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Characteristics of Bungalow Style Houses

Linda is a seasoned writer and home-decorating authority. She loves sharing design trends, decor ideas, and useful tips with her readers.

Pockets of bungalow houses, or “Bungalow Belts” can be found in most American cities. They are typically situated in urban areas along old streetcar lines. Owning a bungalow is like owning a little piece of early 20th century American history. If you are a fan of historic homes, you need to get the scoop on bungalows. Think you know all about them? Read on; you might just learn something new!

Bungalow belt, Northpark in San Diego, CA.

Bungalow belt, Northpark in San Diego, CA.

History of Bungalow Design

Bungalow style is thought by many to be quintessentially American. We have certainly put our stamp on this architectural style; however, the origins of the bungalow lie thousands of miles away. Bungalow style is actually rooted in British Colonial India in the province of Bengal.

Example of large Indian bungalow. Photo c. 1857.

Example of large Indian bungalow. Photo c. 1857.

The 1 1/2 to 2-story house design, with its low-slung roofline, called a Bangala, was modified by British colonists and used as a rural summer lodge. The efficient floor plan, while similar to English country cottages, featured large porches and ample windows to help keep inhabitants cool in the hot, humid climate. The bedrooms, kitchen and dining room were situated around a central living area. This same arrangement can be found in most American bungalows.

Bungalow design in America was greatly influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement among people who had grown tired of the mass-produced and overly ornate architecture of the Victorian Era. The simple lines, natural elements and handmade quality of bungalows struck a chord with early 20th century home buyers.

California architects Greene and Greene, are credited with the rise in popularity of bungalows. The influence of their Craftsman bungalows can be seen throughout the country. The brothers designed grand homes like Pasadena’s Gamble House (1909) but also created affordable bungalow plans for average Americans.

The Gamble House, Pasadena, California.

The Gamble House, Pasadena, California.

California Bungalows

California Craftsman bungalows often have gables, composition roofs, overhanging eaves, and sleeping porches. Interior features include dark wood paneling, a plaster ceiling with wood beams, casement windows and built-ins, such as sideboards, bookshelves, cabinets, and seating. These, and most other true bungalows, are easily identifiable by their absence of interior hallways.

Spanish Colonial bungalows are extremely prevalent in Southern California and restored examples of these bungalow homes command a big price tag. These bungalows have distinctive tile roofs and feature smooth stucco exteriors. They have arched windows, doors, and room pass-throughs. Some have circular entries and front courtyards: many feature tiled stairs and wrought iron balustrades.

Typical Spanish Colonial bungalow in California.

Typical Spanish Colonial bungalow in California.

Other Popular Bungalow Styles

As bungalow construction spread, the designs evolved based largely on geographic preferences. In addition to Craftsman and Spanish Colonial examples in California, the following bungalow variations can be found in other parts of the country:

  • Cape Cod – A Cape Cod bungalow has a steep pitched roof, end gables, and a central chimney. This simple New England style is perfectly symmetrical, with a centered front door flanked by side windows. In fact, the first American bungalow was built on Cape Cod in 1879 by architect William Gibbons Preston. This early two-story version was quite large when compared to later bungalows.
Symmetrical Cape Cod bungalow.

Symmetrical Cape Cod bungalow.

  • Chicago – A number of Chicago's historic movers and shakers have owned historic Chicago-style bungalows. This iconic bungalow style is identified by its red brick exterior. They usually have a flat front and a small covered porch. More elaborate models feature a bay front picture window. If you are visiting the city, check out examples of Chicago-style bungalows in metro communities like Irving Park and Auburn Gresham. Enclaves of these bungalows can also be found throughout the city.
The red brick bungalow is a symbol of Chicago.

The red brick bungalow is a symbol of Chicago.

  • Foursquare – Popularized in the latter part of the 19th century, Foursquare architecture is also an example of the rebellion against elaborate Victorian homes. American Foursquare bungalows incorporate style elements from both Arts and Crafts and Prairie-style bungalows. The structure is a perfect square and features large, boxy rooms. Foursquare bungalows have a center dormer, and most are 2 ½ stories in height. The construction of this bungalow style peaked in the 1930s.
A boxy foursquare bungalow.

A boxy foursquare bungalow.

