What is a Bungalow?

Your Starting Point to American History

Typical Bungalow in Upstate New York, Covered Porch, Dormer, Tapered Columns
Typical Bungalow in Upstate New York, Covered Porch, Dormer, Tapered Columns. Photo ©Jackie Craven

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.

Quick Guide to American Bungalow Styles >>

Definitions of Bungalows:

"bungalow: 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
"bungalow A one-story frame house, or a summer cottage, often surrounded by a covered veranda."
"bungalow siding Clapboarding having a minimal width of 8 in. (20 cm)."—Dictionary of Architecture and Construction, Cyril M. Harris, ed., McGraw- Hill, 1975, p. 76.

American Bungalow Features:

Where do people live in the US? When you know the answer to that question, you'll find bungalow style houses. 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 more British detailing. The bungalow shown on this page is common in my neighborhood in upstate New York, an area settled by Dutch immigrants. Although the dormer may be typical of a Chicago bungalow, i like to think that Dutch ancestors had something to do with the dormer roof of this house.

Features of the house pictured here are similar to details found in other Bungalow Architecture from 1905-1930:

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

Tapered Bungalow Columns:

Column replacement is a typical maintenance problem when you own a 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. Compare the columns in these photos:

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

Bungalow Revivals:

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.

Books About Bungalows:

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