Characteristics of Bungalow Style Houses
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
What is your favorite bungalow style?
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
If a home does not have bedrooms or a full bath on the 1st floor, can it be called a bungalow?
A two-story house can be considered a bungalow.
© 2012 Linda Chechar