Sunday, September 25, 2016

Anatomy of a Hancock Bungalow

In order to understand some of the opportunities we have with restoring our home's exterior woodwork, I took some time to put together the research I have about the home and look more carefully at the neighboring structures. At first glance, you notice a group of similar modest structures that have changed over the hundred years since they were first built. Closer inspection reveals that some have been muddled beyond recognition while others have been carefully restored. No matter what condition, it is a group of buildings with great variety on their single bungalow theme.  

There are thirty of these bungalows, on two blocks in Oak Park's Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie School of Architecture Historic District. They were all built by Raymond Hancock. Hancock built hundred of these types of homes in Oak Park and the city of Chicago. These particular homes were started in 1915 and finished in the following two years. The resulting in a distinctive appearance. All of the homes have aligning front porch or front porch windows flanked by columns and almost all of the roof heights are the same. This creates a streetscape with a horizontal character, where your eye is led from house to house, across an array of varying details. 

One of Hancock's marketing ideas was to give the owner a hand in the design decisions that went into the home. While the advertisements boasted amenities like cement basements, laundry tubs, and elaborate sideboards, many of the elements on the exterior of the home could be customized. Prospective owners could choose the style of bungalow and embellish it with brackets, various materials, and column styles. Hancock was able to maintain a standardized production method for his homes with almost identical floor plans in each but also offer the variety and personal appeal that new homeowners wanted.  

There are three primary styles of Hancock home that are found in the historic district; a front gable a side gable, and a hipped roof. Those with side gables and hipped roofs have a variety of front dormers. Those with front gables have different expressions of the gable depending on whether it had a full second floor or a smaller attic space.   
Side gable Hancock home with a front dormer. The dormer with three windows, exposed rafters, rafter tails and brackets. 
Front gable Hancock home with center window and brackets with intact eave beadboard soffit.
Front gable Hancock home with shingles above three windows, tongue and groove eave and brackets.
In addition to the stylistic varieties offered by the gable placement and number of rooms, each detail of the home was also customized. All of the homes have distinctive columns supporting the front of the home or flanking the front porch. Some run from the ground to the eave, others from the ground to a freize board and others are only the height of the adjacent windows. Ours happen to be stucco, a very unique feature for the street.
This is me ripping the aluminum siding off of the top of our front columns to reveal the cove molding. 
A wood column the same height as the adjacent windows.
A wood column the same height as adjacent windows but with a suggested clapboard-clad pier below. 
A full-height wood column from the ground to a freizeboard.
A column clad with beadboard and a wood pier below. 
Almost all of the dining rooms are given a more gratious interior appearance by a side bay window. There are both angled and square bays. Some extend to the eaves and some have their own roof. They provide added interest to the side facades of these homes.

Side dining room bay with dorner moulding, banding and brackets and exposed rafters above. 
Side dining room bay with dorner moulding, banding and brackets and exposed rafters above.
Our side bay is tucked under our eave and it doesn't appear like it had any detail or brackets. The skirt moulding, just above the bottom trim board was removed before they put on the siding though. We will have to replace that. 
The amount of detail that used to be on these relatively modest homes is surprising. Many of the more overtly "Craftsman Style" homes with exposed rafters and and bracketing are intact but very few of the soffited eaves exist in their original state. These eaves were clad with beadboard and had an intricate cove molding along the fascia and a small quarter-round trim towards against the main house. Our home had a soffited eave.

View of a soffited eave on a stucco home.
View of a soffited eave with beadboard on a central dormer.

We know there is beadboard under our eaves because we still have it in our porch. The eave restoration is the part of this project that gives me the most angst.
Though many of the homes on the street have been severely altered and have lost many of their details, there are still many that appear to be lovingly cared for. and retain much of their historic integrity. To my fortune, this will be my "library" as I move ahead with more work restoring the outside of my home.

Hopefully it won't be too long before the Tiny Oak Park Bungalow is a great example of historic restoration. 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Biggest Project So Far

We have lived in the Tiny Bungalow for ten years now. The year, the home also turned 100 years old. It is about time for a serious makeover.

In 2001, the PO decided that it would be good to cover the home in aluminum and vinyl siding. The siding is now pealing - yes, you read that right, the siding is pealing. I've always known that I wanted to restore the exterior of the Tiny Bungalow. Most folks think I am crazy but we are finally taking off the siding and restoring the woodwork beneath.

So far, I am happy with the results. Most of the woodwork on the west and south sides of the house is intact and decent shape. We also found that there are nice details like a freizeboard over the main porch, corner boards, and some cove molding. The down side is that some cove molding and a small skirt molding on the bay were removed to put on the siding and though the flat walls of the house seem fine, I am guessing that the eave and fascia are a mess.