  • Mission – This style was inspired by Spanish missions that dotted the Southwestern United States. Mission bungalows have stucco or smooth plaster siding and a tile roof. These bungalows also feature overhanging eaves, exposed rafters, arched entries, and roof parapets.
Mission style architecture on a larger scale.

Mission style architecture on a larger scale.

  • Prairie – Prairie-style bungalows are an indigenous Midwestern design popularized by Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie School. They are characterized by a low-pitched hipped or gabled roof, two-story structure, square pillars that support porch roofs, window boxes, broad, flat chimneys, contrasting exterior materials, and decorative door surrounds.
Prairie style new construction.

Prairie style new construction.

  • Tudor – Tudor revival bungalows of the early 20th-century share characteristics of old English Tudor manors. They all feature a steep roof pitch but come in a variety of styles within the architectural genre. Variations include stucco, brick, stone or wood siding, tall, narrow or arched windows, asymmetrical facades and half-timbering detail on the exterior.
This Tudor bungalow features stucco siding and arched windows.

This Tudor bungalow features stucco siding and arched windows.

Bungalow Exterior Paint Schemes

If you have purchased, or are thinking of purchasing a bungalow home, do your homework when considering exterior paint colors. Often, bungalows are designated as landmark structures and must be painted in period color schemes as dictated by local historical societies or heritage groups.

Earth tone colors suit Craftsman bungalows.

Earth tone colors suit Craftsman bungalows.

Craftsman and Prairie styles honor the merging of house and nature with muted earth tone combinations. Browns and greens are common exterior colors for a craftsman bungalow. Mission and Spanish styles are typically white, off-white or light brown in color. Trim is sometimes a coordinating paint color to highlight architectural detailing.

For further information on exterior color palettes for different bungalow styles, check out Arts and Crafts Homes.com and Cal Bungalow (a document from the City of Long Beach.)

Weigh In!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: If a home does not have bedrooms or a full bath on the 1st floor, can it be called a bungalow?

Answer: A two-story house can be considered a bungalow.

© 2012 Linda Chechar

Start a Conversation!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on September 26, 2014:

juneaukid, this Hub really hits home for you...literally! I will definitely check out the Hub about your bungalow. Thanks for reading and commenting. :)

Richard Francis Fleck from Denver, Colorado on September 26, 2014:

A great hub! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. We live in a bungalow that I have written up in the hub "Our Hundred-Year Old Home."

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on June 22, 2013:

Thanks vespawoolf! It was a fun Hub to write and research. I just love exploring the different types of residential architecture. :)

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on June 22, 2013:

I'm surprised that I missed this one! This is very well-written and researched...I enjoyed reading the history of Bugalow homes. And congratulations on winning a HOTD for this one! Voted up and shared.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on June 16, 2013:

Thank you sunilkunnoth2012!

Sunil Kumar Kunnoth from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India) on June 16, 2013:

I loved the work you have done here. Good illustration with convincing photos. Your efforts are appreciated. Thank you for sharing.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on April 20, 2013:

Thank you Heidi! There are lots of bungalows in Chicagoland! They were easy to construct and inexpensive housing for the time. Not so cheap to buy one these days! So glad you enjoyed this Hub and the small slice of Chicago bungalow history. :)

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on April 20, 2013:

Growing up and living half my life in Chicago city limits, I'm very familiar with the Chicago style and have been in several. Ironically, though, I never lived in one! Nice review of the style!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on March 08, 2013:

I know, ktrapp. We are programmed to think of bungalows as a singular type of architecture, when they really encompass a wide variety of styles. I like the simplicity of the Cape Cod as well, although I haven't lived in any areas where they are prevalent. Thanks for reading and commenting! :)

Kristin Trapp from Illinois on March 07, 2013:

I never knew there were so many varieties of bungalows. I am partial to the cape cod bungalow since there were many around where I grew up in CT. In fact, the symmetrical cape cod bungalow pictured above seems almost identical to one where my friend lived.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on February 17, 2013:

Thank you ishwaryaa22! I greatly appreciate your comment and praise. This was such a fun Hub to research and write. I love Spanish Colonial bungalows, but like you, I wouldn't mind having a Tudor.

