Cottage 811, tucked among a circle of cabins at Chautauqua in Boulder, Colorado, appears to be a historic cottage bungalow nestled among the brethren. A collection of cabins that have accumulated over 100 years, Colorado’s Chautauqua is the only remnant west of the Mississippi River that remains from a remarkable national assortment of Chautauquas. At the turn of the century, these informal summer camps provided a place for speakers and cultural events that shaped politics, social thinking and art. No politician or suffragette could pass one up. Townspeople flocked to the summer gatherings, cheering or heckling the celebrities.
Nowadays, Cottage 811, like all the others, is painted brown with white trim, a charming old Craftsman bungalow of 780 square feet. No one would guess that Cottage 811 has been moved and renovated recently, neatly wedged into a gap between cottages with similar architectural characteristics—a tiny white porch and flagstone patio. The bungalow filled the empty lot like a tooth plugged into a gap, completing a row of perfect teeth.
About the same size and vintage as its surrounding cottage neighbors, the bungalow was moved from the campus of the University of Colorado and hauled to its present location in the dead of night. “We had to move it from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m.,” says Steve Watkins, the Facilities Director.
He shakes his head when he looks at a photo of the house balanced delicately on wheels. Steve proudly shows off the photo of a derelict structure hauled up a narrow street. House eaves were trimmed to avoid power lines. The bungalow looks shabby and sagging, wrenched from its original foundations. Even those who love bungalows might despair over renovating such a sad house, but Steve saw only possibilities. “Once we got a hold of it, we had a lot of fun,” he says.
The 1924 bungalow sat on a street owned by the university. Once called Grandview Terrace, these campus houses made way for newer, bigger buildings. At the same time, the Chautauqua Association realized that a few gaps along their streets could be filled in. All that was needed was to collect a couple of homes before they were demolished. After negotiating with university officials, Cottage 811 was unearthed, moved and repositioned into a new foundation. Architects and carpenters set about to work on a house that, during the move, had lost its front porch, chimney and doors.
Once those were replaced, the Chautauqua Association asked Dorothy Tucker to design an interior that would be appropriate for the time and period of the home. The total cost of moving and renovating the bungalow came to $200,000.
I wanted to bring back that feeling of Craftsman’s style and have the wainscoting and columns. Craftsman style is interesting. You do have to get the scale right and the columns were the most difficult additions. I was there with a tape measure just trying to imagine the scale. We settled at 11 inches wide with the top narrowing. And finding the right paint was hard. Still, I prefer historic projects. And I like the earthier, heavier feel to the Prairie and Craftsman styles. I also think that these styles fit the mountains. It’s not only the plentiful use of wood, but the idea of bringing the outdoors in with all the windows,” she says.
Dorothy is a champion of Frank Lloyd Wright and the Charles Greene and Henry Greene homes so predominant in California. “If I was younger, I’d love to be at Taliesen,” she says, noting the ongoing school in Arizona that was originated by Wright. Dorothy has collected books about all three architects and pores over them for inspiration.
Taking on the beleaguered bungalow was both a labor of love and a challenge. But it wasn’t the impossible dream. It’s easier than ever to find Craftsman reproductions of excellent quality. “That wasn’t true years ago,” she says. But the recent surge in renovating Craftsman bungalows has blossomed, and many bungalows are nearly 100 years old. They are in need of help. Longtime and recent home furnishings businesses have stepped in to fill in the gaps. Even major manufacturers are sensitive to the era. In some cases, Dorothy believes that homeowners can reprise the look, even if they use different woods than might be historically accurate.
Oak is associated with historic bungalows as well as pine, But Dorothy likes to use fir and hemlock because she has noticed that both take stains easily and look stunning. As a former resident of Pasadena, the heartland of Craftsman bungalows, Dorothy remembers the paint colors, tile, woodwork and proportions of classic California Craftsman bungalows. And she says the choices were far wider than we might believe today. “We allowed the wood to be lighter in color at Chautauqua. But they did use that light color. It’s just that people are accustomed to a darker color of wood. I like to use the lines of Craftsman with different materials. You can get away with that if you use the same lines and proportions.”
“The cottage is fancier than it would have been originally,” Steve says. Even so, the small bungalow is starkly simple with ordinary elegance. Nothing is out of place. The bathroom is all white, with a round mirror—no frame. The kitchen is lined with wood cabinets that include reproduction hardware. The only original feature retained is the kitchen sink, a handsome wide white sink that has been given a new coat of glaze. Sturdy pillars connect the small parlor to the dining room and wainscoting pulls both rooms together. True to the aesthetic of the day, a large hearth dominates the living room.
Originally, Dorothy wanted tiles in the style of Ernest Batchelder, a renowned ceramic tile designer whose earthen-toned tiles and animal designs were popular in the 1920s. “At first I thought we’d get the originals. But the whole point of the Craftsman style is to use local artists. So I thought of Sue Walsh, a Boulder potter, and sure enough, she could do these tiles and wanted to do her own design, which of course, she should do.”
The row of sculptured tiles is just enough to add style without cluttering the simplicity of the modest hearth. After all, it doesn’t take much to overwhelm a small house with too much fuss or detail. The restraint in Cottage 811 reveals basic bungalow charm.
These days, the cottage is finished and available as a rental for tourists who visit Boulder. They will be snug in a cottage that opens to a grand view and surroundings filled with hiking trails. No doubt they will head to the mountains for relaxation and respite. But for those who appreciate the details of the Craftsman bungalow, coming back to their cottage will be just as soothing as the vistas surrounding them. And when they return home, perhaps they will return rested and comforted from the serenity of majestic mountains. Perhaps they will take a little of the Craftsmen aesthetic with them, too.
Resources in the renovation of Cottage 811:
- Kristin Lewis Architects
- Faurot Construction
- Tucker Design Associates
- Fans from Hunter
- Lighting: Square Alabaster, Mission Tiffany, Design Trends
- Sinks: Kohler (bathroom)
- Faucet Hardware, Price Ffister
- Mirrors: Stanley Hardware
- Cabinets: Aristokraft
- Cabinet Hardware: ALNO Creations, Emtek, Liberty
- Door hardware: Emtek
- Tile: Daltile
- Interior Paint: Sherwin Williams
- Exterior Paint: KWAL Liquid Vinyl
- Woodwork: Fir, Guiry, Pratt &Lambert, Eastern Red Cedar Stain
- Fireplace: Ceramic tile by Sue Walsh of Boulder
- Exterior Doors: Hometree
To rent the bungalow: http://chautauqua.com/