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Defining the Design: Bungalow-Style Architecture

Written by Kelly Weimert on Friday, November 9th, 2018 at 11:06am.

While bungalow is often used as a general term to describe a casual, one-story home or beach house, it actually has far more specific origins. The first bungalows were built in India by the British in the mid-19th century and the word bungalow is derived from the Indian Hindustani word bangal, which means “belonging to Bengal.”

The concept behind these first designs was a casual, straightforward, and simple construction that British travelers could use as a rest house. These initial structures typically featured large porches with deep overhangs to protect dwellers from the country’s hot climate. The American version of a bungalow was first constructed in southern California and didn’t appear until the early 20th century. This style of the home saw immense popularity in the U.S. between 1905 and 1930, particularly in California.

Features of a Bungalow Home

bungalow style home
Photo Credit: Royal Holland Inc.

One to 1.5 Stories

Most bungalow homes are small by design and feature one or one-and-a-half stories.

Organic Materials

Organic materials, like wood, stone, and brick, are common in bungalow homes, giving them a warm and casual feel.

Low-Pitched Roofs

Low-pitched, gabled roofs featuring deep overhangs are characteristic of these homes. Gabled dormers are also commonly found on bungalows.

bungalow style house
Source: onekindesign.com


Most bungalows feature a front porch with supporting columns. These columns are often constructed from stone and feature a tapered design.

Double-Hung Windows

Double-hung windows or casement windows are common features of this design.

Open Floor Plan

Many bungalow homes feature an expansive, open floor plan, helping to maximize the home’s characteristically small size.

Minimal Decoration

Given that these homes are typically designed to be informal and straightforward, they feature minimal ornamentation.

Famous Bungalow Style Architects

Many attribute the bungalow’s United States popularity to design duo and brothers, Charles and Henry Greene. Their Pasadena-based architectural firm forwent pursuing the design of Victorian homes that were so popular in the early 20th century in favor of experimenting with bungalow designs. They sought to transform bungalows from a lower form of temporary architecture to a respected structure valued for its welcoming simplicity and accessibility.

bungalow style architecture
The Robie House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

While the Greenes were developing California bungalows, architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and Gustav Stickley were in the Midwest developing comparable styles. The type of midwestern bungalow these architects specialized in was dubbed as Prairie Style and Craftsman Influence architecture. The homes typically featured organic materials and open floor plans but with more stylization and personalization than traditional bungalows.

Fun Facts About Bungalow Homes

    • The original intention behind the open floor plan of these homes was to maximize cross-ventilation in hot climates rather than maximize space.
    • Charles Greene attributed his passion for designing bungalow-style homes to a trip to England in 1901 where he observed the value of the arts-and-crafts ideals of the region.
    • Bungalow homes became so popular for their accessibility that manufacturers like Sears sold build kits for them in their catalogs.

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