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Front Porch: Bungalow preserver will visit

Published October 22, 2004

Jane Powell bought her first bungalow in 1987.

And never looked back.

Not once.

"It was a slow seduction," explains Powell of her romance with the genre.

Her book Bungalow: The Ultimate Arts and Crafts Home (Gibbs Smith, $50) was released this month, and will be followed next month by Bungalow Details: Exterior.

"I realized that I liked fixing them up and that I could do it for a living."

This woman really loves bungalows: big ones, little ones and the in-between kind.

A former window display designer for Macy's and Bullock's department stores, Powell was already handy with a drill and hammer.

"I always wanted an old house. I looked at Spanish revival, Tudors, Victorians, anything built before World War II. But the Oakland-Berkeley area where I was looking was a hotbed of bungalows."

Powell got so good at fixing up fixer-uppers that she began writing about the process. Among bungalow groupies, her richly detailed and beautifully photographed books are much more than coffee table props: In Bungalow Bathrooms and Bungalow Kitchens she offers homeowners both "obsessive restoration" and "compromise solutions" like using expanded metal lath instead of wooden lath in a bathroom when plaster is too far gone.

"I tend to be on the obsessive side," Powell says, meaning she completely understands when someone eschews a dishwasher in favor of washing dishes by hand because it's more authentic.

After restoring nine bungalows, the Oakland, Calif., preservationist and restoration expert is still at it, though she has moved up a bit in the world to what she jokingly calls a "bunga-mansion" - a 3,800-square-foot cross between a Japanese bungalow and a Viking ship.

Powell, a frequent lecturer and owner of House Dressing, a business that preserves old homes, particularly bungalows, will speak Nov. 3 at the Seminole Garden Center in Old Seminole Heights and Nov. 5 at the Friday Morning Musicale in Hyde Park. The free lectures are sponsored by Tampa Preservation Inc. and the Old Seminole Heights Preservation Association.

Powell's topic?

Restoring bungalow and old-house kitchens.

"It's the issue I get asked about the most," she says.

Over and over, aficionados ask about kitchen design, counter tops, appliances and floors, but mostly about how to artfully blend technology with history.

"Powell is extremely well known and respected in California, a bungalow guru," says Old Seminole Heights resident Suzanne Prieur, a California transplant whose exquisite 1910 historic bungalow is featured in Bungalow: The Ultimate Arts and Crafts Home.

Prieur, a real estate agent and passionate preservationist, moved to Tampa in part because of its bungalows.

Although the definition of a bungalow is ultimately complicated, thick with nuances that keep old-house types up at night arguing, Powell loosely defines an American bungalow as a "one or one-and-a-half-story house built between 1900 and 1930, usually for middle and working class people."

Bungalows are typically simple in design with an expressed structure of exposed rafter tails so that "it's obvious how the house was constructed."

Prieur's newly purchased 1930 bungalow has a floor plan almost identical to that of her former bungalow in California, a happy coincidence that allowed her to sleep tight from the first night she moved in. Already active in Old Seminole Heights preservation education efforts - she was instrumental in bringing Powell to Tampa - she has great plans to restore her current bungalow.

And bigger plans for Tampa.

She and other preservationists hope Powell's talks will kick off an ongoing lecture series by different speakers on related topics.

"I want Tampa's bungalows to be famous," Prieur says.

If you go

Author Jane Powell will speak at 7 p.m. Nov. 3 at the Seminole Garden Center in Old Seminole Heights, 5810 Central Ave., and at 7 p.m. Nov. 5 at the Friday Morning Musicale, 809 Horatio St. in Hyde Park. The lectures are free.

[Last modified October 21, 2004, 13:21:19]

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