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani from Chennai, India on February 17, 2013:

A well-researched & informative hub with amazing photos! I learnt so much from this engaging hub of yours! I and my father always wanted a beautiful bunglow and hope this will happen one day! I will show your detailed hub to my father. I chose Spanish Colonial though I found Tudor very cute. Belated congrats on the Hub of the Day! Well-done!

Thanks for SHARING. Useful, Awesome & interesting. Voted up & pinned for future reference

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on November 02, 2012:

You are so right, Matt. I have provided the correct image. Thanks for stopping by and bringing that to my attention!

Matt on November 02, 2012:

The photo above labeled Gamble House is of the Duncan Irwin house in Pasadena by Greene and Greene, the architects of the Gamble house.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on September 28, 2012:

I am a fan of Spanish style homes. Having lived in Southern California for a number of years, they remind me of "home". I looked up the Kennedy family home in MA -- you're right the home styles are very similar! Good to hear from you, Jackie!

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on September 28, 2012:

I loved this and that one yellow one reminds me of the old Kennedy home in Massachusetts. I favor the Spanish and Mission styles.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on September 24, 2012:

I love Craftsman homes as well, Ellebee. I think I might change my tune too if I found a charming seaside Cape Cod! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

ElleBee on September 24, 2012:

Very interesting! I never thought of craftsman bungalows and Cape Cods being so similar, but now that its pointed out it makes perfect sense! Craftsmans are definitely my favorite. Although if I found a Cape Cod house on Cape.... I might be tempted to change my mind for a piece of the sea.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on August 03, 2012:

Thank you NC4Life. I would love to have a couple bungalows also! Foursquares are probably the least imaginative of the bunch. ;) Thanks for reading my Hub!

Nicoli Clause from United States of America on August 03, 2012:

I loved the hub and would love to own several types of bungalows (except Foursquare; hideous things).

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 30, 2012:

prasetio30, glad you stopped by to read my Hub. Thank you for the vote and comment!

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on July 30, 2012:

Very informative hub. Thanks for share with us. I love the pictures as well. Voted up!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 30, 2012:

GoForTheJuggler, the Gamble House is truly impressive and is a sterling example of California Craftsman bungalow style. Thank you for commenting and the congrats! Have a great day!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 30, 2012:

RTalloni, thanks for the congrats and for reading my bungalow Hub! It is nice to see newly constructed Craftsman bungalows -- it is a style that endures. If you go online there are many websites with bungalow house plans available. That makes me happy!

Joshua Patrick from Texas on July 29, 2012:

I would also like to echo the congrats on Hub of the Day. I absolutely love the Gamble House - voted up!

RTalloni on July 29, 2012:

A neat look at bungalows. I've seen a few neighborhoods of craftsman style bungalows popping up here and there. Love them! Congrats on your Hub of the Day award.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 29, 2012:

Happyboomernurse, thank you! You know, I think everyone has their own idea of what a bungalow is, based on where they live. Your Jersey Shore bungalows sound a lot like West Coast beach bungalows or even lake bungalows -- those primarily used as vacation homes. So good to hear from you. Thanks for the votes and your comment!

InglenookObserver from Southwestern Wisconsin on July 29, 2012:

I appreciate your survey of these related styles of architecture and the historical viewpoint. I live a stones throw from Taliesin and was wondering about our FLW, until I got to the end.

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on July 29, 2012:

Congrats on earning Hub of the Day status for this comprehensive, interesting hub. You definitely changed my beliefs about what constitutes a bungalow style house.

The bungalows I knew growing up were modest beach houses on the New Jersey shore. They usually had 4 small bedrooms centered around a living room.

Voted up, interesting, useful, awesome and beautiful.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 29, 2012:

Imogen, yes I did read that English style bungalows were most often a single story. There are also examples of Swiss chalet type bungalows here as well. In the States, the bungalow movement was well over by the conclusion of the 1930s, although I'm sure offshoots of this style were constructed in subsequent decades. Thank you for your comment and insight! :)

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 29, 2012:

Pfennig, glad you enjoyed this Hub. The real exterior identifier is the size of the house (most had a small square or rectangular footprint) with a low pitched roof, sometimes featuring wide eaves and a covered front porch. The typical floor plan would have the front entry into the living room. The living, dining room and kitchen would open onto each other and are generally located on one side of the house. The bedrooms would occupy the other side of the house --although there are many variations of bungalow floor plans. Thanks for your comments and questions!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 29, 2012:

Sunshine625, thank you! I am especially fond of the Spanish Colonial style myself. I just love the neighborhoods in LA dotted with these bungalows that were built in the 20s and 30s!

