The term “bungalow” can be traced to India, where it was used by the British in the 19th century to designate a house type that was one story high and had large, encircling porches. In California the term was applied to houses that, while having the same characteristics of a single story with a porch or porches, owed far more to other antecedents than to anything specifically Indian. Among the immediate ancestors of what came to be known as the California bungalow were the typical small-scale, one-story, Queen Anne-style cottages that had been built in such profusion throughout the state in the 1880s and 1890s. To this basic form architects brought elements of the Craftsman movement, the Stick Style and – in some instances – even a Japanese flavor to produce a distinctly American synthesis. (Poppeliers, 76)
In the best examples, bungalows display a fine degree of craftsmanship and are constructed of materials left as close as possible to their natural state. Cobblestones, with their rounded shapes prominently displayed, were laid up in foundations and chimneys; walls, whether frame or shingle, were stained a natural shade of brown; and roofs, with their wide overhangs displaying exposed rafters or knee braces, were often of shingle. When the walls were stuccoed, the roof would more than likely be of tile.
In 1909, in his Craftsman Homes, Gustav Stickley sought to tell what the style was all about, declaring that a bungalow was “a house reduced to its simplest form,” one that “never fails to harmonize with its surroundings, because its low broad proportions and absolute lack of ornamentation give it a character so natural and unaffected that it seems to singe into and blend with any landscape.” Stickley further lauded the type by stating that it could “be built of any local material and with the aid of such help as local workmen can afford, so it is never expensive unless elaborated out of all kinship with its real character of a primitive dwelling. It is beautiful, because it is planned and built to meet simple needs in the simplest and most direct way…” (Poppeliers, 76)
Sears, Roebuck agreed with Stickley and did its part to spread the bungalow gospel by offering several models in its mail-order catalogs. Sears agreed with the concept of having local workers construct the bungalows, but it differed from Stickley in the matter of materials. Precut lumber, nails, doors and other components were shipped to the site. Thanks to Sears and other building-supply companies, the style spread across the country and regional variations became few and far between. (Poppeliers, 76-77)
As befitted the exterior appearance, the bungalow interior, both in plan and detail, was also forthright, direct and functional. Front doors opened directly into living rooms, which were often, in turn, directly connected to the dining room or dining area. In many instances the two spaces were separated only by a half wall. A major element of the interior was the living-room fireplace, emphasized by cobblestones or clinker brick. Ceilings were often beamed, at least in the major rooms, and all wooden surfaces were finished in a natural stain. But if the hearth was the center of the home in winter, in summer the bungalow stretched to the out-of-doors. Glass doors led to porches or terraces that were often covered with pergolas supporting vines. (Poppeliers, 77)
The bungalow style reached its apogee early in its history in the work of the brothers Charles S. and Henry M. Greene of Pasadena. Their style transcended the basic bungalow form, however, and it cannot be said that they followed Stickley’s dictum of meeting simple needs in the simplest way. The Craftsman tradition, always a part of the bungalow ethic, found its highest expression in their work. The “woodenness” of construction was not only expressed but also emphasized with elegant joinery; beams were not only exposed but also rounded or cut at the angle that would best express both function and beauty. In their work, the bungalow became the western equivalent of the contemporary Prairie Style then being adopted in the middle sections of the country. (Poppeliers, 77)
The bungalow-type of small-to-medium-sized suburban house had emerged by about 1903, dramatically departing from customary American architectural practice in not borrowing directly from recognized antecedents… By the 1900s the type was flourishing in Southern California. It had been recognized as an especially suitable solution to the needs of the current housing boom which required unlimited individual variety in a basic prototype for reasonably priced domestic architecture appropriate to the climate. (Howe, 318-320)
As a regional response to conditions of climate and population growth, the bungalow type could not have been better. Typically of one-story, the standard form featured both a covered porch and a patio, and good-sized rooms configured in an open floor-plan which eliminated poorly lit entry halls. The plan was altogether functional and also comparatively inexpensive in its wood, local stone, and often shingle construction. It stood as a superb achievement in affordable, single-family housing. (Howe, 320)
The popular version was innovative in its basic design features. It was usually situated above ground level, resting on a partially revealed basement story and characterized by a low-pitched, gabled roof which might also be hipped. Overhanging eaves were wide and of open construction, revealing rafters, braces, and joists below. Covered porches often ran the full length of the facade, their roofs carried upon sloping and decorative wood or often stone or cobblestone pillars which swelled up from ground level to well above the floor level of the porch itself. (Howe, 320)
California Bungalow – As built from 1895 to 1915—its first development period—the bungalow was known as the California bungalow. Because of the nature of the design and the kind of living which that design suggested, it was appropriate for this form to develop on the west coast. Often single story with porch or porches.
