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Bungalow Style Houses: Characteristics, Paint Colors, and History

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

The North Park neighborhood of San Diego, California, is known for its many bungalows

The North Park neighborhood of San Diego, California, is known for its many bungalows

Bungalow Belts

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!

The Bungalow Originated in India

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. The 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.

Modified by British Colonists

The one-and-a-half- to two-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.

The Bungalow in America

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.

Architects Greene and Greene

California architects and brothers Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene are credited with the rise in popularity of bungalows. The influence of their Craftsman bungalows can be seen throughout the country. They 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

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

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 steeply 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

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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 two-and-a-half 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.

More Information on Exterior Colors

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.