October 24th, 2014
What is cozier than the idea of a bungalow? They are right up there with cottages for the romantic ideal of reading a good book in front of a nice fireplace with a cup of tea. Or puttering in the garden.
The bungalow actually traces its origins to the Indian province of Bengal, the word itself derived from the Hindi bangla or house in Bengali style. The native thatched roof huts were adapted by the British, who built bungalows as houses for administrators and as summer retreats.
Like the Victorian style, the architectural style then jumped the “pond” to the San Francisco Bay Area. There is some controversy as to whether it was San Francisco architect A. Page Brown designed the first American bungalow or whether his friend Joseph Worcester did. It is known that Worcester designed a bungalow for himself and built it in the Piedmont hills in the East Bay.
The bungalow was in the right place at the right time as many lower class families were moving out of apartments, and the bungalow was affordable. Because they were modest in size and low profile, they could be built quickly.
Before World War I, a bungalow could be built for as little as $900 although the price rose to around $3,500 after the war. Bungalow designs were spread by the practice of building from mail-order plans available from illustrated catalogs, sometimes with alterations based on local practice or conditions.
People could then buy precut homes, which were shipped by rail or ship and assembled on site. These were most common in locations without a strong existing construction industry, or for company towns, to be built in a short time.
You could also purchase:
Bungalows can be found in the older neighborhoods of most American cities. They were so popular that many cities have what is called a “Bungalow Belt” of homes built in the 1920s. These neighborhoods were often clustered along streetcar lines as they extended into the suburbs. Bungalows were built in smaller groups than is typical today, often one to three at a time
Bungalows are low rise, single-story homes with detached garages and wide verandas. They have large foundations, usually rectangular, and are good for people with mobility issues as the inside is open, and there are no stairs. They are related to the Craftsman architecture.
The following characteristics are typically found in some combination on most craftsman-derived bungalows:
Bungalows typically have wood shingle, horizontal siding or stucco exteriors, as well as brick or stone exterior chimneys and a partial-width front porch. Larger bungalows might have asymmetrical “L” shaped porches. The porches were often enclosed at a later date because of increased street noise. They were often made from brick due to weather considerations.
A variation called the “Airplane Bungalow” has a much smaller area on its second floor, centered on the structure, and is thought to look like the cockpit of an early airplane.
California Bungalows are a bit different. They are 1 or 1½ story houses, with sloping roofs and eaves with unenclosed rafters, and typically feature a gable (or an attic vent designed to look like one) over the main portion of the house. Ideally, bungalows are horizontal in dimension, and are integrated with the earth by use of local materials and transitional plantings. Also, California Bungalows are not usually made from brick. This could be because wood was so available in California, and it could also be that the weather wasn’t as severe as in other areas of the country.
All bungalows have a simple living room, entered directly from the front door, in place of parlors and sitting rooms, as well as a smaller kitchen. The focal point of the living room is the fireplace, and the living room often has a broad opening into a separate dining room.
All common areas are on the first floor with cozy atmospheres. Though the ceilings are lower than in homes of Victorian architecture, they often feature redwood beams and are usually higher than in ranches and other homes built later. Attics are located under the sloping roof.
In cities like Seattle and Sacramento, bungalows are placed on raised foundations to keep the home safe in case of flooding.
Because they’re very open, there’s not much privacy which can be important if you have a teenager. Noise and smells travel quickly in the bungalow as well, so if you’re cooking something, there won’t be much surprise at supper time.
They’re typically easier to keep clean, and it’s easier to fix problems with electrical and plumbing because it’s all on one level, and it’s not very big nor sprawling like a Ranch style.
Do you want to have a Bungalow? Would you want to raise kids in one?