Here's What to Know About the California-Cool Bungalow Home

California cool bungalow style home.

Julian Porcino

In the real estate biz, the definition of a “bungalow” has been stretched quite a bit, often used to describe small, single-story houses built in the early-20th century, no matter their design. True bungalows, however, have a very specific design that was spun off from Craftsman-style homes.

By keeping the basic blueprint, stripping away ornate details, and forgoing expensive building materials, bungalow homes can offer the charm and simplicity of a Craftsman at an affordable price, making them a popular option for first-time homebuyers. 

What is a Bungalow-Style House?

A bungalow is a small house that, traditionally, is only one story high, though today it’s common to find ones whose attic space has been converted into a second-story bedroom. Bungalows are raised from the sidewalk with a short flight of steps and feature small verandas, overhanging eaves, and dormer windows. Inside, bungalows use their small space efficiently, with tight, compact closets, built-in cabinets, and shelving. 

A gray bungalow-style house and a green lawn

Joe Schmelzer / Getty Images

What Makes a House Bungalow Style?

American bungalow-style homes were designed to be easy to build, which made them affordable for early-20th century working families. Bungalows don’t have much to offer in terms of square footage but can feel bigger than they actually are thanks to a large, open central living space and big windows that flood the home with natural light. 

All of a bungalow’s rooms are located on a single story, and traditionally were rarely built with more than two bedrooms, though modern houses may have three or more. Bungalows have pitched, gabled roofs which give them space for an attic—if the roof is steep enough, the attic may be large enough to be converted into an additional bedroom. 

A bungalow’s first floor will be raised above the foundation, and with a short flight of steps from the sidewalk to a covered front porch. Inside, bungalows adopt an open floor plan, with the living room, dining room, and kitchen all occupying one large space. Bedrooms and bathrooms are located off the main living space.

Because bungalow homes have large windows and are built close to the ground, privacy can be a concern. Some homeowners address this issue by planting tall hedges, shrubs, or trees around the house’s perimeter to obstruct the windows. 

In short, the defining characteristics of bungalows are:

  • Small square footage
  • Single story
  • Covered porch with tapered columns
  • Pitched, gabled roof 
  • Plenty of windows
  • Dormers
  • Attic
  • Open floor plan
  • Small or no hallways
  • Efficient use of space
  • Built-in cabinetry and shelves
  • Custom-made features like nooks and window seats
most popular home styles - bungalow style home in california

Lisa Romerein/Getty Images

The History of Bungalow-Style Homes

Though the bungalow is a spinoff of Craftsman homes, the Craftsman blueprint was heavily influenced by the residential architecture of Bengal, India: the word “bungalow has its roots in the Indian Hindustani word bangala, which means “belonging to Bengal.”

In the 19th century when India was part of the British empire, the British military needed to build simple, easily constructed homes for traveling officers. The military took cues from the native bangala houses: one-story structures with tiled or thatched roofs and covered verandas

In America, the style became popularized in the early 20th century by a magazine called The Craftsman, which sold residential blueprints by famed Arts and Crafts furniture designer Gustav Stickley. The magazine published an article called "Possibilities of the Bungalow as a Permanent Dwelling, " suggesting the style for permanent residences and begin adding bungalow floorplans to its catalog. The style gained national popularity as more bungalow blueprints began making their way into magazines like House Beautiful and Ladie’s Home Journal, as well as through home kits sold by nationwide mailorder retailers like Montgomery Warn and Sears. 

The Different Types of Bungalows

California

California bungalows are easily recognized by their siding which, like Craftsman houses, uses natural materials like stucco, wood, and shingles.

Quaint gray bungalow style home.

Julian Porcino

Chicago

Chicago bungalows are built from brick and sometimes have an additional half-story stacked on the traditional one-story frame design. These homes usually have their entrance positioned towards the side of the house and were built with an unfinished basement. 

Mission

Mission-style bungalows are known for broad, overhanging eaves with exposed wooden rafters. Their exteriors have a pronounced Spanish influence, with smooth stucco siding and terracotta-tiled roofs. 

Tudor

Bungalows are supposed to be simple, but Tudor-style bungalows can’t help being just a little bit extra.  Like their Craftsman forefathers, Tudor bungalows have visually interesting architectural features like elaborate chimneys, intricate design work around windows and doorways, and half-timbered, tall, narrow windows

Prairie

This is the style that was made immortal by the famed Frank Lloyd Wright and Chicago’s Praire School of architects. These bungalows are known for their strong, long, and low-slung horizontal lines, low-pitched hipped or gabled roofs, square pillars that hold up porch roofs, window boxes, flat chimneys, contrasting exterior materials, and intricately designed doorways.

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