Airplane Bungalow – The airplane bungalow is another type that emerged during the 1920s. The appellation “airplane” seems to have been applied after this style appeared on the market. This type was an attempt—modest at first—to extend the bungalow on the horizontal and accent the vertical. The low gable roof forms are the key to the design. The gables are contiguous and successive as in other structures, but the massing of roofs is quite different. Not only are roofs built so that they grow out of each other on the facade, but gables abut the main roof on the side elevations. Smaller gables cover the second-ﬂoor sections. This kind of house looks accretive, in that sections could have been added arbitrarily to the base structure, but that is not the case. All the roof and frame sections are tightly integrated, and there is nothing accidental about the design…
Bungalow – with Japanese details
Spanish Bungalow – like so many variations on the bungalow theme—developed after 1910. Geographically, it emerged in California, the southwest, and Florida. Examples of the style may be found in other sections of the country, but they are not as numerous as in the Sunbelt climates. Throughout its development the bungalow has lent itself to the imposition of fronts on a basic plan. The Spanish bungalow is related to the English style, in that a gable plays an important role in facade design. The gable may be triangular or curvilinear, and the gable portion often projects in front of the main body of the house. Beyond this single gable, arches or even arcades organize other sections of the facade…
Pedimented Bungalow – During the 1920s another version of the bungalow began to appear. It was a five- or six-room house that had an intersecting gable roof, with the first gable parallel to the street, covering the two front rooms, and the second roof perpendicular to the street, covering the remaining rooms. Whatever the motif, the facade had an entrance pediment. In some cases the porch was small and served the entrance door with a hood or a small portico. Other versions extended the porch across the facade, with a pediment marking the entrance. Pediments were triangular or curvilinear. Pergolas were also used as a porch covering, and the pediment and pergola were joined. Occasionally the pergola would extend beyond the porch to become a porte-cochere…
Hipped Bungalow – The hipped bungalow is the most classical of bungalow designs. The low hip roof serves as a pediment for three or four columns that carry a restrained entablature. This temple-front building is relieved by a hipped dormer, an open porch rail, and pedestals for the columns. The structure is low to the ground and utilizes the full width of the facade for a porch. The bungalow is built with wood-frame construction, and clapboard cladding is most common. Other cladding materials include stucco, hollow concrete tile, cement block, and shingle in rustic or Craftsman-style bungalows…
English Bungalow – During the 1920s and 1930s many builders turned to an alternative bungalow design, the English bungalow. The planes suggested by low gables were filled in, so solid walls were tied to the gables. The open gable gave Way to mass in receding planes. The result was a compact brick or stucco house with successive gables and different motifs on each gable wall. The English bungalow included from one to three gables, a terrace usually on the street side, and an end-wall fireplace chimney. Gables were steep but not broad; one raking cornice of the gable often descended far below the wall line, even to ground level. Some gables served as screens behind which the entrance door was set, parallel to the street and hidden from view. Other features included varied window placement and size, combinations of cladding, a combination of roof forms (a hip on one end and clipped gable on the other), decorative louvers in the gables, arches, ornamental brickwork, and shingled roofs. All this produced a cozy five- or six-room house whose facade could look different from that of its neighbors…
The Martin Avenue bungalows, Hanchett Residence Park (1910s), San Jose, California, are all individual in design, yet they display salient characteristics of the style and related to each other in overall massing, scale and texture. (Poppeliers, 77)
The Irwin House (1906, Greene and Greene), Pasadena, California, is one of the architects’ masterpieces. In some respects a bungalow on a large scale, it rests on a stone terrace composed of natural boulders. Splayed eaves and strong horizontal lines established by the balconies give the house a decidedly Japanese flavor. (Poppeliers, 78)
The Longview Farm office (1914, Henry Ford Hoit), Lee’s Summit, Missouri, shows many affinities with the bungalow style, including a pergola that eases the transition between the house and the out-of-doors. (Poppeliers, 78)
The Melville Klauber House (1908-09, Irving J. Gill), San Diego, has Craftsman-style interior features like those adopted in many bungalows, notably the predominance of natural woods. (Poppeliers, 79)
This Benicia, California, cottage is typical of the many built in California in the late 1880s and 1890s. Its irregular plan and elaborate decorative elements seem Queen Anne, but its small size and the prominence of the porch and the shallow pitched gables are forerunners of the bungalow. (Poppeliers, 79)
Bungalow at Monument Beach, Massachusetts. W.G. Preston, Architect. American Architect and Building News, 27 March 1880. (Lancaster, 77)
Bungalow at Patterson, New Jersey. Charles Edwards, Architect. Building, 12 March 1887. (Lancaster, 81)
William de Luna Cottage at Eden, Florida. Charles H. Israels, Architect. Architecture and Building, 29 April 1893. (Lancaster, 84)
Bungalow for J.D. Grant, Burlingame, California. A. Page Brown, Architect. American Architect and Building News, 8 June 1895. (Lancaster, 113)
Theodore M. Irwin House, Pasadena, California. Greene and Greene, Architects. (Lancaster, 124-125)
Francis T. Underhill Bungalow, Santa Barbara, California. Country Life in America, November 1915. (Lancaster, 140-141)
Ralph N. Maxson Bungalow, Lexington, Kentucky. F.G. Brown, Architect. (Lancaster, 149)
Elbert Hubard Adobe House, Santa Fe, New Mexico. V.O. Wallingford, Architect. House Beautiful, June 1907. (Lancaster, 158)
Jack Ramsbottom House, Chestnut Hill, MAssachusetts. M.R.L. Freshel, Designer; J.E. Chandler, Architect. The American Architect, December 1904. (Lancaster, 164)
A. D. Fisher Chalet, Walnut Hills, Cincinnati, Ohio. L.F. Plympton, Architect. Inland Architect, January 1897. (Lancaster, 166)
“The Sylvan,” Bungalow in the Catalog of the Lewis Manufacturing Co., Bay City, Mich., 1925. (Lancaster, 193)
John William Lancaster II Bungalow, Lexington, Kentucky. (Lancaster, 246-252)
combination of roof forms
- Howe, Jeffery (editor). The houses we live in: an identification guide to the history and style of American domestic architecture. San Diego, CA: Thunder Bay Press, 2002.
- Lancaster, Clay. The American Bungalow. New York, N.Y.: Abbeville Press, Inc, 1985.
- Poppeliers, John C.S., et al. What Style Is It? A Guide to American Architecture. Washington, D.C.: The Preservation Press, 1983.