After seeing what was revealed in the first day of demolition, I am optimistic but now see that I have to do a bit of research about my neighbor's homes to see what kidns of details once existed on mine and to figue out how to recreate them. All of this needs to be done before the weather turns. I hope I haven't bitten off more than I can chew.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Is Five Years Too Long for a Project?

Five years ago I started this project: re-cladding my garage with cement board and stucco paint and creating a mosaic on the yard-side of the garage. Here we are, at the end of summer in 2016 and I have finally completed this project.

When I picked the project up a few weeks ago, the wood was quite worn and needed re-working. Random tile, where I hadn't grouted, had come loose and was falling off.

I finished the tile work and re-painted the trim and things were ready for grouting this weekend.

The door I put on several years ago was looking pretty shabby as well. Luckily, I have a new one, salvaged from my neighbor's house. They were putting a new Home Depot special on their place so their gain is my gain.

I removed the hardware and cut it to fit. I added a few coats of paint and it was ready to go.

Yesterday was grouting day. I am very happy with how it all looks. Getting to door on was a little tough but it also came out great.

It will be nice to finally enjoy the back yard and patio without having this project looming over me.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Experimenting with Monotype

On most Saturday mornings, I like to relax by drawing or painting. This past spring, I got the notion that I would take on printing as well so I started experimenting with monotyping. I've always enjoyed sketching and liked the idea of trying to capture nearby views in print form. There is a permanence to the print juxtaposed to the quickness of a drawing that I enjoy about the monotype process. I also enjoy the chance affects that occur in this printing process. You don't always know how the printed image will come out or if it will come out at all so when you reveal the print, good or bad, there are always some surprises.

Monotype is a printing process where you ink a plate and then create a single print from that plate. For those that want to get into the nitty gritty of it, there is also a distinction between monotypes and monoprints. Monotypes are prints made from plates that have no permanent marks on them, they are unique and one of a kind. I began my first prints using a glass plate, some Speedball ink and a small sheet of glass. I applied the ink to the glass and used a reductive process to remove ink from areas that I wanted lighter in the drawing. I then printed it. It was a disaster. The ink didn't adhere to the paper as it seemed to dry too quickly. 

Glass plate with ink drawing on it. It looked so promising. What did I know? 
Disaster: printed drawing was too light and had no definition.
I decided to do some more research to determine what I was doing wrong. After a couple more tries, I've worked out a process that seems to yield good results. I first changed my ink to an intaglio ink by Akua. It stays wet for a long time so have time to work and know that the drawing will still adhere to the paper. I do the initial drawing on either a glass plate or a piece of palette paper. I then transfer the drawing by rubbing, with a bone folding tool, the printing paper over the ink image. 

I use both an additive and subtractive process to draw. I have found that starting with a black ground of ink has worked best for me. I then remove or add ink to create the drawing. I use a palette knife, paintbrush, and charcoal blender to draw with. I also keep toilet paper and wet ones on hand to remove any excess ink from tools or the drawing. I print on Strathmore 80lb drawing paper. The smoother the paper, the easier the printing process but I like the drawing paper best.     

My tools include a roller, palette knife, paintbrush, charcoal blending tool, palette paper, Akua intaglio ink, wet ones, and toilet paper. 
My subject matter is typically a local landmark, street or park view. I choose a view and create a sketch from it as a study. I then go to work on the plate or palette paper.  
Pleasant Home, a National Landmark in Oak Park is one of my subjects.

Composition / sketch study of Pleasant Home
Ink drawing on glass plate.
Final print of Pleasant Home drawing.
Sometimes I am happy very happy with a drawing but things happen in the printing process that create a faulty image. Too much ink can create blotchy areas with no definition. Not enough ink can make the drawing appear washed out. Not applying enough pressure when burnishing the image can cause printing issues as well.

Inked drawing of landscape. I thought this was going to turn out great. Unfortunately there was a little too much ink on the palette paper and it created a bit of a mess. 
Printed landscape image with too much ink shows smeared and blotchy results.
Printed landscape image of a plate that didn't have enough ink so the result was light and had little to no definition.
After a day of printing, I only had one image that I was happy with. You win some, you lose some. 
One of the things that some artists have done is to go back into the monotypes with pastel or watercolor to add additional character to the drawing. Edgar Degas is famous for this and is probably the foremost master of the process. Another favorite of mine who mastered this process was the American artist, Milton Avery. At some point I might start experimenting with color but for now, I am happy learning how to control the graphic quality of the simple printed drawing. I've collected some of my favorite monotypes and pastels on Pinterest if you are interested. Below are a few of my more successful attempts at printing from the past few months:
Monotype view of Oak Park Avenue
Monotype view of alley next to the Scoville Block.
Monotype view in Thatcher Woods.