What Is Bungalow Architecture?

The exterior of a bungalow-style home.

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In This Article

Originating in Bengal, India, bungalow-style homes are typically one-and-a-half story homes that were built throughout the 20th century in the United States. Although there are different styles of bungalow homes (more on that later), they all share some common characteristics, like low-pitched roofs with gables or eaves, large, covered front porches, and large interior fireplaces flanked by built-in cabinetry, shelving, or seating.

Bungalows are extremely popular among homeowners, thanks to their charming curb appeal, large, open-concept interiors, and large, central living spaces that are ideal for entertaining. Although bungalows are usually on the smaller side—most are only one-and-a-half levels—some bungalows have been expanded to accommodate homeowners' need for space, and they have remained a popular building style in the United States since the early 1900s.

Read on to learn more about bungalow-style homes and bungalow architecture, including its history, must-have architectural elements, where to find bungalow homes, and more.

The History of Bungalow Architecture

Bungalow homes are immensely popular in the United States, but actually originated in Bengal, India during the mid-1800s. Coming from the word "bengala," "bungalow" means "of Bengal" or "from Bengal."

During the 1800s, India was under British rule, and British ambassadors needed accommodations for their time in the country. Their solution was to build small, economical homes that could be built on a quicker-than-usual timeline. The result? One-level homes with low-pitched, tiled or thatched roofs and large, covered front porches—the archetype for early bungalow-style homes. These quickly built houses were actually never intended to serve as full-time family domiciles.

Later, bungalow-style homes became popular building options for the working class in England and the United States. Their popularity grew immensely when mail-order "kit" home manufacturers like Sears began to sell ready-built bungalow homes. All prospective homeowners had to do was order their bungalow kit from their manufacturer of choice, and with the help of some carpenters and laborers, they could build a charming family home on their plot of land.

Thanks to their affordability, many veterans returning from World War II used their G.I. Bill funds to purchase bungalow-style homes, as well. The American Southwest experienced a population explosion following World War II, so you'll find many bungalows in states like Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and parts of Southern California today.

Over time, several different types of bungalow homes emerged. These include:

  • Craftsman bungalows: Often featuring gabled windows, shingled roofs, and dark, wooden elements, craftsman homes were typically painted brown or green to blend in with their surrounding environments. Today, craftsman-style homes are one of the most popular home types in the U.S.
  • California bungalows: Similar to craftsman bungalows, California bungalows utilize redwood and stucco as building materials.
  • Tudors: Smaller homes that were inspired by bungalows, tudors often have roofs with much steeper pitches and highly elaborate chimneys.
  • Prairie bungalows: Taking design notes from the prairie houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, prairie bungalows focus on a large porch supported by simple, wide columns. The home's trim is usually painted in a highly contrasting color for an added design element.
  • Modern bungalows: These bungalows share many characteristics with traditional bungalows, but utilize modern building materials, like glass, concrete, and brick.

Must-Have Elements

Although distinctive styles of bungalows have emerged over the last century, many of today's bungalow homes have retained traditional architectural elements. Some of those elements include:

A low-pitched roof

Like many other single-story home styles—such as ranches—bungalows typically have low-pitched roofs that are tiled, thatched, or shingled. Some bungalow homes incorporate decorative elements, like gables and eaves, to the roof line.

A large, covered front porch

Inspired by the large, covered verandas found among Bengal's bungalow homes, large front porches are a distinguishing characteristic of bungalows. The porch is typically supported by columns, which—depending on the bungalow style—can be decorative or plain.

Windows with lights

Bungalow-style windows are usually double-hung and are surrounded by smaller, more narrow windows—otherwise known as "lights." Not only do these windows provide more light to the interior, but they're a charming decorative element for the home's exterior, too.

Open-concept living spaces

Most bungalow homes have a large, central living space that's surrounded by smaller rooms. These living spaces often feature elements of woodworking, like built-in cabinets, exposed beams, and wainscoting.

A large fireplace

Another charming element of bungalow homes, many feature large fireplaces flanked by built-in cabinetry, shelving, or benches.

Where to Find Bungalow Homes

Thanks to their massive popularity—and early on, affordability—bungalow homes can be found all across the United States. You'll find some regional differences, such as California bungalows in California and tudors in the Midwest, but virtually any neighborhood that was established in the early 20th century is likely to contain a least one bungalow home.