Bungalow Columns Explained

Nov 12, 2014 11:25:56 PM

NOTE: This is an area that I will come back to again, and again. I’d love to get your questions or input. I’ll expand on this subject soon.

I am going to discuss the characteristics of typical bungalow columns. “Typical” bungalow columns do not include the wonderful, crazy, and expensive Arts and Crafts beauties that you would find in a Greene and Greene home. Unfortunately, those are outside the scope of most family’s budgets these days. In fact, I am going to have a follow-up post to discuss the best ways of building (or ordering) these today.

What is the main types of bungalow columns? The classic is the half column on a brick pier. This is seen all over the United States on most every type of bungalow. It comes in an endless variety of types, but I’ll describe the most common: a brick pier about 2’ wide (3 bricks across) topped with either a slab of concrete a turned row of soldier bricks overhanging about 2 inches over the pier. This pier would go up typically waist high or slightly lower. On top of the pier would be a tapered wood column. Not too tapered mind you, approximately 16-18” wide at the bottom and 10-12” at the top. Typically, these columns are around 5' tall, but can be adjusted for beam and roof heights. Now you can dress this type of column up or down. A more California look might be to use rounded river stones for the base or to add clinkers (dark burnt bricks) randomly to the brick pier. You could also give the pier a slight taper or battered side. Up on top, you can have a simple square column or perhaps a pair of smaller square columns (4-6” square). Another variant would be to raise the pier to shoulder height and have an interlocking set of square beams as a type of column or a nice fat column, almost a cube.

Speaking of fat columns, you might be wondering, “Why so big?” Well, it just looks right is all I can truthfully say. But there are a few theories… Here is mine. Craftsman bungalows have always been tied to a “get back to basics” mentality. It was in opposition to the frivolity of the Victorian house. To the craftsman folks, the Victorian movement was fraudulent in that it divorced people from nature and the simple life. A craftsman home should be simple, straightforward and honest in its structure. This was most apparent in the use of materials: simple stonework, expressed wood beams, and clear-cut connections. Wood, stone, and earth. The house should sit well on the site. An architectural expression of the connection to the earth was the column. Creating a large stone base that gradually turned into a finished support for a wood column expressed this connection better than anything. So many of the first craftsman homes incorporated this battered stone/brick column device, that it became part of the lexicon.