What Is a Bungalow? Bungalow Definition, History, Characteristics & Styles

Bungalow Definition: What Makes a Bungalow a Bungalow?

You've likely come across plenty of bungalows for sale before, but do you truly understand what defines them? The bungalow’s simplicity might trick you into thinking it’s just another single-story house, but there's more to uncover. From unique features to the historical significance that shaped its evolution, it’s worth exploring the features that really make a bungalow what it is to see these homes in a new light.

Short Definition of a Bungalow

  • A single-story house with a low-pitched roof covering a cozy front porch.
  • Relatively small square footage, but spacious due to an open floor plan.
  • May have a second half-story built into the roof with dormers.

What Is a Bungalow? Common Characteristics

With origins tracing back to Bengal, a bungalow is a single-story or one-and-a-half-story house characterized by a low-pitched roof and a covered front porch.

In the United States, bungalows are known for their cozy atmosphere and architectural charm. These homes typically have a relatively small footprint of 800 to 2,000 square feet but feel spacious due to their open floor plan design.

Common characteristics of bungalows include visible roof framing, shaded front porches that offer a welcoming entrance, and a low profile that adds to their charm. The low-pitched roof not only gives bungalows a distinctive look but also allows for easy maintenance.

The History of Bungalows

Street of Working-Class 1950s American Bungalows

The word “bungalow” originally comes from the Hindi word “bangla” or “bangala,” which literally means “belonging to Bengal” but was used to denote a type of small, low house in the Bengali style. The British in India adapted these dwellings in the 17th century and spelled the name in any number of ways, arriving at the current spelling by around 1820. These homes were long, low, and had deep eaves and wide verandas, using thatched or tiled roofs.

British builders brought the term “bungalow” to England around the 1870s as coastal vacation houses to capitalize on the exotic imagery. Naturally, the trend spread to North America as well, starting in the Northeast.

The first American bungalow was conceptualized in 1879 (though it didn’t really fit the commonly established characteristics), sparking a trend that would provide accessible homeownership for many. The American bungalow turned out to be a simple, highly economical, and practical way to build new housing, allowing for an explosion of inexpensive single-family homes. These dwellings embodied the American dream of owning a respectable home, emphasizing privacy, independence, and a connection to nature.

The bungalow craze flourished after the turn of the century, allowing individuals to fulfill their housing dreams more cost-effectively. These humble abodes captured the essence of the American spirit and became an integral part of the country's architectural landscape.

Types of Bungalows

From the classic California bungalow to more modern renditions, several popular types of bungalows exist, each with its unique style and charm.

American Craftsman

Characterized by low-pitched roof lines and exposed rafters, American Craftsman-style bungalows are known for their artisanal charm, handcrafted details, and deep overhanging eaves. These bungalows boast an inviting front porch that draws guests into a central living area.

Constructed using natural materials like wood and stone, American Craftsman bungalows emphasize simplicity, functionality, and a strong connection to nature. Popularized in the early 20th century, the design ethos of this bungalow style showcases the allure of artisanal construction.

If you appreciate living in a cozy atmosphere, this popular home style might be the perfect choice. Experience the warmth and character of these homes that blend seamlessly with their surroundings, offering a retreat that exudes historic charm and modern comfort.

Many Craftsman-style homes are bungalows, but not all bungalows are Craftsman.

California Bungalow

The California bungalow, a popular variation of the bungalow style, is known for its horizontal layout and low-pitched roof. Widely constructed in the early 20th century, especially in Southern California, these one or one-and-a-half-story bungalows feature open floor plans and cozy verandas. They often exhibit Craftsman-style architectural elements, showcasing a simple yet elegant design.

California bungalows gained popularity for their affordability, accessibility, and connection to the outdoors through features like covered porches. Reflecting a relaxed indoor-outdoor lifestyle that fits perfectly with the California climate, this bungalow style is highly sought after in historic neighborhoods and suburban settings.

The charm of California bungalows lies in their seamless integration of indoor and outdoor spaces, offering an inviting atmosphere that resonates with the laid-back lifestyle of Southern California. It remains a highly popular style—one of the most popular neighborhoods in Pasadena is even called Bungalow Heaven.

Mission and Mission Revival Bungalows

Mission-style bungalows draw inspiration from the early Spanish missions in California, reflecting a blend of Spanish and Southwestern architectural elements. These homes are easily identified by their stucco exteriors, red-tiled roofs, and arched doorways. The design often includes exposed wooden beams, wrought iron accents, and spacious porches. 

