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What is a Bungalow Style Home?

By Megan W.
Updated May 16, 2024
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The word “bungalow” comes from the Indian word bangla, which, in the 19th century, referred to houses built in the Bengal style. Bangla were thatched roof cottages that had low roofs and porches built around them. A bungalow style home as people know it today was created when British colonial administrators adapted this classic style of Indian architecture to build their summer retreats, organizing all the typical rooms of a house on one floor around a central parlor. The style became popular in Europe as a form of resort lodging and made its way to America in 1879, when William Gibbons Preston designed a two-story version to be built on Monument Beach in Cape Cod.

The house style's roots in warm weather explain many of its heat reducing features. These homes usually have only one floor, although some variations are one and a half stories tall, meaning that they have two levels, but the second floor covers less surface area than the ground floor. They have low-pitched roofs with wide, overhanging eaves. The large foundation needed to create a whole house on only one floor translates to a roof with a large surface area; the attics of these houses, therefore, absorb a great deal of excess heat in the summer. Large porches are considered hallmarks of the style; stone chimneys leading to substantial and prominently placed fireplaces are another favorite feature of the homes.

The heyday for the American bungalow style home began during the mass migration to California in the early 1900s. Two architects in California — Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene, known collectively as Greene and Greene — created one and a half story homes whose designs became so quickly and hugely popular that it was soon possible to order mass-produced building sets via the mail. The homes were well suited to the California sun and thousands of them were constructed to accommodate the state’s burgeoning population. Such houses have become particularly linked with California; the versions found there are aptly named “California bungalows.”

The architectural golden period for the homes came during their association with the Arts and Crafts movement. Craftsman style bungalows employ a wide range of materials in their interiors and exteriors and place an emphasis on the happy marriage of materials and quality construction. The movement arose in response to the heavily ornate Victorian style and the homes of this variety reflect a more relaxed attitude. Craftsman homes, with their stone hearths and ample porches, are beloved for the impression they give of simple, comfortable hominess. Homes in this style were particularly popular in Chicago, where several suburbs are known for their rows of them.

The style continues to be a favorite among home buyers and new waves of construction frequently occur throughout the United States. As one-story homes, they promise ease of mobility for older or disabled owners and make maintenance and cleaning less strenuous for all owners. These Indian imports, with their unpretentious good looks and cozy atmospheres, have become American classics.

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Discussion Comments

By discographer — On Feb 23, 2013

@donasmrs-- That doesn't sound anything like an American bungalow.

Have you seen a British one? That's probably more similar to the Indian style, since they were the ones who adopted this architectural style.

By donasmrs — On Feb 23, 2013

Indian bungalows are gorgeous. Whenever I see one in a film, I'm amazed with the structure and its function.

The ones I've seen in films are usually "two floors" with the first floor being the ground floor. The center of the home is open space. The rooms are built around this space in a square, with a mutual balcony on the second floor that goes around. When people exit rooms, they are all facing the central yard. The top of the home is often a flat terrace where spices and fruits are dried.

Of course this structure is suited for hot weather like the article said, and also for large families that live together because there are so many rooms. I wish I had a bungalow house.

By suntan12 — On Jul 25, 2010

Anon9861- You sound like you have a lovely home. Sometimes bungalow homes don’t come with a front porch. You are correct that most do, some don’t. Here in Florida we have many homes that are classified as bungalow style that look similar to your home.

By anon9861 — On Mar 15, 2008

My home, built in 1951, is considered by everyone in this area to be a bungalow. In fact, our realtor labeled it as such when we bought it. The house actually has no features of a bungalow except the fact that the living quarters are all on the main floor, with a finished attic area. My idea of a bungalow has always been sort of a front porch with the low-pitched roofs and square pillars. My home has no front porch and has a regular roof. I can't understand why people would consider this to be a bungalow style.

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