Graeme Butler, Californian Bungalows and their gardens
Californian Bungalows and their gardens
Interview with Graeme Butler
Filmed by Tribal Media
Contributor: Heritage Victoria
What house is that? Interactive, created by Heritage Victoria.
In this film, Graeme Butler describes the layout and planning of Californian Bungalows, and how the house planning, landscape and gardens changed from houses of previous times.
Click Here to learn more about Californian Bungalows.
Graeme Butler graduated in architecture at the University of Melbourne in the 1970s and moved into the heritage area with the Melbourne CBD studies of the 1970s. He went on to complete numerous other heritage studies including the RAIA (VIC) 20th Century Architecture Survey and heritage studies of Geelong, Bendigo, and the Macedon Ranges. Graeme Butler is also author of publications California Bungalows in Australia and Buln Buln (shire history).
The Californian bungalow in its setting... did try to merge into its environment, into its landscape, rather than stand out from it, so that the pathways were more likely to be an S-shape running from the gateway rather than axially on line to the front door.You had... Certainly the larger areas, people were able to plant.
In other words, the ordinary suburban dweller that didn't have a lot of land to create a garden in, was now able to think about it and think about it in the round, in the sense that it was a detached house - like, landscaped all around it - and then there was the motorcar, which had to be also accommodated on the block, so that you had a driveway running down beside the house and out the front gate.
So there's a lot of... Instead of there being a front and a back, there was a lot of infiltration of the landscape running down the side of the house and out the back which linked the bungalow design to the outbuildings as well as garden character.
And, typically, people would have privet hedges along the front of the block - possibly as a reaction to the fact that, along with the great town-planning ideals of making the street a communal garden, rather than fencing each lot off and leaving just a bare road between, was the idea that fences should be transparent, so the fences in the bungalow period were typically wire fabric.
But, with that transparency, people felt that they then had to put an evergreen hedge along the back of it. And so you had the privet hedge, on the one hand, or, for those who wanted the ultimate privacy, the cypress hedge.
The privet hedge was archetypal, along with the wire fabric fence, for your typical bungalow, and then there would be the rose-lined pathway up to the front door. And that was the ultimate.
When entering a Californian bungalow... some of the early ones were very informal, in the sense that you walked straight into the living room without any form of passageway at all, which was quite different to Federation houses or Victorian houses.
But your more typical suburban bungalows, you would arrive into... go up onto the porch, or the front verandah, and past your brick piers with their stone cappings, and walk through into what was usually a timber-lined passageway which would be panelled up to door head height or the top of the door, and either side of you would be double doors, glazed, and one would go into the dining room, the other would go into the living room.
And from there, you'd proceed on to the kitchen and potentially bedrooms fanning off that entranceway. So it was a little bit different from the previous styles, and certainly the passage itself had less emphasis and didn't bisect the house as it did in the Victorian period, but some of that informal planning had already been underway in the Edwardian period.
The bungalow took it that much further in the sense that it, in some cases, did away completely with the passageway - you just went straight into the front room.
The interior of the bungalow is sometimes thought to be... Well, I think I've heard someone say that it was dark and dingy.
But I think this idea is probably taken from the architect-designed bungalows, which, because they had the money and the time, they created very large timber-lined interiors, which would, in other words, be lined interiors over and above the passageway.And that wasn't necessarily done in your typical suburban bungalow, because the timberwork, which was typically stained and lacquered plywood, set into a panel.
And so, apart from that, you really had plaster everywhere - fibrous plaster and the archetypal jelly-mould type ceiling pieces, the centrepieces that had that geometric design that people now call Art Deco.
But then it was part of, perhaps, the Australian approach to the interior decoration of the bungalows apart from the American approach which still had Spanish mission overtones and a ton of timber in there.
We tended to go more for the plaster look, and with, of course, the plate rail, potentially, or a picture rail running around at door head height and all the timberwork stained and lacquered.
The interior of the bungalow also introduced other newfangled things, like the electric radiant heaters and gas radiant heaters that would be set into fireplaces. The coal fire or the wood fire was thrown away... in most cases.
Out the back, you would have the two-firewood stove, which might be a Lux stove, cast iron in construction. And there might be a water heater set beside it in a pressed-metal-lined alcove.
The kitchen would be tiled, there'd be the scrubbed timber benches with the white porcelain sinks set into them, the big Shanks taps.
All of those characteristics that you think of - the fireplace in the kitchen would have the high mantle, obviously, for cooking on top of your stove.