Old houses

at home in the 1920’s

As we languish in the purgatory that is escrow, I’m trying to stay positive. The fact that we even have the opportunity to buy in LA is kind of stunning, and I feel very fortunate to be in this position, stressful as it is. At this point, I guess we have about a 60/40 chance of closing successfully. The appraisal came in drastically below the list price, which means that the bank will only fund as much as the appraised value of the house. It remains to be seen whether or not the seller will be willing to lower the selling price that much, because we certainly don’t have the cash/desire to make up the difference. So all I can do is wait, and proceed with packing up unused winter items and dreaming about new projects, just in case.
The house was built in the 1920’s, and try as I might, I have yet to find any comparable plans for it. It’s quite small – it looks like it was originally a 2 bedroom though I struggle to see how that would be possible given the original footprint. The outside is sort of cottagey, sort of storybookish, but pretty subdued.

Minimal Traditional: The Non-Style

It seems as though most residential design of the 1920’s was either art deco, arts & crafts, or fussy. This house is none of those things. There are no staircases, no elaborate moulding, no fine woodwork, very few built-ins. It just is. It’s a middle class house built for a small middle class family in a quiet, middle class neighborhood. The original owner was (as far as I can tell) an accountant whose family emigrated from Norway, like my father’s (yes, I’m a creep and looked them up on ancestry.com). I’ve come to identify the style of the house as “minimal traditional,” a transitional style combining elements of Revival styles (English Tudor, Cottage) and the pared down, streamlined approach of the 1920’s. It’s true that 1924 is a bit early for this, but it fits the description here almost perfectly. And while I love a house with character, I also love tofu. So the understated-ness of this one is appealing, as summarized here:

“Of the 20th century house styles, the Minimal Traditional is the most adaptable style to work with. It can be Mid-century Modern, classic cottage, or an edgy contemporary, without destroying its inherent character. Many were built as small houses with a tiny footprint of less than 1000 sq. ft. making it an ideal choice for 21st century sustainable design. It’s like tofu … you can do a lot with it.”

If you’re wondering at this point why I haven’t posted a picture of the house, I guess it’s superstition. Once I post a picture, if we don’t get it, there will be that visual record out there of what wasn’t. I’m afraid of jinxing it. I’m afraid that once we tell the world exactly what we want, the world will somehow be in a better position to take it away. Yes, this is silly. The universe doesn’t care. And I don’t care that it’s silly. I’m not doing it. At least, not yet. So here are some basically kind of sort of plans that match pretty well, from Antique Home Style, an invaluable resource for anyone into old houses.

This one is very close, although sadly, we have no This one is also very close, if the kitchen and dining alcove are rotated 90 degrees clockwise.This one is the closest to the outside that I've seen, though still not a match. The existence of a breakfast nook in most of the plans contemporary to the house make me think that the current laundry room might have replaced such a feature when the kitchen was redone in the 1940's.

Also, something kind of fun I saw this week: a 1920’s house lived in by people only slightly more eccentric than I, not updated in any way since 1932.



See the rest of the photos here, and try to ignore the inane content below it.

in July 16, 2013

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