Imogen French from Southwest England on July 29, 2012:

In England we think of a bungalow typically as a one storey dwelling, or maybe a chalet type building with rooms in the roof space, so was interested to see all the different styles - and some with two or more floors! Many were built between the 1930s and 1950s here, so have quite a distinctive style, and are very popular as retirement homes - due to having no stairs for elderly people to cope with.

I live in a 1950s bungalow myself, a style which I am not especially fond of!

Pfennig on July 29, 2012:

This is a really cool article. Well written, excellent example pictures. I didn't know all those styles were all bungalows! Since the tell is the lack of hallways, how do you know from the outside? What would the typical floorplans of these styles be like?

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on July 29, 2012:

Congrats on your HOTD Linda! This is an amazing hub with gorgeous photos! I'll take one of the Spanish Colonial's! :)

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 29, 2012:

Thank you mary615. Before I did the research for this Hub, I didn't realize small Cape Cods were considered as bungalows. I learn news things each time I pen a Hub. I am also learning so much in the apprenticeship program -- I highly recommend it to all Hubbers! Thanks for the votes and share. So pleased to hear from you!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 29, 2012:

Askme, I am so pleased you like bungalows and realize the importance of preserving this architectural style. It saddens me to see bungalows demolished to make way for homes that will never stand the test of time. Maybe with economic times as they are, people will better understand the value of these precious houses. Thanks for reading and commenting!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 29, 2012:

Thanks, Riverfish! Versions of bungalows are indeed evident all over the world. They are a favorite of mine as well. Thanks for popping by!

Mary Hyatt from Florida on July 29, 2012:

Congrats on HOTD! You did a wonderful job with this Hub. My first home was a Cape Cod; glad you mentioned that. I never thought of it as a bungalow house, but I guess it was.

Very informative and well deserved for a HOTD.

Congrats also for being in the apprentice programs. Good Luck.

I voted this Hub UP etc.etc. and will certainly share. Mary

By O'Reilly on July 29, 2012:

Wonderful and unique hub. I love bungalows too. So much character. In Los Angeles where I was raised we sadly tore down a lot of our bungalows to make way for McMansions. There are still some, but not as many as there were in the 1960s when I was growing up.

Great idea for a Hub. Loved it!

Riverfish24 from United States on July 29, 2012:

Congrats on HOTD! Beautiful hub. Love bungalows ..have seen a lot of British styles ones back in Asia.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 29, 2012:

Modern Lady, so happy you liked my overview of bungalows. You live in a city alive with this wonderful architectural style. Thank you for reading and commenting! Have a great day!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 29, 2012:

Inglenook, I did mention FLW in regard to Prairie style bungalows. He indeed was a driving force behind the Arts and Crafts movement. It would have been difficult to expand on his influence or of other prominent bungalow architects while maintaining the focus of this Hub. FLW certainly deserves a Hub unto himself! Thanks for your comment and opinion -- greatly appreciated!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 29, 2012:

Rebecca, even though I thought I knew a lot about bungalows, the research uncovered information I was not aware of. It was a fun Hub to explore and write. I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 29, 2012:

I am so happy I was able to shed some light on this iconic architectural style, starstream. It helps us appreciate the beauty of each variation. Thanks for stopping by to read my Hub!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 29, 2012:

QudsiaP1, each of these humble little house styles have an avid following among bungalow purists. They may be similar in layout, but their individual designs are quite unique and hold a special place in American architectural history. Thanks for the read and comment!

Modern Lady from Chicago, IL on July 29, 2012:

This is a wonderful overview of bungalows! I greatly enjoyed reading it since I'm an architecture junkie. Contrats on HOTD.

InglenookObserver from Southwestern Wisconsin on July 29, 2012:

Appreciate your survey of the style as well as the historical perspective. I live a stone's throw from the original Taliesin so was a bit incredulous that you might have left out our FLW...but there he was at the end.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on July 29, 2012:

Awesome research obviously producing a winner hub. Very interesting, I never Knew the origin of the bungalow. Congratulations!

