Tuesday, February 2, 2021

So What Exactly is a Bungalow?

A bungalow!  Whenever I tell people I'm working on a bungalow for my next project, I get a warm reaction.  "Oh.... they're my favorite". Or "I love bungalows!!" And why is that?  They're not big, grand homes.  They don't have modern 'must have' amenities like big closets and bathrooms.  And yet they're clearly a style that appeals to many, many people.

So it got me to thinking and prompted some research.


 I have to confess.  I adore bungalows.  I have a lot of books on bungalows and this gave me an excuse to buy a couple more, adding to my architectural library.  From that research, here's what I know.

Bungalows actually started in India as living quarters for officers.  This was adopted by the British and soon bungalows began to spring up in the UK.  It was perfect timing, people were tiring of the highly ornate Victorian style and wanted something much simpler, that celebrated hand crafted artistry.  These designs became very popular.  Much of the styling that we recognize today came from William Morris, sometimes thought of as the father of Arts & Crafts style - whose designs still make me swoon today.  His quote "have nothing in your house that you do not believe to be beautiful" is still one of my favorites.

Source:  Antique Home Style
The jump across the Atlantic happened around the turn of the century.  California became a bit of a mecca for bungalows, which were quickly renamed 'California Bungalows'.  This is when some of the bungalow style began to get copied.  The catalog companies that sold kit homes realized these houses could have mass appeal across the country.  Soon, Sears Roebuck and Aladdin Homes were selling them from coast to coast.  Bungalows quickly became one of the most popular styles of the 1900-1930 time period.  And on the east coast, Gustav Stickley set up his Craftsman Farms in Parsippany, NJ (a great museum house to visit if you get a chance) and created a magazine called The Craftsman, which highlighted Arts & Crafts styling.  In the magazine, he published a series of Craftsman style bungalow floor plans that were quickly adopted across the country.

But not all bungalows look alike.  Many have quintessential craftsman features, but others seem to have features that reflect colonial or even some Victorian features.  That seems to be particularly true here in Maine - where some styles may have taken a bit longer to make their way north.

There are some key features that are expected on any bungalow exterior- 

  • 1 to 1 1/2 stories with low pitched roof
  • Large overhanging eaves, often with exposed rafter tails
  • Front porch with columns
  • Double hung windows
  • Low slung dormers
  • Often used local materials and earthy color scheme
    Source:  Antique Home Style, Aladdin Portland Model
 Interior features also have standard features (we'll talk a lot more about this in future posts!)
  • Front door opens directly into living room
  • Early version of open floor plan (but kitchen was still small and hidden away for the woman of the house)
  • Minimal wasted space - aka hallways
  • Lots of built-ins to maximize space and efficiency
  • 'Sanitary' bathrooms with easy to clean surfaces
We have a lot of bungalows in South Portland that reflect a variety of styles.  I spent some time driving around the area (I'm sure I looked like some kind of stalker, especially when I started taking photos!) to get a better feel for them.  There are some fabulous Craftsman style bungalows in the Willard Beach neighborhood.  Look at how similar this one is to an Aladdin kit home in the photo above!
This charming little blue bungalow was across the street from one of our previous projects.  Isn't it adorable?   Again, note the broad eaves and the exposed rafter tails.  Stone pillars built from local stone are also very typical.

Portland Landmarks has a great publication on their website (What Do We Call It?) that identifies architectural styles in Maine.  There are a lot of homes like this in the area and the left one looks a lot more like our project than the ones with more obvious Craftsman details like exposed rafters. 
Source:  What Do We Call It? Joyce K Bibber/Portland Landmarks

This will be the third bungalow that I've had the opportunity to renovate. Do you remember project #6?

It was a funky bungalow with some charming features -  and some not-so-charming elements - like the odd staircase that went through the back bedroom.  We gave it a great update and and enhanced its Arts & Crafts style.  You can see the whole renovation in the link here.

Bungalow - Before
Bungalow - After

A few years later we did a larger bungalow that had the classic low pitched hip roof - with a porch across the front (very similar to the one in the style guide above).  It had been beautifully maintained over the years, but somehow the 2nd floor had remained unfinished space. What a great opportunity!   We added a large shed gable on one side, which gave us the space to provide two bedrooms and a large bath upstairs.  You can check out the whole renovation here

And now this project is on the drawing board.  I'm deep into the planning phase and I'll share more as it all comes together.


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  1. The Bungalow looks so lovely so gorgeous.

    1. Thanks so much Rose!!! It's such a great little house!


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