow life is the ease of keeping house which it offers, and the independence of servants. The servant problem, indeed, has been solved in Gordian-knot fashion by doing away with the servant; for, given a reasonable degree of strength and skill on the part of the womankind of the house-hold, a servant is not needed, and in the democratic West no lady loses caste by the fact of doing her own housework. As there are in most bungalows but one floor and few rooms, the housewife’s daily steps are reduced to a minimum. The kitchen is a compact little room, airy and light, and provided with various ingenious modern helps to lessen labor. Adjoining is the invariable screen-porch where are laundry-tubs, ice-box, cooling closets, et cetera, the cooling closet being a built-in cupboard with open, screened bottom and top and perforated shelves through which a vertical current of air ascends continually from under the house to roof, and, in this land of cold nights, makes the housekeeper measurably independent of ice even in summer. Gas is the usual fuel for cooking, though some bungalows have electric kitchens, and by it the work of preparing meals is reduced to as little as may be. If the housewife desires to be spared the labor of cleaning, which is necessary much less frequently in the relatively non-humid climate of California than on the Atlantic slope, she may arrange to have some one come from outside at stated times and take this off her hands. Once in two weeks may be enough. Besides white women, Japanese “boys” make a business of such work at about two dollars and a half per day, or one dollar and a half per half-day, and latterly some white men have taken up this vocation. Other things being equal, men are prefer-able to women for the business, because of the physical strength needed for handling and beating heavy rugs, scrubbing floors and washing windows.

As to heating the bungalow, the mildness of the climate reduces this to a comparatively simple mat-ter. Even in winter, unless during an abnormal cold-snap or on rainy days, fire cannot be regarded as a necessity, except in the early morning and during the evenings. One wood-fire in the living-room fireplace is, therefore, all the average family need count on, as bathroom and sleeping-chambers are customarily supplied either with gas heaters, or a certain kind of little sheet-iron stove with a furious draught, that can be made red hot with twisted newspapers in a few minutes. This is the native Californian’s favorite heating arrangement, and his pet economy is saving the newspapers all summer and autumn to twist up for winter fuel. These observations, however, are based on the fact that Californians as a class are not prone to living in rooms of as high a temperature by several degrees, as are Easterners; and if one’s health or comfort demands a uniformly warm house in winter—say 70 degrees Fahrenheit or over—a heater had best be installed in the cellar for use on occasion. Many modern bungalows are provided with such heaters of various sorts, but all are rather lilliputian affairs from an Eastern or Middle West point of view, yet entirely sufficient for the work required of them. The fuel is frequently gas, but oftener a fuel-petroleum locally known as “distillate.”

As to the cost of bungalow living in California, it is pretty much what one chooses to make it. Our own small family of sometimes four, and sometimes three, found by experience that we lived in Pasadena for about one-third less than in Philadelphia and lived better; and we could have reduced the cost still further in Pasadena had we chosen to work our kitchen garden as we might have done instead of only playing with it. Our Pasadena account, however, was minus a house-servant’s contribution to the expense of living, while in Philadelphia we had kept a maid. On the other hand, we paid in Pasadena for the weekly cleaning—half-a-day—and put out all the laundry. The difference on wage-account to the debit of Philadelphia was about what the maid ate, broke and wasted, which is left to the reader to compute. In our bungalow experience we have had more elbow-room and enjoyed some amenities, particularly as to the table, that in the East we had perforce to leave to the millionaires—among these the luxury of entertaining our Eastern visitors in January on green peas, fresh tomatoes, strawberries and luscious Japanese persimmons, from our own garden or from just around the corner!

Fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables should form, and among the wise ones do form, a relatively larger part of the diet in a mild climate like California’s than in the more rigorous East, and they offer the best chance—and a very delicious one—for keeping down the cost of the table. Particularly is the list of native grown fruits an extended one in California. Oranges, grape-fruit, lemons, apricots, nectarines, plums, quinces, apples, pears, cherries, peaches, figs, loquats, pomegranates, the huge, non-astringent Japanese persimmons, a dozen or more varieties of grapes of the meaty Old-World stock—the very reading of these makes one’s mouth water—to say nothing of berries and melons galore and an aristocratic little list of tropical and semi-tropical fruits which are still experiments in California, but some of which, like the avocado and the feijoa, will doubtless be prevailed upon to stay. If you have a fair-sized city lot with your bungalow, you can raise quite a number of these good things on it; but you need at least an acre to get much satisfaction out of growing a variety of fruit, as the birds of California figure on getting a large share of their living out of the tenderfoot’s gardening undertakings, and are as merciless as the tax-gatherer. But even if you do not raise your own fruits and vegetables, they are cheaply bought in their various seasons from the green-grocers and the Chinese hucksters, or at the ranches as you drive about the country.

In speaking of bungalow life a word is in order about the part the porches play. Like many other people, we made an outdoor living-and-dining-room of our rear veranda, a quiet, retired spot on whose roof and sides were climbing roses and honey-suckles that hid us from our neighbors. From this flowery bower we looked out upon our little 60 x 90 foot garden, and beyond to the Sierra Madre, with its lovely lights and shadows and exquisite colors in the evening glow. Old-hickory chairs and settees, with a similar table or two, indifferent to the weather, make a suitable furnishing to such a nook. We added, in our case, the sewing-machine, and all through the long dry season—it lasts from May sometimes till November—it stood ready to hand, giving the porch a pleasant touch of domesticity which a low work-table, piled high every week with the family mending, served to complete. Here the daily mail was brought and discussed, the news-paper read, letters written, the vegetables prepared for dinner, callers entertained; and here often our meals were served not only in summer, but on sunny days in winter. We began this practise impulsively as a sort of frolic—we were fond of picnicking—but it proved so delightful and satisfying that it soon became a habit. Dished up on hot plates in the kitchen and brought quickly to the veranda on a tray, the eatables suffered nothing from -their outing, while appetite and digestion throve; for we did not allow the meals to degenerate into “pick-up snacks” but kept them on the plane of serious re-pasts. An alcohol lamp on a side-table served for the heating of water, and the warming up of small matters. The extension of electrical connections to the porch simplifies proceedings still further.

The vogue of the bungalow with the winter sojourners in tourist towns has led to the establishment recently of so-called “bungalow-courts”—that is, the assembling of a number of bungalows upon a tract of ground equal to two or- three city lots and ranged about a central open space devoted to lawn, flower-beds and a common walk. The buildings, while set rather closely side by side, are still separated by a space ample to admit an abundance of light. The idea is really that of the Spanish house built around a patio, only in this case entire, disconnected dwellings, are the unit in the make-up, in-stead of rooms. A dozen or more may be comfortably built on the land of two city lots. They are rented, usually furnished, for the season, or for the year if desired, on a basis which provides free water and electric light, the fuel gas consumed being paid for by the tenant. The grounds are cared for by the landlord. The rental rate of such bungalows varies greatly according to number of rooms, location and term of lease. In Pasadena, where they are now rather numerous, few are offered furnished under $45 monthly for the winter, while some are as high as $200 per month. In summer these rates are cut in two.