Dreamer at heart from Northern California on July 29, 2012:

Your photos and explanations are educational. I appreciate the hub and learned some new things about bungalows.

QudsiaP1 on July 29, 2012:

I had absolutely no idea that Bangalow actually had names for each design, I just assumed people built it as per their requirement.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 23, 2012:

dobo700, I'm glad I could shed some light on US architectural styles. Thanks for reading!

dobo700 from Australia on July 22, 2012:

As someone outside of the US, its nice to see your styles of houses

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 12, 2012:

Simone, bungalows are such an important part of our architectural heritage. I warms my heart to see people restoring them to their former glory. Although, they have become such a hot commodity, the prices are through the roof -- unless you buy a complete fixer-upper. So happy to share this info with everyone! :)

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on July 11, 2012:

I can't believe I've been looking at bungalows all my life and have never thought to learn more about their architectural heritage and background. I've learned so much from this Hub, and come away with a greater appreciation of the houses around me. Thank you!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 10, 2012:

Hi Dolores! So nice to hear from you. Craftsman bungalows do have incredible wood work and wonderful built-ins. And there's nothing like a friendly front porch for watching the world go by. Take care!

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on July 10, 2012:

I love bungalows, especially the Craftsman bungalows. They seem to use space so well and I love the interior wood work and the big porches.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 06, 2012:

krsharp, thanks for the input! I do remember the wonderful bungalow homes in the vicinity of the Plaza. It's one of my favorite parts of the city (KCMO is my hometown). :)

Kristi Sharp from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota. on July 05, 2012:

Great hub lindacee, although I don't know anything about architectural design, it's wonderful to look at. You did a very nice job of explaining everything in detail. There are a lot of homes down by the Plaza in Kansas City that are bungalow style homes. Thanks for sharing. -K

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 05, 2012:

I see what you mean, Om! The word has a completely different meaning in other parts of the world. While researching this article, I found many bungalow resorts in tropical locales. Yes, Tudor bungalows are so cute. Along with Spanish Colonial, they're my favorites!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 05, 2012:

CassyLu, that's what makes this Hub so much fun -- to be able to point out the different bungalow styles. When we think of American bungalows, Craftsman often comes to mind. But that style was just the tip of the iceberg. Thank you for the vote and share!

Om Paramapoonya on July 05, 2012:

What an interesting read! In Thailand, when we hear the word "bungalow", we automatically think of beach houses, not urban houses. Kind of odd, huh? I like all these bungalow styles, but my favorite is probably the Tudor.

CassyLu1981 from Spring Lake, NC on July 05, 2012:

Wow. I had never known there were so many different types of bungalows. Now when I'm out walking the neighborhoods I'll be able to explain them to my husband :) Will make for great conversations for us. Great hub. Voted up and shared :)

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 04, 2012:

Thank you Guy! That is great advice for anyone in or around Pasadena. There is indeed something quite special about bungalow neighborhoods. Hopefully these areas will remain intact for generations to come. I appreciate your thoughtful comment! Cheers

Guy Foxe from SF Bay Area on July 04, 2012:

Hey Lindacee,

Excellent article. I love the bungalow style and had not realized how it mixes with other architectural styles, like the mission style that is so popular here in California.

There is actaully a neighborhood near the Gamble House in North Central Pasadena known as "Bungalow Heaven" that has a ton of vintage bungalows with really bushy front yards--it gives you the sort of warm California feel that has pretty much gone the way of the dodo in California. (It's all either Ranch homes or boring contemporary style planned neighborhoods now.)

Anyway, anyone that is interested in California Bungalow should check out that neighborhood next time they are in Pasadena. Enjoyed the post.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 04, 2012:

Thank you, teaches! I love bungalows for the exact reasons you mention. This was a tough Hub to write. It was difficult to condense such an important architectural style into a few paragraphs. Hopefully I did the subject justice! Have a great 4th! :)

Dianna Mendez on July 03, 2012:

There's just something about the word bungalow that brings a homey feel to the heart. The photos all show homes that are cozy and invite you to come in for a visit. Enjoyed your read and sharing of the characteristics of this home style.