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What Is A Bungalow And Is This House Style Right For You?

Lauren Nowacki5-Minute Read
August 05, 2020

When you’re purchasing a new home 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 usually 1,000 – 2,000 square feet. A bungalow has a wide, pitched roof, which can have rooms built into it, creating what’s considered an additional “half” floor to the home. They also typically feature the living room as the large, central space with all other rooms located adjacent to it.

Due to the size and layout, this style of home can be a popular option for young families, buyers looking to downsize and people with mobility issues or physical disabilities.

When they were first built, bungalow homes made the American dream of homeownership possible for many working-class families.

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.

Styles Of Bungalows

While a distinct type of home in itself, the bungalow has many different styles.

Craftsman

craftsman house

The craftsman bungalow is the traditional bungalows that were typically built from the aforementioned bungalow kits. They feature a low-pitched roof, covered front porch with thick columns and, often, dormers.

Queen Anne

Queen Anne style house

This style pays tribute to the Victorian-style homes that fell out of favor with the arrival of the bungalow. Queen Anne bungalows are usually colorful and have patterned masonry, turrets or bay windows.

Mission

mission house

Inspired by early 19th-century Spanish missions in California, these Spanish colonial homes are most common in California and the Southwest. They’re often characterized by their white stucco or plaster exteriors and trademark red tile roofs and typically feature arched doors and windows.

Chicago

Chicago style bungalows

Circling the center of the Windy City in what’s called “the Bungalow Belt,” Chicago bungalows have a few features that set them apart from other bungalow styles and make them uniquely Chicago. These homes are built with brick and feature stone trim. They are typically one-and-a-half stories with a full basement and rectangular shape. The entrance is usually offset from the center or located completely on the side of the home.

California

California bungalow house

Since the first American bungalow was built in the Golden State, the California bungalow is the OG of this house style in the U.S. This was the type of bungalow that was offered as a kit in the Sears catalog. These homes are typically one-and-a-half stories, painted in natural tones and feature an oversized front porch with battered pillars supporting the forward gable and a detailed chimney.

Factors To Consider When Considering A Bungalow

Before choosing this type of home, you should consider both the pros and cons that come with bungalow homes. Here are a few to get you started.

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.

One-Floor Living

Having common areas and bedrooms all on one floor can be great for people with mobility issues. However, having everything on one floor may be an inconvenience if you like to spread out, entertain or have children. Most original bungalows do not feature an open floor plan, so hosting events in the home may be difficult as guests may feel separated and the get-together may feel disjointed.

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.

Ability To Add To The Home

The structure of a bungalow, as compared to most multistory homes, makes it easier to expand and/or remodel. The half-story space under the roof, often used as attic storage, can be converted to a bonus room, bedroom, playroom or studio space.

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.

Summary: 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, learn more about purchasing a home on our home buying resource page.

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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.