Our downsizing dreams have finally come to fruition! Last month, I moved our family into a new home! Today, I’m showing you around the new digs. Here’s the full tour of our 1920s bungalow in all her uncluttered glory!
When we first viewed this house, we knew immediately that we wanted to make it our home. To be clear, though, it wasn’t actually the house itself that made us fall in love. It was the location of the house.
The location is absolutely perfect! The home is located within walking distance of many of our favorite restaurants and the community’s best playground and dog park. The house is also just a block away from a main MTA bus line stop, making transportation for our family more accessible than ever before!
So far, we even love our neighbors. This community is highly walkable and most houses have large front porches, making this a front porch community. That means our neighbors are often accessible and our home lives extend beyond our front doors. (read more about what makes front porch communities really awesome here)
The result? We’ve only been in this home a couple weeks and we’ve already hosted a large (but casual) neighborhood gathering! I’ll be writing more about this in the coming months, but for now, I’ll tell you this - hosting a Sunday Funday is our favorite activity. It’s incredibly fun (as the name implies) and it’s easy for us to do, even in this small home, because we are able to extend our gathering outdoors.
Hosting this little social with our neighbors has helped us feel like real members of a community. Even though we’ve been in this home less than a month, we’ve met many of our new neighbors and our daughter has made friendships easily through this casual hosting approach! We love it!
THE ARCHITECTURE: What is a California Bungalow?
After our offer to purchase was accepted, I immediately began researching architectural styles from the 1920s. Since we plan to do a long-term restoration of this home (versus a quick renovation or remodel), I wanted to make sure that I fully understood what this house would have looked like when she was brand new.
In my research, I discovered an architectural style that I’d never even heard of before: The California Bungalow. That name is deceiving because it sounds like it would only apply to homes on the west coast (and we’re in Tennessee). In fact, it’s one of the most common styles of homes from the 1920s across all of America. Actually, most homes I’ve thought would fall under the brand of “Craftsman” style are most likely California Bungalows instead!
California Bungalow is a style of single-family home that was popular in American architecture from around 1910 through the 1930s. Most notably, these homes feature open eaves (ours does, they’re just covered by the gutters) and dramatically sloping roofs. See how the front of the roof comes down almost as long as the actual first story? Yep. That slope indicates this house is a California Bungalow.
My second clue that our home fits the profile of California Bungalow, besides the construction date of 1924, is that our home features an original half story. That’s right. It has a second story that’s not a full seven feet tall. Here’s Christine modeling this feature on our first viewing of this house:
At first, we thought this additional story had been an afterthought that was added later in the home’s history. Because the ceiling was so low, we assumed this had been an attic that was converted into additional living space. But then I started to question that theory because all of the flooring, windows, and wood trim appeared to be identical to what was downstairs. The floor mouldings and window trim all appears to be original. That’s when I realized this was no Craftsman kit house. This was something else entirely!
I’ll talk more about this architectural style as we restore this home. In the meantime, you can learn more about California Bungalows here.
THE DOWNSTAIRS TOUR
The downstairs is the biggest part of our home because the upstairs functions with only small dormers. That means that the sloping roof impedes functionality over a large part of the home’s foundational footprint. We have plans to remedy that way, way, way down the line. For now, though, we’re working with the downstairs to provide as much functionality for our family as possible.
Unlike a lot of homes from this period, our California Bungalow features no dedicated entryway. When you walk through the front door, you’re immediately placed in the center of the first room of the home. This can create headaches for furniture placement, but I have a solution!
Directly to the right of the original living room is a dedicated dining room that exists beyond a set of French doors. Because this room is directly beside the home’s kitchen - and is even accessible from the kitchen via an original swinging door - it makes sense that this would have originally functioned as a dining room for homeowners in the 1920s.
For us, however, we’re planning to reverse the roles of these two spaces. Since the entry door doesn’t allow for sofa placement facing a wall and we have a TV that should remain a centerpiece in our home (remember our beloved movie nights?), we’re shifting the living room into the second room of the house. This allows us to float a table in the center of the first room which isn’t possible with a sofa. Compared to modern homes, both rooms are small - roughly 13 by 13 feet - so this arrangement of rooms will allow us to maximize space in both these areas.
And don’t worry - we won’t lose access to the kitchen from the dining room because there’s a doorway just three steps away.
This little hallway serves a major purpose in the house. Its placement - dead center in the home - is brilliant because it leads us from the living room / dining room areas into FOUR ADDITIONAL SPACES.
To the immediate left is the only bathroom in this smallish house.
The only bathroom in our 1920s bungalow is small but we have plans to up the functionality with well-appointed storage and a new look. We love the original tub and the window trim.
