Guide to American Bungalow Styles, 1905 - 1930

Favorite Small House Designs

01
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What is a Bungalow?

Long, low dormer atop a California Craftsman Home
Long, low dormer atop a California Craftsman Home. Photo by Thomas Vela / Moment Mobile / Getty Images (cropped)

The American Bungalow is one of the most popular small homes ever built. It can take on many different shapes and styles, depending on where it is built and for whom it is built. The word bungalow is often used to mean any small 20th century home that uses space efficiently.

Definitions of Bungalows:

"a one-story house with large overhangs and a dominating roof. Generally in the Craftsman style, it originated in California in the 1890s. The prototype was a house used by British Army officers in India in the nineteenth century. From the Hindi word bangala meaning 'of Bengal.'"—John Milnes Baker, AIA, from American House Styles: A Concise Guide, Norton, 1994, p. 167
"A one-story frame house, or a summer cottage, often surrounded by a covered veranda."—Dictionary of Architecture and Construction, Cyril M. Harris, ed., McGraw- Hill, 1975, p. 76.

Characteristics of the American Bungalow:

Bungalows were built for the working people, a class that rose out of the Industrial Revolution. Bungalows built in California will often have Spanish influences. In New England, these small houses may have British detailing—more like a Cape Cod. Communities with Dutch immigrants may build bungalow with gambrel roofs.

The Harris Dictionary describes "bungalow siding" as "clapboarding having a minimal width of 8 in. (20 cm)." Wide siding or shingles is characteristic of these small homes. Other features often found on bungalows built in America between 1905 and 1930 include:

  • One-and-a-half stories, so dormers are common
  • Low-pitched roof that slips over a front porch
  • Wide overhangs of the roof
  • Square, tapered columns, sometimes called bungalow columns

Bungalows were built at a time of great population growth in the US. Many architectural styles have found expression in the simple and practical American Bungalow. Check out these favorites forms of the Bungalow style.

02
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Arts & Crafts Bungalow

Arts & Crafts Style Bungalow
Arts & Crafts Style Bungalow. Arts & Crafts Style Bungalow. Photo © iStockphoto.com/Gary Blakeley

In England, Arts & Crafts architects lavished their attention on handcrafted details using wood, stone, and other materials drawn from nature. Inspired by the British movement led by William Morris, American designers Charles and Henry Greene designed simple wooden houses with Arts & Crafts flourishes. The idea spread across America when furniture designer Gustav Stickley published house plans in his magazine called The Craftsman. Soon the word "Craftsman" became synonymous with Arts & Crafts, and the Craftsman Bungalow—like the one Stickley built for himself at Craftsman Farms—became the prototype and one of the most popular housing types in the US.

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California Bungalow

One story California Bungalow in Pasadena
One story California Bungalow in Pasadena. Photo by Fotosearch / Getty Images (cropped)

Arts and Crafts details combined with Hispanic ideas and ornamentation to create the classic California Bungalow. Sturdy and simple, these comfortable homes are known for their sloping roofs, big porches, and sturdy beams and pillars.

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Chicago Bungalow

1925 Chicago Bungalow in Skokie, Illinois
1925 Chicago Bungalow in Skokie, Illinois. Photo © Silverstone1 via Wikimedia Commons, GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 and Creative Commons ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) (cropped)

You'll know a Chicago Bungalow by the solid brick construction and the large, front-facing roof dormer. Although designed for working class families, bungalows built in and near Chicago, Illinois have many of the lovely Craftsman details that you find in other parts of the US.

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Spanish Revival Bungalow

Spanish colonial revival bungalow, 1932, Palm Haven Historic District, San Jose, California
Spanish colonial revival bungalow, 1932, Palm Haven Historic District, San Jose, California. Photo by Nancy Nehring/E+/Getty Images

Spanish Colonial Architecture of the American southwest inspired an exotic version of the bungalow. Usually sided with stucco, these small homes have decorative glazed tiles, arched doors or windows, and many other Spanish Revival details.

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Neoclassical Bungalow

Bungalow from 1926 in the Irvington Historic District of Portland, Oregon
Bungalow from 1926 in the Irvington Historic District of Portland, Oregon. Photo © Ian Poellet via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) (cropped)

Not all bungalows are rustic and informal! During the early 20th century, some builders combined two very popular styles to create a hybrid Neoclassical Bungalow. These small houses have the simplicity and practicality of an American Bungalow and the elegant symmetry and proportion (not to mention the Greek-type columns) found on much larger Greek Revival style homes.

07
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Dutch Colonial Revival Bungalow

Gambrel roof and full front porch on the Marble Town Hall in Colorado
The Marble Town Hall in Marble, Colorado. Photo © Jeffrey Beall via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) (cropped)

Here's another type of bungalow inspired by the architecture of the North American colonies. These quaint homes have rounded gambrel roofs with the gable at the front or the side. The interesting shape resembles that of an old Dutch Colonial home.

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More Bungalows

Bungalow with Shed Dormer
Bungalow with Shed Dormer. Photo by Fotosearch/Getty Images (cropped)

The list doesn't stop here! A bungalow can also be a log cabin, a Tudor cottage, a Cape Cod, or any number of distinct housing styles. Many newer homes are being built in the bungalow style.

Remember that bungalow homes were an architectural trend. The houses were built, in large part, to sell to working class families in the first quarter of the twentieth century. When bungalows are built today (often with vinyl and plastic parts), they are more accurately called Bungalow Revivals.

Historic Preservation:

Column replacement is a typical maintenance problem when you own a 20th century bungalow home. Many companies sell do-it-yourself PVC wrap-arounds, which are not good solutions for load-bearing columns. Fiberglass columns may hold up that heavy shingled roof, but, of course, they are not historically accurate for homes built in the early 20th century. If you live in an historic district, you may be asked to replace the columns with historically accurate wooden replicas, but work with your Historic Commission on solutions.

By the way, your Historic Commission should also have good ideas on paint colors for historic bungalows in your neighborhood.

Learn More:

  • Masterpieces: Bungalow Architecture + Design by Michelle Galindo, Braun Publish, 2013
    Buy on Amazon
  • 500 Bungalows by Douglas Keister, Taunton Press, 2006
    Buy on Amazon
  • California Bungalow by Robert Winter, Hennessey & Ingalls, 1980
    Buy on Amazon
  • American Bungalow Style by Robert Winter and Alexander Vertikoff, Simon & Schuster, 1996
    Buy on Amazon
  • Bungalow Colors: Exteriors by Robert Schweitzer, Gibbs Smith, 2002
    Buy on Amazon

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