Sunday, May 09, 2010

The State Bank Californian Bungalow and Mrs Clarricoates

Our home is a State Bank Californian Bungalow house built in 1929. Mr & Mrs Clarriecoates had the home built from the few choices of plans offered by the State Bank of Victoria.
We purchased the house from a couple who were the second owners after Mr Clarriecoates had passed away and the second Mrs Clarriecoates was moved to a home for the aged.
So we became the third owners of what was up until then, a very original Californian Bungalow house.
The reason the house was known as a State Bank house is because it was at this time that the banks began lending to ordinary people to build. They then watched over every facet of the building process with each step needing to be approved before the next parcel of money was handed out. Thus, these homes are highly sought as they were very well built.

While reseaching some information on the Californian Bungalow I came across these few paragraphs that someone had written on their home that describes our home perfectly.
"Our house is what is known in Melbourne as a 'State Bank Cal Bung'. It was built in 1927, nine years after the end of World War One, as part of a plan to make Australia a better, more egalitarian society. The Victorian government had decided in 1920 that the best way to provide workers on low incomes with better housing was to offer them long term housing loans at low interest to enable them to buy a home of their own.

The State Bank of Victoria ran the scheme with a fierce paternalism. It drew up a book of house plans from which prospective clients must choose. It specified all the materials to be used and insisted that the building could only be carried out by an approved builder. The bank's building inspectors made frequent inspections on site. Over 12,000 houses were built like this. Most survive and have lasted well.

Number three is a Type 13T [T for timber] in the Californian Bungalow style which was immensely popular at the time. It is a compact design with all rooms clustered around a shortened hallway - very different from the Victorian cottage it replaced where the long central corridor bisected the whole house. The wood of which it is largely built was almost all imported: weatherboards and floorboards of baltic pine, framing of oregon from west coast America, and doors, skirting boards, picture rails, architraves and window frames of Californian redwood. Only the redgum stumps and hardwood floor joists and bearers were grown locally."
This is basic plan of our Cal Bung except for the placement of the fireplaces and the addition of the bay window. Our home still had the old stone wash trough and the outside toilet was moved inside beside the laundry when we bought. The small kitchen had a large walk-in pantry. This was all replaced in our renovation with a modern kitchen and family room that opened up to the leafy backyard.

The front of the house retains all its original features but has since been repainted three times.

Bold concrete columns support the gabeled veranda

One of the features of our Cal Bung is the bay or bow window protruding from the living room.

And the bay window from the inside.

The changes that we did discover were the things people did back then. The original owners decided to paint all the lovely wood work cream and to replace the open fireplace with a gas space heater. I tried to bring the woodwork back to original but I was never really happy with it. I always seemed to have a bit of the old paint showing in the cracks or indentations. Light fittings in the lounge room were replaced with something more modern, well modern in the 60s that is. Carpet covered the baltic pine floorboards.
Fortunately the leadlight sash windows are in good order and the lounge bay or bow window adds to the charm of the house.

Lap sash windows throughout the Cal Bung have leadlight features.

Our dining room leadlight has an almost Edwardian style of leadlight where the front rooms tend to lean towards an Art Deco influence.

We purchased the house in 1982. On entering the hallway, Sue decided that it would become ours. Our home has seen many changes over the years but we did retain the original integrity of the architecture outside and in the four front rooms. We even refitted the original fireplace overmantle in the lounge room and the light fittings with those of the era. With central heating and cooling throughout the house we now use the open fire places for atmosphere.

The re-installed overmantle and cast iron fireplace are the same as was originally in the home when built. We pulled out the small gas space heater and the terrible brick facade.

This fireplace is in what originally was called the Kitchen Room on the plan. It is our dining room.

Most if not all Cal Bungs have double front doors.

And when you walk through the front doors, a hallway invites you to explore further. The simple fretwork is a sure giveaway that this was a State Bank home. The linen closet didn't exist originally. This was installed in our renovations when we closed part of the hallway to the bathroom and second bedroom to make room for our en-suite.

It wasn't long after we purchased the house, we discovered that maybe one of the past residents was still in  the house. Rumour has it, that the first Mrs Clarricoates passed away in the house.
Strange things began to happen. Closed doors were open in the morning when we arose. On one occasion Sue's sewing basket was missing, I found it in the backyard woodshed. I thought that our labrador shepherd dog, Che may have somehow picked it up in her mouth and left it there. When I held the sewing basket near her, she cowered away from it fearfully. For two people very skeptical of paranormal activity it was an interesting time!
We eventually decided that it was time to start a family, but first a wedding needed to be organised. Being the second time for both of us, we wanted an intimate, close friends and family affair in the backyard of our new home.
It wasn't long after our two boys were born that Mrs Clarricoates (no.1) seemed happy with us as the owners of her home and she quietly slipped away. I somehow sense that maybe she wasn't happy with the previous owners as they only kept the house for 18 months before selling to us. I wonder if she gave them a hard time.
One day our elderly neighbours asked if we knew that the second Mrs Clarricoates was still living in an aged care home quite near to us.  We set about inviting her to afternoon tea so she could see the changes we had made to her house.  She was very excited at the prospect of this outing, but on the day she was to come, got over excited and had a small turn! Couldn't come of course, and we were too scared to issue another invitation as we felt guilty enough about what happened the first time! She died a year or so later.

