A Well-Appointed Bungalow

Less is more in the case of a Concord couple’s cozy home.When it comes to buying a house, no one would say that Terry Sturke settled for less. Back in 1994, she looked at a total of sixty-four houses before discovering the right one: a 1,700-square-foot, circa-1920s “American bungalow” on a quiet residential street in Concord. “When I drove up the driveway the first time,” she says, “I thought, ‘This might be it.'” When she walked inside, she knew she had found her home. It all felt right: the built-in shelves, the rooms that were neither too big nor too small, and especially the atmosphere of warmth and comfort.Sturke, a health care professional, hadn’t been looking for a particular type of house. She just wanted one that was close to town and not too large. Although she loved the building’s lines, she didn’t know at the time it was an Arts and Crafts-style American bungalow. The Arts and Crafts architectural style was inspired by the artistic movement of the same name that began with William Morris and other English artists in the 1800s. Arts and Crafts hallmarks-according to architectural historian James L. Garvin of Concord-include “good craftsmanship, simple and functional design, basic materials, and modest scale.” That “modest scale” still allowed plenty of room for one person. In fact, as Sturke’s daughter hinted shortly after Sturke moved in, there was plenty of room for two. About a year later, there were in fact two people living in the bungalow: Sturke and old friend (now husband) Tom Bell. The two had met when they attended Antioch University in Keene in the 1980s and remained acquainted professionally since then. Bell enjoys the house as much as Sturke does, and has made a study of its history. Between the two owners, they enjoy artistic and domestic pursuits that are very much in keeping with original Arts and Crafts ideals: felting, woodworking, gardening, cooking, as well as making music and stained glass.Arts and Crafts designThe Arts and Crafts design philosophy encompassed textiles, furniture, wallpaper and other decorative arts. One of its architectural manifestations was the American bungalow, which was very popular on the West Coast, according to Garvin, but also in suburban neighborhoods in New England. “Most [American bungalows] are one and a half stories high, with broad roof planes that shelter an open front porch and offer constricted but adequate bedroom space above the first story,” says Garvin. The roofs usually project past the walls. Sturke and Bell’s house is typical of this style, right down to the “good craftsmanship” and “simple and functional design.” Outside, the house is a charming mixture of woodwork and brick, with vertically paned windows and exterior triangular wooden brackets that support the projecting eaves.Inside, the living room has a fireplace with a window on either side, a feature typical of American bungalows, says Bell, noting that the built-in bookcases under each window are also a common element. The first floor includes a three-season porch, mudroom, dining room, living room, kitchen, powder room and study. A wide stair landing leads to the three upstairs bedrooms and a bathroom. The house has maple floors throughout (though some rooms have wall-to-wall carpet for warmth) and a finished basement.Home projectsWhen Sturke bought the house in 1994, “it was in very, very good shape,” she says. Consequently, repairs and renovations have been few and far between, with the only major renovation being a kitchen redo in 2002. Sturke and Bell replaced cabinets and countertops, but their primary goal was to add space-they both love to cook. At first, they had an architect try to rework the footprint in the hopes of bumping the kitchen walls out a bit, but there was no way to do it that improved on the original layout, Sturke says. So instead Sturke and Bell removed a chimney that was protruding into the kitchen (this involved rerouting the heating system) as well as two pipes in chases that had run through the kitchen. The pipes were put into the walls. “Moving the chimney and the pipes opened things up so much,” Sturke says. Another project concerned the upstairs bathroom window. Bell felt the curtain and shade that Sturke had been using created a closed-in feeling. So they tried shutters on the bottom half of the window, but these didn’t create the right feel either. Finally Bell crafted the solution himself: a stained-glass window that lets in the right amount of light while still affording privacy. “And it looks great from the outside at night,” Sturke says.Decorative artsSturke and Bell’s artistic hobbies have enabled them to appoint the house in a manner befitting its Arts and Crafts provenance. In addition to Bell’s stained-glass window, he made a lamp and a bird’s-eye-maple-and-walnut table in the breakfast nook. His photographs of people and landscapes are also visible throughout the house. “I putter with photography,” he says modestly (he had a show at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover earlier this year). Bell is also an ardent musician, who plays guitar and other instruments. Sturke felts and collect antiques. The house has a great deal of art that Sturke has collected through the years, some of it from her mother, an interior designer. One of the most striking pieces is Mother and Child by Czech-born sculptor Ludvik Durchanek, a friend of her parents. The black-metal sculpture of a woman embracing her child sits on a white pedestal on the stair landing. “I have quite a lot of work by Durchanek,” Sturke says. She also has other pieces inherited from her mother, including an antique Italian chest in the hallway. Additional antiques include a breakfront from Belgium that she and Bell bought in Derry, as well as pieces she acquired while living in central Pennsylvania years ago. In keeping with the time period of the house, she has also collected a few pieces of Roseville art pottery. Over time, Bell has learned a lot about the house, the neighborhood and American bungalows. “There are a few others in town but not on our street,” he says. He and Sturke were able to meet a child of one of the former owners of the house, Hurley Smith, who in the 1940s invented the version of the pocket protector that is still in use today. Smith’s son told Bell and Sturke his parents had raised seven children in the house, which Sturke surmises must have been a tight fit at times.Despite the wealth of decorative items in a relatively small space, Sturke and Bell’s house is not cluttered. It strikes a graceful balance between aesthetic and functional, modern and traditional. Part of this process seems to have been knowing what to let go (the pipes and the chimney in the kitchen) and what not to. One design feature that didn’t change was the floral wallpaper with matching window treatments in the dining room. The wallpaper was there before Sturke moved in. When she first saw it, she immediately thought, “That has to go.” But as time went by, and she lived in the house, she grew to appreciate the wallpaper and now feels it’s perfect with its surroundings.Less can be moreOutside, the quarter-acre the house occupies is easily tended-another part of the property’s initial attraction for Sturke. There isn’t much lawn to mow, and the gardens that surround the house feature perennials for the most part-lilies, hostas and other plants that are easy to care for. Sturke says they add just a few annuals each summer-flowers such as daisies and impatiens for color. Although she and Bell like to work in the garden, the home’s shady lot is better for decorative plants than for vegetables, she says. Seventeen years after moving in, Sturke still appreciates her home-the sixty-fifth one she visited. At least once a week, perhaps while walking upstairs or passing through the living room, she finds herself saying, “I love this house. I feel so lucky.” If she could change anything about it, it would be to add two more feet to the living room. It isn’t that the room is small, but its lovely fireplace, built-in bookshelves, windows and doorways don’t allow much flexibility in the placement of furniture. Once in a while, especially when children and grandchildren are visiting, Sturke thinks how nice it would be to have a larger living room, but this is a fleeting thought.”I honestly struggle with wanting more space, and then I realize it’s perfect the way it is,” she says.