For the Love of the Bungalow
There was a time here in the U.S. when the bungalow was the standard home design, for good reason. The post-war boom demand for homes was high and it was met with a practical design that was easy to build, and offered all the basic requirements of a suburban home.
Plans for bungalows were available from companies like Pacific Ready Cut Homes of Los Angeles and Sears. The low cost—in 1932 a Sears bungalow with lumber, roofing, siding, doors, windows, trim, paint, cabinets, etc. went for $1,100—huge demand and ease of building, made the bungalow the trademark of the new American suburban/urban landscape.,
These days, the bungalow has been replaced by the modern prefab, which is a trend I’m also fond of, though something about the bungalow seems a bit more human to me. Maybe it’s nostalgia, or, maybe it’s just that the bungalow really is one of the best home designs out there.
One of the largest proponents of the bungalow was Gustav Stickley, a furniture maker and design leader of the American Craftsman style. He wrote that, “(The bungalow is) a house reduced to its simplest form where life can be carried on with the greatest amount of freedom; it never fails to harmonize with its surroundings…”
His three design principles for the bungalow: “simplicity, harmony with nature, and the promotion of craftsmanship,” are apparent, still to this day, in the bungalow.
With a modern prefab, you get simplicity and harmony, but craftsmanship…not so much, (though to be fair, you didn't get that all the time with bungalows as well) .
One design element that provided some harmony with nature, was the porch. Bungalows were essentially built around a porch that faces a main street. These days, a lot of home designs totally shun the outward porch and instead feature a secluded back porch. During the days of peak bungalow building, we wanted to interact with our neighbors and the world a bit more.
While a certain openness to the neighborhood was an essential design element, privacy was as well. Even though many of the suburban neighborhoods built during the early 19th century are comprised entirely of bungalows, there’s a surprising amount of privacy given the proximity of other houses. This is thanks to the planting of trees, and basic design of the homes.
The simplicity of build and craft was a major plus for the bungalow as well. Using natural materials, a plan that was available for short money (often with materials included), meant a craftsmen could make a bungalow fairly easily and inexpensively.
The single floor design made a bungalow a house you could get old in as well. While some do have multiple levels, for the most part, a bungalow is a house that’s easy to get around, no matter what age you are.
Type “Bungalow” into the search bar of any architecture site these days, and you’ll be surprised at the modern variations of designs that pop up. Just as they did 80 years ago, bungalows can be found in all shapes and sizes, though the core elements remain. The day of the bungalow may be over, but the attraction is still there. And thanks to the craftsmanship that went into building so many of them, the bungalow is not going away anytime soon.