What style is it?

Posted: June 2nd, 2017 | Columns, Featured, HouseCalls | No Comments

By Michael Good

Tracey and Tyler Bunting’s house in South Park might best be described as Spanish Eclectic. But it also has some other elements thrown in — Mission, Prairie, even Beaux Arts.

It’s a little bit Prairie because of the flat roof, the horizontal band of windows on the street-facing sides of the house and the divided light, tucked-away front door. It’s a bit Mission because of the parapet around the top. And there is a Beaux Arts feel because that aforementioned parapet is broken up into a mix of individual stiles and solid blocks, forming a sort of roofline balustrade.

At any rate, you won’t find this house in Virginia Savage McAlester’s definitive guide to house styles, “A Field Guide to American Houses.” That’s what makes it eclectic.

It’s a conundrum: The roof line is Beaux Arts or Neoclassical, the tile is Spanish, the cutaway over the doorway is art deco, and the hidden door is Prairie. (Photo by Michael Good)

Mission style was popular in the mid-1920s, and there are a number of examples in the South Park area. It’s most often identified by the parapet over the front door, a look borrowed from the Spanish Missions. Irving Gill liked the style and adapted it to his cubist designs. Three of those houses can be found on Granada in South Park.

Beaux Arts, an English interpretation of a French style, is rare in San Diego. (It’s more popular on the East Coast.) There is a version on 28th Street in South Park, across the street from the nine-hole golf course. It’s marked by classical elements and a formal central hallway.

Yes, it’s original: Kitchen cabinets include a hidden ironing board.

Spanish Revival took over the residential building scene in the 1920s. Its hallmarks are a red tile roof and plaster walls, a focus on tile and plaster effects rather than wood trim inside, and a somewhat fanciful and romantic air.

The house on the hill with the trees is a little more serious and formal than most small Spanish Revival houses, and the tile in the bathroom isn’t the exuberant colorful tile of the Spanish style, but rather an austere, classy square tile with tight grout lines and a crackle finish.

Inside, the wood trim resembles some Spanish Revival houses, but the coved plaster ceiling in the living room is more often found in the Mission style. There are arched cutouts in the living room wall and above the fireplace, which are sometimes found in Mission houses as well. Irving Gill hung bells in the cutouts.

The Beaux Arts or Neoclassical elements might be a nod to the house’s original owner, Margherita Chiavoloni, who emigrated from Italy in 1907. She bought the house in 1924 for $7,000, a princely sum at the time, from builder Edgar Hastings.

If we could ask him, Hastings might be able to tell us what style he intended the house to be. Then again he might just say, “I built it like that because I thought it looked good.” Hastings was a preservationist, so he probably was familiar with Classical and historical architectural styles and felt comfortable mixing them together. At any rate, he produced a pleasing, if confounding, style that might just be all his own.

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