Celebrating Tiny Houses

I would especially like a tiny house and a tiny car. Otherwise known as a micro house and micro car. What other things have been trending as micro or tiny? Computers of course. But, I’m not a fan of smaller screens. I like to be able to see what I’m doing.toptinyhomes

Join Gizmag as we give a big thumbs up to ten of the most attractive, innovative, and downright interesting tiny houses we’ve come across in the past 12 months.

Source: Thinking small: Celebrating the very best in tiny houses

How to Research the History of a House

housesoldEvery house has a story and a history to it. You can find out when your home was built, who lived there, and how they changed it. Once you begin peeling back the old wallpaper, taking up the old flooring or wondering why someone put a door in such an odd place… you might want to know more about the history of your house and the people who decorated, renovated and lived in it before you.

You can find this out for a house you are interested in buying or just interested in for any reason at all. You don’t have to live in a house or a property to be curious about it. I like to find old, abandoned or derelict places and find out more about them. The main thing is to start somewhere.

Where and How to Get Started

Take a look around the property and the house inside and outside yourself.

Conduct a search of the house and its yard. Don’t forget the garage, any kind of shed or outbuilding, the basement and attic if your house has any or all of these. A little knowledge of architecture would help you find more about the features of your home and their original use or importance.

This is a great way to introduce yourself to the neighbours.

Ask neighbours about the neighbourhood, how long they have lived in the area and what they know or can remember about the house you live in. You don’t have to feel you are being a snoop or a gossip if you are asking about the house itself.

Talk to people in real estate, especially your own agent if they are local to the area.

Real estate people should be willing and able to find background information about your house (especially if you are interested in putting in an offer to buy the property). Real estate agents will have access to property records from services like land surveys, assessments and such which you might not consider tracking down yourself.

Go to city or county records offices, court houses, the local library and historical societies.

Deeds, tax records, property abstracts, city directories, census records, insurance maps, and actual road maps will help you track down the past life of your house. Your city or county records office can help you begin. Some libraries will have a section or a whole reference room dedicated to local history. You might even find a photo or illustration of your house from it’s earliest days. Ask the librarian for assistance. (Check if they have searchable archives of the local newspapers too).

Find out if your property/ house is considered historically important.

Check with societies preserving local, historic architecture to see if your house is on the list or has been considered. Even if your house is not listed, ask them about your street, other houses on your street and which are the older houses compared to your own house. If your house is considered historically significant you will have to talk to the local government planning office before you do any renovations or changes to the structure. (If you are considering buying the property this is an issue you need to think about).

Articles About Researching House and Home History

Make Your Own Impact for Future History

Just for interest, try exploring your house and the yard with gadgets which let you see more than your own eyes are able (like a metal detector). If you are renovating a space in the house keep an eye out for anything interesting. People sometimes leave notes when they are renovating a house.

We the same when we wallpapered my old house. Each of the four kids and our parents signed the wall when we had all the old paper off. We added the date and a message to whoever finds that bare wall again in the history of that house.

Famous Women Gardeners

Famous Women Gardeners
By Gay Klok

Introduction

GERTRUDE JEKYLL
V. SACKVILLE-WEST
EDNA WALLING
LESTER ROWNTREE
ELIZABETH VON ARNIM

You may have heard of the first two but not have heard of the last two ladies. During the next weeks we will learn how these five women had an enormous influence on our modern-day gardens and I hope to open to you, with discussions and suggested readings, their fascinating gardening world and interesting lives.

These women had many things in common, though they lived and gardened in different geographical areas. They were all passionate about gardening, they lived mostly in the same period of time and they designed and planted other people’s gardens, creating a soft and romantic style. Perhaps we could say they planted with a strongly feminine style.

When we examine their personalities, we might remark they presented a masculine presence – the way they dressed, the physical garden labour they undertook and their strong belief in equality of the sexes. Although there are these shared characteristics, we will discover they all led quite different private lives!

Read more

Storybook Home Style

SIGNATURE STYLE: Carr Jones
Taking whimsy seriously
SF Gate:Builder Carr Jones put Arts and Crafts style into the storybooks

Dave Weinstein, Saturday, September 13, 2003

The style is called Storybook, Fairy Tale, Disneyland or Hansel & Gretel, and the adjective most often applied to it is “whimsical.” In Hollywood, where the style developed, its earliest exponents were often motion picture set designers – experts in faux everything.

