Remodeling strips art from architecture

Arbitrary alterations can lead to lower resale

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A while back, in a modest old suburb of San Francisco, I happened upon a charming little street flanked by rows of towering palm trees. And just as this remarkable allee gave the place a unique and special character, so did the houses that lined it. They were classic Craftsman bungalows of exceptional quality, with stout columns of river rock, massive beamed porches, and lovely leaded glass windows — in short, all the attributes today’s bungalow connoisseurs covet.

There was just one problem: Although the neighborhood’s original architecture had once been remarkably consistent, at least half the houses had been badly mauled by inept modernizations or ham-handed expansions — erstwhile "updates" that had instead diminished their architectural value. Even more surprising, many of the worst modernizations had been carried out recently.