The average annual salary of an American worker in the year 1920 was about $1,250 with a $2500 annual salary considered more than enough to live a ‘good’ life. In that same decade, an American could buy a new kit house or bungalow, like The Winona from SEARS, for between $744-$1998, the price tags varying depending on the size (there were two choices) and amenities a family chose. Now, consider how much house the annual salary of today’s average American worker might buy. Not likely the whole house as it did in the 1920′s!
Not everything we learn when reading about architecture is strictly related to design or detail. Some of the more interesting aspects of building are sociological, ideological or philosophical in nature. For example, the Craftsman and Bungalow movements along with the Arts and Crafts movement in North America had strong philosophical foundations. Did you know that one of the reasons that the Arts and Crafts movement began was that artisans were concerned that due to mechanization and industrialization, human ties to the natural world would be destroyed? The incorporation of natural lines, unique design, and a wonderfully stubborn emphasis on the hand-crafted – often regardless of the time involved – in this movement was largely in response to this concern.
Here is another example. When the Bungalow movement was fully underway in the early 20th century, it was seen as a way of providing quality homes for working class people. The Bungalow was meant to be a healthful, clean, hygienic and affordable home for regular, ordinary people. The inclusion of attractive detail was considered something that was for the average person, something for everyone, not just the wealthy. Indeed, the Bungalow movement in many ways was probably a far more successful movement in terms of being accessible to regular people (meaning not uber rich) than the 20th century Arts and Crafts movement; those pieces of art, due to the length of time involved in their crafting, tended to be incredibly expensive even in their day. While they were rebellious in this sense and certainly took a stand against mechanization/industrialization of production, these were not pieces for the everyday person, ultimately.
In many ways, the more we learn about Bungalows, the more we love them. We aren’t exactly purists, but we love the squat shapes and classic lines, the appealing porches and friendly faces of older style homes. I’m talking a lot about Bungalows in this entry, but clearly, Bungalows are not our only architectural interest area. Still, that the Bungalow movement was originally envisioned as a home for “the masses” to enjoy without bankruptcy is an interesting and inspiring additional aspect of our appreciation for them. In keeping with this vein, we’ve considered a couple of different things when it comes to our personal design vision for THE small HOUSE CATALOG. If you’ve done what we’ve done over the years and have done a lot of research into house plans online (or from other sources), you’re well aware that plans are typically quite expensive. They can cost absurd amounts of money (sorry if I am offending anyone). We have chosen to keep our plan costs comparatively low because it seems in keeping with the original thinking behind the movement of the Bungalow. It’s one of our ways of carrying on the tradition.
Any kind of dream, be it to compete in the Olympics or to build a Beekeeper’s Bungalow, starts in the heart and mind and then gets carried on through persistence and hard work from the internal to the external. Our plans are like that. We want to see them built and we want to see them built by people who want to build them. Good quality houses, not just built but crafted, should be available to everyone. Part of their being available is being affordable.
Today, if the median family income in America averages $55-80,000 and the average cost of higher quality materials for one of our houses is less than that, well, that means we’ve found one way to get back on track.
We want our small house plans to continue to help others break ground on their own ‘small’ dreams.