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Showing posts from June, 2011

The bungalow staircase

California spearheaded the popularity of the bungalow (or ranch home), in mid-century North America. In California, basements are rare. During WWII and immediately afterward, some Ottawa houses were built without basements to save costs. But, the appeal of having a basement as extra room for storage and expansion space, meant that the basementless house did not last long.

Having a basement meant that California-inspired designs had to be adapted to allow room for a staircase down. The placement of the basement stairs in bungalow design is sometimes a challenge. With a two-story house, often the staircase is located in the front hall, but this is not the case with many bungalows. While a staircase up leads to finished rooms on the upper floor, the staircase down to the basement was historically linked to service spaces. Basements in older houses were more utilitarian, so there was no need to have the basement stairs on display like the stairs to the upper floors. A staircase down also …

How the car changed the suburban house

A few years ago, while completing my Master’s Degree, I wrote a paper on how the car changed the suburban house. I subsequently turned it into a lecture taught to Urban Planning students, and have now adapted that same research piece for this blog.


Living in the suburbs and owning a car have gone hand in hand ever since the advent of the automobile suburb. The two coexisted comfortably, until a turning point when the shelter for the car (the garage) became so important, that it negatively impacted the design of the shelter for people (the house). To show this change, I will start with housing built early in the mid-century.

During WWII, and for a while afterward, “Victory Houses” were built for returning veterans as a means of affordable yet comfortable housing. These straightforward houses were usually 1 1/2 stories and had an almost square footprint. In Ottawa, the area south of Carling Avenue, between Fisher and Merivale is an excellent example of such housing. To cut costs the hous…