Monday, May 9, 2011


Architectural Historians, always a fun group of folk, came up with the term “Bungaloid” to refer to what I suppose everyone else would call “bungalow-like” structures, being those residential designs that share some of the common “bungalow” elements, but don’t otherwise quite fit the mold.  When I was at the UofO I played on an inter-mural volleyball team called the “Bungaloids,” but that’s a different story.

I am often asked to lecture on architectural styles (and did so this weekend, which is what has me thinking along these lines). Let's be honest.  Things termed “bungalow” are something of a polyglot, complicated by the fact (and there is just no other way to put it) that the word itself is just so melodic that it's almost fun to say it.  Bungalow-Bungalow-Bungalow.  It sounds like a chant. I mean really, stylistic attributes  and philosophical under-pinnings aside, wouldn’t you rather tell people at a party that you live in a “bungalow” than in a Colonial Revival or American Foursquare?  It just sounds prettier and more tasteful.

Which is, of course, what led to the problem of trying to explain just what IS a bungalow, and what is just Bungalow-wannabe?  When we get to the point that particular styles are advertised as “Italianate Bunaglows” or “Colonial Bungalows” I think we have wandered pretty far from the plains of India or whatever visions of small-scale, naturalistic, living Charles and Henry Greene, Gustav Stickley, or Edward Bok had in mind.  Not that what any of those guys had in mind was necessarily a “real” bungalow to begin with.

Still, everyone today (thanks a bunch This Old House) wants to believe that they live in a Bungalow (or even better, a CRAFTSMAN bungalow) and so the term gets further muddied.  But it is a great term.  What do you think are "must have" Bungalow elements?  Is the image above, from a catalog published in 1923 (okay, a little late for a TRUE believer bungalow), really a Bungalow at all?


  1. Here are a few thoughts...

    As the historian at Rejuvenation, for a number of years I wrote the copy for our lighting catalog. It needed to be historically accurate enough to be "correct" yet accessible and straightforward enough to engage those whose eyes start to get those little spirals in them at words like "vernacular" and "cornice" and "neoclassical."

    One distinction I always make that I think helps - a personal one, admittedly - is between house "styles" (which I always capitalize) and house "types" (which I always leave lower case, unless they are a proper noun like a Cape Cod).

    Based on the way I see the word used in old house plan books, etc. I treat bungalows as a type of house, not a style. A bungalow is a one or one-and-one-half story house that packs efficient living into a compact footprint (many period house plan books referred to houses with a more prominent second floor design as "semi-bungalows"). A porch is pretty important, but as automobiles take over the streets, bungalow porches shrink and disappear.

    This definition differs from the more philosophically based "bungalows" of Greene & Greene, etc. where the relationship to Arts & Crafts and the outdoors overrides issues of scale and efficiency.

  2. And here are a few more...

    Because it is a type, not a style, any period style name could and should be attached to it for further clarification - all of the following would be appropriate: Craftsman, Mission, Arts & Crafts, California, etc. Because the type has more to do with simplicity, handcraft, and a "modern" outlook than historical precedent, the revival styles like Colonial, Classical, Mediterranean, and English fit less comfortably, but they did and do exist. To me, there is no disconnect in a Colonial Revival bungalow.

    As for the picture shown above, I'd call that a cottage - another house type, also compact and efficient, but based more on evoking romantic associations than on a way of living.

    The cottage form pre-dates the bungalow as a "picturesque" type up through the Queen Anne trend, and then returns in "romance" form during the 1920s Revival era as the bungalow type wanes.

    Other house types in my view include foursquares, farmhouses, ranches, Cape Cods, saltboxes, townhouses, villas, and even mansions - Style Name + House Type = clear and accurate description.

    There are definitely hybrid styles and types that lack compelling naming conventions, especially I think between 1900 and 1910, and between 1940 and 1950 - houses that often seem to get the word "transitional" attached to them, for lack of anything better... Interestingly, both of these decades saw such houses called "modern" - a term that has evolved with every generation.

  3. Thanks for your comments, Bo. Makes for an interesting perspective.

    I rather agree, in principle, with the "type" v. "style" approach, although I think Bungalow fits rather inelegantly into that divide. Is a bungalow a cottage? At some level aren't bungalow and cottage (as a type) essentially synonyms (i.e. small(er) houses)?