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What Is A Bungalow? A Guide To Bungalow-Style Homes

Lauren Nowacki5-Minute Read
January 04, 2022

When you’re purchasing a house and poring over listings of homes for sale, you’ll likely come across several different popular house styles, each offering a unique aesthetic, size and function.

If you’re looking for a quaint, single-family home with simple, turn-of-the-century architecture, a bungalow may be the perfect option.

What Is A Bungalow?

A bungalow house is a one-story home, typically square in shape and generally small in square footage. It may have a second or half story built into the roof. Bungalows provide affordable housing and are a great fit for first-time home buyers, young families looking for a starter home, seniors and people with mobility issues.

History Of Bungalows

While the bungalow exploded in popularity in the U.S. in the early 1900s, it originated from South Asia, specifically the Bengal region, in the early 1600s. In fact, the name is derived from the Hindi word “bangla,” meaning “of or belonging to Bengal.”

During that time, early European sailors drew inspiration from thatched huts of Bengali farmers, modifying the style into a quick-build structure that provided shade and refuge from the country’s hot sun and sweltering climate. The original intent for these homes was to have a place where travelers could rest. And as European travelers made their way back from India, they brought their love for the bungalow style with them. In 1869, the first bungalow was built in the United Kingdom.

In the 1890s, the style came to the United States. While originally built for more vacation-style retreats in California, the bungalow would become the dominant architectural style in America for the next 40 years during what’s known as the Arts and Crafts movement, which emphasized handcrafting with natural materials. Around this time, Sears (yes, that Sears) and the Aladdin Company offered bungalow home kits in their catalogs. Once a kit was ordered, all the materials you needed would ship to your town by train to be built by local craftsmen, per the building instructions sent with the kit. When they were first built in the U.S., bungalow homes made the American dream of homeownership possible for many working-class families.

By 1930, the bungalow trend had died down as the ranch-style home was introduced and took off in popularity. After the ’30s, very few homes of this style were built.

History Of The Bungalow House

While the bungalow exploded in popularity in the U.S. in the early 1900s, it originated from South Asia, specifically the Bengal region, in the early 1600s. In fact, the name is derived from the Hindi word “bangla,” meaning “of or belonging to Bengal.”

During that time, early European sailors drew inspiration from thatched huts of Bengali farmers, modifying the style into a quick-build structure that provided shade and refuge from the country’s hot sun and sweltering climate.

As European travelers made their way back from India, they brought their love for the bungalow style with them. In 1869, the first bungalow was built in the UK.

In the 1890s, the style came to the United States. While originally built for more vacation-style retreats in California, the bungalow would become the dominant architectural style in America for the next 40 years during what’s known as the Arts and Crafts movement, which emphasized hand-crafting with natural materials. Around this time, Sears (yes, that Sears) and the Aladdin Company offered bungalow home kits in their catalogs. Once a kit was ordered, all of the materials you needed would ship to your town by train to be built by local craftsmen, per the building instructions sent with the kit.

By 1930, the bungalow trend had died down and very few homes of this style were built after that decade.

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Bungalow House Characteristics

While the American bungalow was seen as a simpler style than the ornate Victorian homes that were popular before, the home still has unique characteristics compared to other styles. These features are important to consider in case you’re either deciding whether to buy or build a bungalow.

Here are some common characteristics of the bungalow home:

  • Small size:
    • Bungalows are typically about 1,000 – 2,000 square feet.
    • Many people add more livable space by adding a second or partial story into the roof.
    • Because they have less square footage, bungalows often have smaller rooms on the ground floor than multistory homes or sprawling ranches.
  • Open floor plan:
    • Newer or updated versions of these homes often have a simple, open floor plan. However, older or original bungalows do not feature an open floor plan.
    • There are very few, if any, halls in a bungalow.
    • The living room is the central space of the home, with all other rooms adjacent to it.
    • The rooms inside a bungalow are often laid out in a way that makes them easily accessible.
  • Low-pitched roofs:
    • These homes have a pitched roof with overhanging eaves.
    • Many bungalows feature a second, half or partial story that’s built into the roof.
    • Because bungalows have a sloping roof, the rooms that are built into the roof often have sloped or vaulted ceilings.
  • Large front porch:
    • Bungalows typically feature a wide front porch.
    • Originally built to keep inhabitants cool in the Bengali heat, most bungalows have a covered porch to provide shade to residents.

Bungalow Advantages And Disadvantages

Like most types of homes in real estate, there are advantages and disadvantages that are specific to bungalows as opposed to other kinds of homes.

Advantage: Charm For Days

They may appear to be simple in design, but bungalows are notable for their use of storage built-ins, wainscoting, exposed ceiling beams and other architectural details that attract those who love good design. With an emphasis on building with strong, durable, quality materials during the Arts and Crafts movement, these homes are also built to last.

Advantage: One-Floor Living

Having common areas and bedrooms all on one floor can be great for seniors and people with mobility issues because the rooms are easier to access. Families with young children will have an easier time monitoring little ones and may feel more peace of mind not having stairs. Another advantage to single-story living is that fewer floors often mean less space to clean.

Advantage: Ability To Add To The Home

Because of their roofs, bungalows often have a good amount of vertical space to renovate and fill. And because they are small homes, they often have lot space to add to. That means it’s easy to build up or out. Along with building another story into the roof, bungalows are also easy to build additions to with minimal changes required to the existing home.

Disadvantage: Security And Privacy

Some homeowners may not feel as safe having their bedroom windows at ground level. On the flip side, this feature can allow you to put in bushes and other plants for natural cover and more privacy.

Along with having privacy from the outside world, you may want more privacy from those you live with. Since bungalows are relatively small with every room on one floor, it may feel like you’re piled on top of one another with little to no space.

Disadvantage: Dark Interiors

Because bungalows were designed to keep heat out, the amount of interior sunlight can be limited. There are plenty of ways to brighten up your home with both artificial and natural light. For example, you could install recessed lighting, bring in more lamps or add skylights or dormer windows.

The Bottom Line: Bungalows Are Perfect For Many Homeowners

Bungalow homes are simple reminders of the Arts and Crafts movement in the U.S. and the fulfillment of the American dream of owning a home in the early 20th century. These quaint houses have a layout and structure that can make them the ideal home for first-time buyers, young families, seniors, those looking to downsize or those with mobility issues.

If you’re in the market for a new space and wondering how much space you’ll need, check out our article on finding the right size home.

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Lauren Nowacki

Lauren Nowacki is a staff writer specializing in personal finance, homeownership and the mortgage industry. She has a B.A. in Communications and has worked as a writer and editor for various publications in Philadelphia, Chicago and Metro Detroit.