Interiors are typically cozy and feature rustic details such as handcrafted tiles, built-in niches, and wooden trim. Mission bungalows emphasize a connection to the natural environment, with earthy color palettes and ample outdoor living spaces, making them a perfect fit for warm, arid climates.

Prairie Bungalows

Prairie-style bungalows, inspired by the early 20th-century architectural designs of Frank Lloyd Wright, emphasize horizontal lines and open, flowing spaces. These homes often feature low-pitched roofs with broad eaves, large porches supported by thick square columns, and extensive use of natural materials like wood and stone.

The design aims to blend seamlessly with the Midwestern landscape, creating a harmonious connection between the indoor and outdoor environments. Prairie bungalows typically include wide, open floor plans, flat chimneys, and narrow windows.

Chicago Bungalows

Chicago-style bungalows, a staple of early 20th-century urban architecture, are characterized by their sturdy brick construction and practical design. These single-family homes typically have a rectangular shape with one-and-a-half stories, low-pitched roofs, and full basements. Large front porches, often enclosed, provide a welcoming entryway, while generous windows ensure ample natural light. These bungalows often have stairs or steps down to street level, and they’re usually narrower from the front than Craftsman bungalows.

Interior features include wood trim and built-in cabinetry, reflecting a focus on craftsmanship and durability. Designed for efficiency and affordability, Chicago bungalows became a popular housing option for middle-class families during the post-World War I housing boom.

Tudor Bungalows

Tudor-style bungalows blend the charm of medieval English architecture with the practicality of bungalow design. These Tudor-style homes often feature steeply pitched gable roofs, decorative half-timbering, and brick or stone exteriors. Tall, narrow windows with small panes and arched doorways add to their quaint, storybook appearance.

Inside, you’ll find cozy interiors with dark wood accents, beamed ceilings, and stone fireplaces. Despite their compact size, Tudor bungalows exude a sense of old-world elegance and character, making them a distinctive choice for homeowners seeking a unique architectural style.

Modern Bungalows

Modern-style bungalows offer a fresh take on traditional bungalow design, emphasizing simplicity, functionality, and clean lines. These homes often feature flat or low-pitched roofs, large glass windows, and open floor plans that create a spacious, airy feel. The use of contemporary-style materials such as steel, concrete, and glass is common, contributing to a sleek, minimalist aesthetic.

Interiors are designed for flexibility and efficiency, with an emphasis on natural light and seamless transitions between indoor and outdoor living spaces. Modern bungalows are ideal for those seeking a stylish, up-to-date home that still maintains the cozy, inviting atmosphere of a traditional bungalow.

Benefits of Living in a Bungalow

Why Are Bungalows So Popular?

There are numerous benefits to living in a bungalow, including easy accessibility, privacy, cost-effectiveness, a cozy atmosphere, and architectural charm.

Bungalows offer living spaces that cater to all ages, ensuring easy accessibility for everyone. The lack of stairs is not only easier on aging residents but also benefits households with small children.

The single-story nature and low roofs of bungalows also ease maintenance on roofs and gutters. The lower pitch makes all kinds of roof work safer and easier.

Bungalows are cost-effective because of their smaller size and efficient use of space, which reduce maintenance costs and utility bills. 

Moreover, open floor plans and architectural charm contribute to a welcoming living environment. The open floor plan and indoor-outdoor design considerations make bungalows a great choice for those who want to be able to entertain guests.

Bungalows can be particularly attractive in areas with a rich architectural history or a relaxed vibe, making them sought-after living spaces for those who prefer a unique, character-filled home.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Makes a House Considered a Bungalow?

When considering if a single-story house is a bungalow, look for features like small size, wide overhanging eaves, a covered porch, and visible beams and rafters.

Why Do They Call It a Bungalow?

People call it a “bungalow” due to its historical origins in the Bengal region. The term has since evolved to describe many kinds of small, one-story dwellings in Western countries.

What's the Difference Between a Bungalow and a Craftsman House?

When comparing a bungalow and a Craftsman, consider that bungalows are typically single-story homes with a low-pitched roof and a front porch, while the term “Craftsman” describes an interior and exterior architectural style that can suit bungalows and other types of homes. Generally speaking, the Craftsman style uses simple, functional, natural materials.

Embrace the Cozy Charm and Comfort of Bungalows

Bungalows offer a unique blend of historical charm and modern comfort. With their cozy atmosphere and open floor plans, these single-story houses provide a welcoming living space. So whether you're looking for a quaint home or a stylish retreat, a bungalow could be an ideal place to live.

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