Bungalow Style Homes

Craftsman Bungalow House Portrait

What is a Bungalow?

When it comes to bungalow style homes, whether you are a newbie to the world of bungalows or an experienced bungalow enthusiast, you have at some point in the journey scratched your head over this simple question: What is a bungalow style home?

I empathize with you because I have been there, done that. Years ago a sub-contractor working for me on a commercial construction project explained to me with visible pride that he had purchased an early 19th century Craftsman bungalow home and was restoring it to its original splendor with great care and craftsmanship.

It was a busy day and I listened fast without paying much attention. When he finished, I thought, that's wonderful, the man is working hard all day, going home to restore his own house to make a better life for his family. Later, with workday distractions over, I thought to myself: What the heck is a Craftsman bungalow? For that matter, what is a bungalow?

How Dictionaries Define Bungalow Homes

Not to let words get the better of me, I grabbed my dictionaries and I looked up bungalow and I looked up Craftsman and I read about something called the Arts and Crafts Movement and how it influenced bungalow designs. Then I took a field trip out into my own neighborhood and made my first lame attempt to identify some bungalow homes. Wow, was I confused!

Okay, I have a confession to make. I was born and raised in Lansing, Michigan and lived in California (to many, the center of the bungalow universe) for more than two decades after that, but only later did I realize that I grew up in a Sears catalog Craftsman bungalow. Bottom line: I grew up in a Craftsman style bungalow and never knew it. Sad but true. But I'll save that story of happy memories for another page.

House Portrait of my Childhood Home
A Craftsman Bungalow in Lansing, Michigan

Here is a composite dictionary definition for bungalow homes. In other words, this is as much as your going to get from all the dictionaries you can easily get your hands on.

Bungalow House: A low house, cabin or cottage of one or one-and-a-half stories, with a low-pitched gable or hipped roof, often with dormer windows, overhanging eves, exposed rafters and beams, a prominent and usually wide front porch, typically but not always small in square footage and frequently built of rustic materials. Origin: Hindi/Urdu bangla, literally, (house) in the Bengal style; first known use: 1676.

Checklist for Spotting a Bungalow Style Home

Since any existing American bungalow house is an assemblage of the original exterior and interior house plan type and the decorative arts applied to it, a checklist is a much better way to identify bungalow style homes and categorize bungalow designs.

A bungalow style home can be difficult to define simply because while all bungalows have many common interior and exterior planning and design features, they also exist as influenced by a number of diverse exterior architectural styles such as Cottage, Cabin, Rustic, Craftsman, California, Chicago, Prairie, Spanish, Tudor, and so on.

Viewed together as a whole, these are simply different types of the American bungalow, America's Arts and Crafts Style home.

Bungalow house plans and bungalow floor plans, both past and present, are based on Arts and Crafts style and Craftsman style philosophies that are the basis for how a bungalow home was/is built and furnished and lived in, and how they relate to the natural environment and the surrounding community of people.

Bungalow plans include aspects of philosophical lifestyle that can be applied today in new home construction as easily as they can be applied to the restoration and preservation of historic houses.

A bungalow is a bungalow style home when it has a generous (ample, plentiful) percentage of the exterior and interior design characteristics and details from the following checklists.

Bungalow Exterior Details

  • built approximately 1900-1930 or more broadly 1895-1935
  • house, cabin or cottage of one or one-and-a-half stories
  • low, horizontal lines and orientation
  • low-pitched gable or hipped roof, often with dormer windows
  • overhanging eves, exposed rafters and beams
  • a prominent and usually wide front porch
  • typically but not always small in square footage
  • exterior frequently built of natural, rustic materials, often obtained locally
  • handcrafted details and joinery
  • outdoor spaces and decks

Visit our friends at Front Porch Ideas to see more pictures of bungalow style homes with front porches.


A Classic Yellow Bungalow Style Home

Bungalow Interior Details

  • inviting front porch that joins the outdoor to the indoor
  • living and dining rooms open together, minimally divided
  • open floor plan
  • central, open spaces for meals and socializing
  • majority of space in living room
  • natural materials used on interior: wood, stone, brick, glass, earthen tile
  • often exposed rafters, joists and beams
  • economy and practicality with regard to furnishings and aesthetics
  • compact kitchens and eating nooks (today, often enlarged during remodeling)
  • small, numerous bedrooms
  • sleeping porches, screened in
  • murphy beds, wall beds
  • built-in cabinets, bookcases, shelving, storage, seating, window seats, hall benches
  • built-ins providing low dividing walls
  • fireplace, and sometimes inglenook, as focal point of large living room
  • windows sometimes flanking fireplace
  • Arts and Crafts art glass panels in windows, doors, sidelights, built-in cabinet doors
  • natural woodwork: box-beam ceilings, door/window casing, hardwood floors, wall paneling/detailing
  • stenciling and wallpaper to add texture and pattern
  • dark wood and earthy colors in harmony with wood tones (warm, cozy, welcoming)
  • textiles to soften the rooms
  • on the whole: simple, organic, common sense style space plans, furnishings and decorations

Additional Reading on Bungalow Style Homes

Additional information on bungalows and bungalow style architecture can be found at wikipedia.org/wiki/Bungalow.