A Tale of Two Houses
Jun 08, 2011 01:45PM
● By Anonymous
The 1930s bungalow was remodeled by owners Dirk Geratz, president of the Murray Hill Neighborhood Association, and Terry Averill. The 1920s foursquare-style residence on the left was remodeled by Karen and Paul Koch.
Bungalow (By Kymberly Taylor)
When Dirk Geratz and Terry Averill first walked through their Arts and Crafts-style bungalow built in the 1930s, it was love at first sight—even though the paint was flaking, the porch was enclosed in a rusty aluminum frame, and the kitchen, a tiny room crammed with freestanding appliances, seemed more like an afterthought. Geratz and Averill only had eyes for the potential buried within.
In particular, Averill, an architect and architectural historian, was drawn to the story narrated by the Bungalow’s design and construction, where, upon examination, there is an eclectic coupling of both Colonial and Arts and Crafts elements. For instance, in the foyer, there is a traditional Colonial stair with wooden handrail, and there are unusual “turned corner ceiling” moldings. The moldings have a straight, uncomplicated base common to the Arts and Crafts period. Yet, the corner moldings are “turned” in the Colonial style meant to protect and lend support to the ceiling. “It is a tweener; it comes out of colonial ideas,” says Averill.
Averill and Geratz, a city planner and president of the Murray Hill Resident’s Association, also admired the bungalow’s exposed rafter tails and its attenuated rake, or tapered, pointy gables that extend well beyond the walls of the house. To achieve the attenuated rake, the wood must be soaked and then bent, a laborious, hand-built procedure, especially used in the 1930s, says Averill. Also, to survive into the 21st century, the wood had to be tight-grained to resist rotting and was probably local fir or cedar. “You just can’t do that with modern wood,” he says, gesturing at the rake’s eccentric, prominent pointed tips.
The rake and attenuated rake are seminal elements distinguishing the Arts and Crafts bungalow, which, from 1910 to about 1940, was a popular architectural style on both East and West coasts. Though there are many variations, the 1930s bungalow in general is a one- or one-and-a-half story residence distinguished by an A-shaped low-pitched roof, a front porch supported by wide pillars that run the length of the house, an open interior, and an efficient floor plan, which often dispensed with a center hall. Importantly, the bungalow’s relatively modest size made it affordable for middle-class Americans.
Averill and Geratz first made structural changes to the bungalow. In the kitchen, to bring in more light, add space, and create a breakfast nook, they knocked down the wall that separated it from the dining room and added three windows to the back wall. Upstairs, they lifted the bedroom’s ceiling approximately five feet, exposing the attic rafters. The small high window on the right-facing wall is original and was once part of the attic. Also, they knocked out the bedroom’s back wall and lifted the back portion of the roof to create more living space, which now includes modern amenities such as a closet and master bath.
When it was time to decorate their home, the walls were easy. These are adorned with paintings, drawings, and mixed media by local and international artists. However, finding the right furniture was challenging because most contemporary furniture is made on a scale too large for the early-century bungalow’s smaller rooms. “Furnishing a bungalow is tricky, because of its compact size,” explains Geratz. “Much of the furniture must be a size smaller than what you would expect,” he notes, recalling how he and Averill scoured antique shops for period finds. “We wanted the room to have a 1930s atmosphere that was relaxed rather than anything that could be stiff or stuffy,” he says.
Now, their home contains a comfortable mix of contemporary art, modern amenities, and furnishings that suggest the 1930s. Yet, it all works together—the contemporary art is folksy and refreshing, breaking any stylistic monotony, while the antique secretary and side table do not overwhelm the dining room. In the living room, it seems only fitting that the couch is closer to the size of a love seat, ideal for relaxing in front a fire and gazing upon the Murray Hill neighborhood scene.
Foursquare (By Nadja Maril)
It may have taken them years to find the perfect house, but Karen and Paul Koch finally found their dream home in the shape of a 1923 Foursquare.
“We were looking for a pre-World War II house,” explains Karen Koch, who with her husband Paul shares a love of history, antiques, architecture, and fine books. “We kept looking and looking but thought we’d never find anything, and then on a Friday I got a call from our real estate agent. I looked at it in the morning, told Paul ‘I think we’ve found the house,’ put a bid on it on Monday and bought it on Tuesday.”
Even though it was covered with aluminum siding on the outside and layers of paint on the inside (up to 10 layers in the bathroom), the Kochs were able to visualize the hidden beauty of the 1923 Foursquare, craftsman-style home. Period details include wood framed entryways to the living and dining rooms, constructed of heart of pine, that would have been coated with a stain when the house was first built. “But with all the damage, the gauges and the nail holes,” Paul explains, “We ended up painting all the woodwork white, which is fine because it goes with the Colonial Revival Style of much of our furniture.”
A good example of the Colonial Revival Style is the French chandelier from the early 20th century that hangs over the dining room table. It’s an electric fixture, styled to look like a hanging candelabra powered by candlelight. The dining room window treatments feature elegant silk sheers with embroidered bees and upper tier drapes with deep, rich colors that pick up the shades of the oriental rugs that lay over the original pine wood floors.
Even though it was purchased in 2000, it took five years of painstaking work before the Kochs were ready to move into their restored home. Just about everything in the building needed work—from a new roof and a new heating and air conditioning system to the removal of the front porch enclosure and the siding, which disguised the building’s architectural identity. Doors encased with layers of paint were stripped and cove moldings were added to the original plaster walls downstairs to facilitate picture hanging.
The Kochs were their own contractors, doing the majority of demolition, selecting building materials, and hiring sub-contractors. They worked on the house evenings and weekends, while both worked full-time at their professions, commuting from Karen’s mom’s house in Bowie. “Also time consuming,” says Karen, a professional baker and chef, was locating the specific items we wanted. For example, I wanted rectangular subway tile for the kitchen and all I could find were square tiles. I knew we really needed some tile behind the work counters because it’s so much easier to clean.” Called subway tile because it was used in the New York subways during the 1920s, the Kochs finally found a source for it. To break the monotony of the plain white tile wall, a row of decorative tiles bearing apples was added. The colors play well with the blue Corian countertops and the linoleum blue and white-checkered floor. This kitchen originally had linoleum and I wanted linoleum again, but it took time to find,” says Karen. On the walls in the kitchen hang 19th century French botany prints of fruit—cherry, figs, and gooseberries— some of the fruit that grows in their back garden. Although the kitchen is small, it is designed for efficiency.
The home was initially equipped with just one full bath, located on the second floor. The Kochs converted a pantry off the kitchen into a powder room and laundry room. Upstairs are three bedrooms and a small “spare room” that may have been a nursery or sewing room when the house was first built. The room now serves as a television room, with just enough space for a love seat and small armoire. Adjacent is a library, lined with dark, wooden bookshelves that blend handsomely with the old leather-bound books. This room is a favorite of Paul’s, who works as a human resources generalist in Northern Virginia.
True to the look of the early 20th century, the bathroom dons new black and white tiles that simulate the vintage look of smaller tiling. A four-poster iron bed hung with curtains in the master bedroom is complemented by mahogany antique furniture. While the house was built in 1923, the furnishings are an eclectic blend of contemporary classics and early 18th, 19th, and 20th century-style pieces. Together the shapes and colors blend beautifully in a formal home that is also comfortable and charming. ■