Light fittings from the era of the 1920s Cal Bung home.

Californian Bungalows were usually built on reasonably large blocks of land and before we renovated and extended, our backyard was huge. It consisted of a long single car width garage, a wood shed, the remains of the outside loo and a chook shed across the back of the yard. Unfortunately we lost two great trees with the extentions but these have been replaced with the Jacaranda and "the Stick" and the 3 car garage.

This picture was taken just prior to the extension being built.

And this one during the building.

Sunny days are now enjoyed on the back deck with a glass of wine and nibbles.

My old garage was a long single car garage with a workshop at the far end. I spent countless hours in here and restored two MGs within its walls.

Many of Melbourne's suburbs contain Californian Bungalows from the 1920s building boom and good ones are sought after to renovate and extend into perfect family homes. I'm glad Mrs Clarricoates didn't scare us off as our Cal Bung has given us many joyful years and experiences starting from our wedding to many birthday celebrations and dinners with friends.


  1. That was a really interesting posting Leon - loved seeing all the 'old' / 'new' in your bungalow and think it is a great home for a family - shame the previous owner never got to see all your hard work

    Carol & Michael

  2. Very cool. I've seen a few California bungalows in (wait for it) California that have been beautifully restored or well preserved. They're great houses. Yours looks great!

  3. Beautiful house and the addition match the rest of the house perfectly.

  4. A ghost? In your house? You are kidding, ... aren't you?

  5. What a lovely comfy home you have. The interior style reminds me of the semi-detached house my parents lived in. In fact my mother was the first occupant of the house as a little girl when it was built between the wars as part of the move to provide decent modern housing for the working classes. It had lovely old fireplaces, panelled doors and picture rails. Unfortunately it also had an outside loo !

  6. What lovely comments from you all.
    C&M - it has been a great family home and guess what, my eldest wants to move back home.
    WCS - yes, saw the Cal Bungs when I was there in 76.
    Nadege - We tried to be sympathetic to the original theme while being in tune with todays living.
    Ladybird - no, we are not kidding but she was a kind old soul without an ounce of malice.
    Jean - How nice to hear from you, yes the same thing here for providing low cost housing except today they are being bbought by Yuppies. (not us though)

  7. I thought this post was terrific. There are heaps of external photos of Cal Bungs, renovated or original, on the web. But it is so difficult to find photos of internal features.

    Well done with the project :) And thanks for the link

  8. What a wonderful find this evening, and thanks so much for putting this online.

    You've actually got a derivative of the State Savings Bank Type 42 bungalow, though you've got the pedimented verandah roofline. I've got a Type 42 myself that I'm restoring, with an almost identical interior as yours, and the neighbours over the road have the same as you. Wonderful houses.

  9. I'd forgotten I did this post so glad to hear from you. Good wishes with your project.

  10. Thanks Leon and Sue for your interesting article. It is great to see you have preserved many of the original features of your charming home. I live in a Californian bungalow which has also been sensitively renovated and it is a delightful place. Hels mentioned that it is hard to find photos online of the inside of Californian bungalows. I would suggest looking at various places for sale. For example:

    I am not sure how long those links will be active as I believe both homes recently sold. However, a simple Google search should fine many more.

    In particular, I appreciate the Californian bungalows where the interior woodwork has not been painted over and the original timber and the quality of the craftsmanship can still be seen. I know that Leon and Sue tried to remove the paint from their interior woodwork but didn't obtain a good result.

    I will borrow Graeme Butler's book from my local library to find out more about the original features of this style of architecture. In my home, the previous owners installed a Victorian-style fireplace in the front room and it looks wrong, so eventually I would like to reinstate the fireplace with an original or reproduction one of that era.

    Best wishes to all those renovators out there who have Californian bungalows. The results will be very rewarding as these houses have "great bones" to start with.


  11. Sorry, for some reason the links I tried to add to my comment just above didn't post. Here they are (you may need to copy and paste them into your web browser as I can't seem to figure out how to have the links showing properly):


  12. Thankyou Elise for commenting.
    I did discover your links. Nice homes.
    Come visit our bolg occasionally.

  13. ooops I meant original internal features, not messed around with since the home was built in 1925 or whenever. Fortunately I have the Peter Cuffley book called "Houses of the '20s and '30's". The original photos are a delight.

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  16. Great article, but have to point out that many Cal Bungalows only had single front doors. Ours is one of them and there are many more in kyneton where we live. Also ours did not have a central hallway all the way to the front door, but the door opened instead into the front room.We have trully amazing plaster work. There were so many variations of the Cal Bungalow.

  17. Very interesting article. We are about to embark on our own Cal Bung project, so it was good to read your blog and see the photos. Sadly, all our original features and windows have been removed.

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