ARTICLE Penelope Barker
Lining the leafy streets of many of Australia’s older neighbourhoods are distinctive single-storey brick homes with a front porch, sloping roof and verandah columns. These iconic homes are known as California bungalows.
A popular housing style built between World War I and World War II, the California bungalow was seen as an ideal home for city-dwelling families spreading out from inner-city terraces and into the suburbs, where larger blocks allowed a closer-to-nature lifestyle and a more informal style of living than the grander Federation homes that preceded this more modest and modern alternative.
With their simple interior layout, loads of character and charm and large yards, California bungalows allow plenty of options for renovating and extending to suit modern family life.
Back where it all began
The style we know and love as the California bungalow did in fact originate in California. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the bungalow style appeared throughout the Los Angeles region as an affordable style of family housing. These bungalows were typically one-and-a-half storeys with a wide sloping roof, a front porch supported by tapering columns, and sleep-outs, breezeways and pergolas for the indoor/outdoor living in California’s mild climate.
As Australia’s urban population increased in the early 20th century, building boomed, and access to American architectural magazines provided inspiration – with images of California bungalows, floor plans and designs that could readily be adapted to Australian conditions and materials.
For Australians who looked to California as a thriving, forward-thinking region with a similar climate, the California bungalow was seen as the height of modernity.
Transforming the California bungalow today
While retaining many original features in much of the house – such as leadlight windows, mouldings, fireplaces and polished timber floors – the typical California bungalow can readily be updated and extended for contemporary living, melding original charm with chic modern style.
For starters, California bungalows are generally sited on generous blocks to allow for a large backyard. With the rising popularity of the family car at the time they were built, builders also allowed room for a future driveway and garage. If today’s homeowner purchases a California bungalow with no garage or carport, either option can be readily added and should be designed to blend seamlessly with the exterior of the home.
The California bungalow was typically designed with a very simple interior layout consisting of two to three bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom and laundry. This simple floor plan, plus all the outdoor space, make it easy to extend at the rear, while the roof design also makes it easy to add an additional storey.
A typical renovation of a California bungalow would add an ensuite to the main bedroom downstairs, convert the current bathroom into a stairwell to access a new upstairs addition with extra bedrooms overlooking the back garden and a large main bathroom, plus the addition of an open plan family room at the rear with full-height bifold glass doors opening out to a deck and outdoor entertaining space. If the garden is large enough, there may even be sufficient space to add a swimming pool.
For any upstairs addition, architects recommend a T-shaped plan as this is one of the few successful solutions for adding space to a California bungalow without destroying the original design.
With the right design and use of materials, a renovation to a California bungalow can give its owners the best of both worlds – the charm of the past melded with all the contemporary style, space and indoor/outdoor connection for today’s modern living.
If you’re considering renovating a California bungalow call on your local Refresh Renovations team for expert advice, design and planning and the convenience of a single point of contact throughout your project to coordinate all trades. The whole process will go smoothly and the results will be everything you could have imagined and more!
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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.