But Carr Jones, one of the great Storybook builders of the Bay Area, took his work very seriously. Both his architecture, and people who know him, suggest that Jones (1885-1965) was faux nothing.

“He was his houses,” says Lana Kacsmaryk, Jones’ daughter-in-law.

“He was just pragmatic and practical,” says Ruth Scott, who lives in Mill Valley in the last home Jones designed. Jones was no stage designer, she says, but was rooted in the 19th century Arts and Crafts tradition with its emphasis on honest craftsmanship and natural materials.

“I call my house a peasant house,” she says.

Jones homes may have turrets and spiral staircases, arched doorways and swooping rooflines. But they are also fire resistant and livable, she says, and filled with modern touches like radiant floor heating and walls of windows.

Unlike some Storybook builders, whose fairy-tale features were add-ons to standard plans, Jones crafted his homes the way a medieval craftsman would have, often living on site along with his craftsmen and working alongside them.

Jones studied engineering, not architecture. He did his own designs and contracting and much of the handiwork. His work indicates how much personality and seriousness a builder could bring to a style, even one as seemingly hokey as “Storybook.”

Storybook homes differ from their more sedate “period revival” cousins by striving even further to evoke medieval or rural Europe. Instead of relatively restrained Cotswold cottages or Mediterranean villas, we have homes that evoke Ruritania or the Brothers Grimm.

On a typical Jones house you’ll see brick outside and in, curves and random patterns. Roofs sway as though weighed down by thatch, and shingles splash across like waves. Homes are often L-shaped or U-shaped, and the ends of the wings often curve. One wing of the house often faces the courtyard with a California Mission-type arcade.

Inside you will find a two-story living room with an immense fireplace and a spiral staircase leading to a balcony, floors of randomly arranged terra cotta and tile, and built-in, hand-carved cabinetry. Walls are thick – 16 inches or more – and often curved.

Jones never left California, friends say. He got his ideas from National Geographic and Architectural Digest.

Many of his materials were scrounged. Used bricks were plentiful and cheap after the 1906 quake and he used recycled timbers and phone poles, refrigerator tubing for radiant heat, and disassembled old stoves to create built-in kitchen islands.

One sure Jones touch is a pyramid-shaped gable end filled with glass and decorated with curved beams – like half timbering with glass between the timbers, instead of mud mixed with thatch. The effect is medieval, modern and startling, and brings in a lot of light.

Montgomery, who has filled his Piedmont home with antique American furniture, art and an HO train set, enjoys the view he gets from the Chippendale armchair near the fireplace – through a curving corridor and several arched doorways to the dining room beyond. He loves the rhythms provided by the curves, the light and the home’s emotional warmth.

He also loves surprising Jones fans – they often ring the bell and ask to look – by taking them around back to an 800-square-foot mother-in-law cottage Jones added to the property in 1954. It’s got bracketed doors, a medieval chandelier – and a wall of glass facing a canyon and a low-pitched shed roof. It’s vintage mid-century modern.

“He wasn’t as traditional as you think,” Montgomery says.

Another surprisingly modern Jones house was built in Pleasant Hill in 1948, a rambling ranch with curved brick walls and a sod roof. It was demolished in 1996.

No one knows how many structures Jones built. Some publications say about a dozen, others 50.

Twenty-seven buildings built or substantially remodeled by Jones can be readily documented. There are undoubtedly more. At least 24 are extant. Almost all are houses.

At least five are in Berkeley, six in Oakland, three in Piedmont (counting the mother-in-law cottage), six in Contra Costa County (at least one demolished), three in Marin, one in Palo Alto, and one in Cucamonga in the Southern California desert.

Some, like the restaurant Postino in Lafayette, have become local landmarks.

But many are hard to see, hidden by walls or foliage.

Jones himself never made much of a mark as a Bay Area personage, though his homes attracted attention and followers. He never craved fame, Scott says. “He was a content man within himself.”

Nor did he crave or gain wealth. “He was a working man and he was not in it for financial reasons,” she says. He never sought jobs. Clients came to him after seeing one of his houses.