Other than that, every single item has been updated throughout the years and this space has lost a bit of its charm and a ton of its function. I’m currently rooting for a makeover of this bathroom to be the first project we tackle.
At the end of the hallway, which is four steps away, you enter the downstairs bedroom. While it’s actually a lot smaller than the bedroom upstairs (more on that in a minute), we’ve actually decided to make this our master bedroom.
We love the high ceilings and original hardwood in this space. The best part?
Directly beside the closet (which is small by today’s standards but ample compared to most homes from the period), is this stunning original fireplace!
While we aren’t convinced the mirror that’s resting atop the mantle is original, it is old. Still, we don’t think we’ll be keeping it in this room. It does have a lot of charm but so does this original subway tile and iron surround!
The original subway tile surrounding the fireplace in our 1924 bungalow has that crackle finish that can't be replicated today. We adore it, so we're going to try our best to save it as we renovate.
The next door, to the right and perpendicular to the bedroom door, leads into the kitchen.
This kitchen is small and it’s been renovated right out of its period charm.
In an effort to maintain a layout but also add cabinet space, someone put a peninsula directly in the center of this kitchen. The effect? The space feels smaller - and functions a lot less - than it should.
I do understand the reasoning here. The homeowners wanted to allow access directly into the dining room and a small door that you can’t see from this angle which leads to the unfinished basement. They also wanted to keep the original windows.
The challenge is that these windows are too low to allow for cabinet space beneath them. Their answer? A peninsula with bar stools. Only, there’s only about three feet between the base cabinets and the wall. That doesn’t allow much room for an eat-in kitchen flow. So they added an angled (and very shallow) countertop to serve as a breakfast bar.
These pictures can be deceiving. I know it looks like there’s a ton of space here but trust me, it’s small. The other issue that impedes the flow are these two doors. One leads to a mudroom on the back of the house.
Even though it’s small (only 25 square feet), this mudroom would be incredibly functional if it didn’t empty to a narrow side yard on the opposite side of the house as the driveway.
The other door leads to this very small laundry room that sits directly beside the mudroom. Our long-term plan is to combine the laundry and mudroom into one space, add a door that empties into the back yard, and remove one of their doors into the kitchen. This would allow for more usable space in the kitchen and a whole lot more function as a mudroom/laundry room combination.
This now concludes our downstairs tour. I told you this house is small.
THE UPSTAIRS TOUR
The last doorway in our downstairs hallway leads directly to a narrow and steep staircase which goes into the second story (half story?) upstairs.
That staircase empties into a small landing. This space has a small closet and gets great light. It’s too small to function as an additional living space (like a bonus room), so we’ve decided to dedicate this space to our home office. It’s the perfect size for a small desk and maybe a little chair for lounging. Eventually, I’d like to add built-in shelving and create a library up here so we can store our book collection.
That landing leads directly into the second bedroom in this house. This bedroom is the biggest space in the entire house and it features an adorable little nook that’s created by the dormer you see on the front of the house.
Because she doesn’t have a playroom in this new house, we’ve opted to give our daughter the upstairs bedroom and allow her to sprawl out with her toys and books. This little nook will serve as the perfect playroom.
The remainder of this space will serve as her bedroom area. It’s the perfect size for a queen bed. That’s right! She got the upgrade when we realized that we had to get rid of a bed during the move and the queen was a nicer bed than the full-sized bed she’d had in the last house.
That’s the last space inside the house but that’s not the end of the tour because we have a lot of ground to cover outside. (haha, get it?)
THE BACKYARD TOUR
This particular neighborhood within East Nashville has narrow lots but is blessed with long backyards that all open to an alley. This backyard is large! It’s a tad overgrown but we’re not strangers to yard work.
The most charming part of this backyard is the little patio (currently covered in dirt) and private garden in the very back.
I especially love it because we plan to allow our tenants to have this private space as their own - including private parking that’s accessible from the alley.
That’s right! I said “tenants”! That yellow building you can see from the backyard is actually a large, detached garage!
The garage, which is already outfitted with electricity and its own separate electrical panel, is my second favorite thing about this house (first is location, obviously).
Our plan is to remove the large garage door and split the space in half.
One half of the garage will function as our storage space for tools and my shop/studio. The other half will function as a small, one bedroom apartment we plan to rent for additional income to subsidize the costs of running my design business (and make up for the cut in pay that I took when I left my corporate job).
Eventually, we’d like to add a second story to the building and allow that to function as a full-time rental while we have the first story apartment as a guest space for our family and friends to stay when they visit. How nice would it be to have an in-law suite for our parents?! Close but not too close.
So there she is - our new but almost 100 year-old home. We love her! As you can see, we’ve already made ourselves right at home here. We’re so exciting to share our journey as we restore this gorgeous old house! So remember to sign up for my newsletter + never miss an update!
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