Friends describe him as mild, soft-spoken, a man who listened more than talked. When he talked, Scott says, “it was about architecture – and how you did things.”

Jones was a strong man of average build, but very short – as are his doors.

Jones loved to invent – he developed a form of adobe that could withstand rain without being plastered, Scott says – and loved building. But he wasn’t ambitious, she says.

“Somebody said to me, Ă”Carr Jones would never have worked a day in his life if he didn’t have to eat,’ ” she says.

But he was an elegant man with fine manners, Kacsmaryk says, and attentive to the details of daily living. “You wouldn’t set a milk carton on his table,” she says.

Jones, who was born in Watsonville and raised in Monterey, moved with his family to Berkeley and received a degree in mechanical engineering from UC Berkeley in 1911. Some accounts say he studied with Maybeck but Scott says it isn’t so.

But he undoubtedly knew the great Arts and Crafts style architect. Two of Jones’ earliest buildings are in the Berkeley hills north of campus where Maybeck lived and did much of his building.

The homes, built in 1914 and 1916, before the Storybook style took hold, are Craftsman in tone along the lines of Maybeck, mixing wooden board-and- batten siding with brown shingles and complete with Swiss chalet balconies. By the mid-1920s Jones was building in his mature style.

One Carr Jones owner in the Berkeley hills describes how his home was built,

with information gleaned from neighbors who watched: Jones and his wife and a crew of six or seven workers moved onto the site, built a brick wall, then started on the house. Five years later it was done.

Jones also turned a flatbed truck into a mobile home for himself, complete with a ladder leading to a sleeping porch on its roof, Scott says.

Jones, who was twice married and raised a stepson, built a sod-roofed home for himself and family in Orinda in 1948. In 1954, Scott says, he was “discovered” by Mrs. Fulton of Fulton Shipyards in Antioch.

Jones found himself remodeling many buildings at the shipyard and at her home, and living in a home she owned not far away – and remodeling that. He worked for Fulton until he died.

By the 1960s Jones was suffering from severe arthritis. He was ill when Ruth Scott and her husband, Alan, sought his services in 1964. They knew his work because Alan Scott’s aunt lived in a Jones house in Walnut Grove.

“He liked us because we wanted to do the work ourselves,” Ruth says. Jones visited the site, a hillside in Mill Valley, and drew up a plan. The work was done by the Scotts and their children, a small crew, and by Doug Allinger, Jones’ stepson.

Though Allinger, a mason, had absorbed Jones’ style and ethos, he had never worked with him. The Scotts’ home was his first Carr Jones-style building. He has since built several, including some that are well known in Contra Costa County.

Jones died of cancer in October 1965, the day they started work, Scott says.

Living in a Carr Jones home has challenges as well as charms – though Montgomery, a tall man, says, “In the years I’ve lived here I’ve only knocked my head once.”

“You need a repair, you have to call in a craftsman,” another owner says. Her husband adds: “It’s like living in a museum – which I suppose wouldn’t be to everybody’s taste.”

In Belvedere, the locally landmarked Audrey Jones Beck Cottage from 1930 is coming onto the market and preservationists worry that the buyer may tear it down. The hidden, hillside site offers gorgeous views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The city’s preservation ordinance could delay demolition for only 90 days, and Roger Felton, a member of the Belvedere Historic Preservation Committee and a neighbor of the house, hopes a buyer comes forward who loves Carr Jones.

Most people who live in his homes stay there awhile and care for them, Scott says. “People do get possessed with Carr Jones houses.”

Carr Jones
(1885-1965)

Style: Storybook, Fairy Tale, Hansel & Gretel. Jones developed an idiosyncratic version of this already idiosyncratic style based in the Arts and Crafts tradition. He used brick and other natural and recycled materials to craft homes that recall peasant farmhouses blended with California missions.

Active: Jones built from 1914 to the early ’60s primarily throughout the East Bay.

Known for: fine brickwork, swooping roofs, turrets and arched doorways, balconies and glass-filled gable windows.

Other practitioners: William R. Yelland created Normandy Village on Spruce Street near the UC Berkeley campus and other Storybook monuments. Storybook building can be found in any town that had much construction in the 1920s. Normandy Gardens on Picardy Drive in Oakland is a superb example of a Storybook subdivision by architect Walter Dixon.