The following article is based upon material in American Bungalow Style, an informative book by Robert Winter and photographer Alexander Vertikoff. Winter, a member of the American Bungalow magazine advisory board, and Vertikoff, the magazine’s cover and feature photographer, capture the charm and variety of the nation’s bungalows in great style.
Published in cooperation with the magazine, and including a foreword by publisher John Brinkmann. All photographs that appear in this article are protected from reproduction by copyright ©1996 Alexander Vertikoff.
Architecture is much more than style, but an important factor in the construction of bungalows was their ability to meet owners’ functional requirements while giving them what had previously been limited to the wealthy few: the latest in design.
Bungalows reflected the whole range of architectural movements of their day, from Queen Anne to Arts and Crafts, Tudor to Prairie and Pueblo, Spanish to English Colonial Revival, and even Moderne. These styles share a conscious search for the supposed simplicity of preindustrial times. All were meant to counter the excess of the Victorian period by returning to the past when handicrafts displayed the laborer’s personal involvement in the work. It is easy to see how the bungalow-whose existence was defined on the grounds of restoring family values-fit beautifully into the Arts and Crafts movement. It would bring style to all the people whatever their economic or social status.
Queen Anne (1885-1905)
In the United States, the Queen-Anne style’s silhouette became asymmetrical, picturesque, and highly decorative.
Features include: clad in clapboards or shingles, a medium-pitched roof (sometimes with one or two dormer windows), wrap around porches, balconies, sculptured brick chimneys, art-glass windows, typical Victorian rooms (living room/parlor merged), wallpapered walls with picture molding beneath ceiling, corner tower giving distinction to living room
California Style Home In its day, the term “California bungalow” evoked both a type-a one- or one-and-a-half-story dwelling-and an Arts and Crafts architectural style that merged elements from Japanese buildings and Swiss chalets. But as with the high-style Greene and Greene houses, they don’t necessarily all fit the type’s dictionary definition!
Craftsman Style (1900-1930)
Because of the bungalow’s strong early links to the state, the terms “California Bungalow” or “California Craftsman” were sometimes applied to many houses that might otherwise be called Craftsman. The name comes from designs presented in the artistic and popular Craftsman magazine, published by Gustav Stickley from 1901-1916. Gradually, however, the word took on its own momentum, going beyond any specific connections to Stickley or his work, and it came to be freely used by others as being characteristic of the period and associated with classic bungalows wherever they may be throughout the country.
Features include: street-facing gables with composition or shingled roofs, painted or stained brown or dark green (to merge with nature), wide overhanging eaves, the sleeping porch, front door opens directly into the living room, dark wood paneling, plastered ceiling (sometimes crossed geometrically with wooden beams), always a fireplace, casement windows, arched opening flanked with bookcases separates living room/dining room, bedrooms with woodwork painted a light color, kitchen built-ins
Mission Style (1890-1915)
The Mission phenomenon of the Arts and Crafts movement was not limited to California, Florida and the Southwest, but it was used most often in states with a Spanish past.
Features include: tile roofs, vaguely Moorish towers, round arches recalling a mission cloister, plain but functional interiors, fireplace, some art glass
The actual connecting link between the English Arts and Crafts movement and the new American home architecture at the dawning of the 20th century was Tudor-style architecture. Tudor Revival has several stylistic variants, including English, Elizabethan, Jacobean, Norman, Old Country Farm, Cottage-style, Manor House and related picturesque styles.
Features include: steeply pitched roof, usually side-gabled (may be parapet or false thatched), wall cladding (stucco, brick, stone or wood) tall, narrow windows (commonly in groups with multipane glazing), large, elaborate chimneys (commonly crowned with decorative pots), decorative half-timbering, detailed doorways, recognizably French-featured interiors
Prairie Style (1900-1920)
This is one of the few indigenous American styles. It was developed by an unusually creative group of Chicago architects that have come to be known as the Prairie School. Frank Lloyd Wright’s early work, inspired by the linearity of Japanese prints, is in this style and he is the acknowledged master of the Prairie house.
Features include: low-pitched roofs, usually hipped or gabled, with widely overhanging eaves two stories, with one-story wings or porches, massive square or rectangular piers of masonry used to support porch roofs, rows of casement windows, window boxes or flattened pedestal urns for flowers, broad, flat chimneys, contrasting wall materials or trim, emphasizing second story, decorative friezes or door surrounds with floral ornamentation, Wright’s famous furnishings and flowing interiors
A close relative of the Prairie School, the Foursquare (or Box House) is probably one of the most popular styles of houses in America. Its practicality cannot be overstated. Despite their basic, simple cube design, Foursquares were not bogged down in a sameness of exterior design or decor. They offer a large variety of appearances, and their form can be seen from coast to coast, from plain to fancy. Indeed, they are the quintessential home of the period.
Features include: cubish shape, two full stories, hipped roof and front roof dormer, front porch (ranging from wraparounds to simple stoops), windows usually grouped in pairs, usually four bedrooms
Period Revivals (1915-1930)
Period revival styles-such as Spanish, pueblo, log and colonial-are usually thought of as projections of the 1920s, but each had its roots in the recent as well as the distant past. The eclecticism of previous revivals was dropped in favor of the authentic recasting of historic styles. Interiors reflected newly informal lifestyles with more open plans and flowing spaces.
Building on the interest in America’s missions, a number of architects went beyond the Hispanic architecture in the United States to draw imagery from Mexico and Spain itself, especially from domestic architecture. In doing so they opened a new architectural vocabulary, called Plateresque and Churrigueresque. The high art of this style had to be watered down in its application to the bungalow.
Not many baroque doorways appeared on these small houses. The better-than-average Spanish Colonial Revival bungalow, however, did have some endearing ornaments.
Features include: red tile roof, canvas draperies pulled across large, round-arched windows, awnings supported by spears over doorways, light-bathed interiors (thanks to large windows and white or rosy pink walls), black iron balustrades and curtain rods with wooden rings, an abundance of tile on staircases and in bathrooms and kitchens, Spanish fireplace
Drawing from local historical precedents for inspiration, the Pueblo Revival style is a mixture of both the flat-roofed Spanish Colonial buildings and the Native American pueblos.
Features include: flat roof with parapeted wall above, stucco wall, usually earth-colored, projecting wooden roof beams (vigas) extending through walls, wall and roof parapet with irregular, rounded edges, window lintels, porch supports
The revival of log cabins coexisted with the rise of rustic lodges and distinctive national park architecture (Parkitecture), both outgrowths of the Arts and Crafts movement, and both expressing a need to get back to nature. Log cabin bungalows, however, are extremely rare but fun to watch for. Even Gustav Stickley, the chief promoter of Arts and Crafts ideas in the United States, used logs for Craftsman Farms in New Jersey-making sure that his own bungalow appeared to commune properly with nature.
At the turn of the century, the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris sent the message that architecture is essentially bilateral symmetry and that style must be classically inspired. Translated into the language of bungalow designers, this meant the use of Georgian- or Federal-style models from the 18th century, which produced the Colonial Revival.
Features include: miniature temple fronts, windows in bands, perhaps French doors, white woodwork interiors, dashes of classical detail
Chicago Style (1920-1930)
The unique new bungalow that developed in Chicago in the 1920s was fueled by the national bungalow craze and Chicago’s own Prairie style-but much of its roots came from the workingman’s house of the 19th and early 20th century. The result was the cottage transformed, and a bountiful harvest of Chicago bungalow neighborhoods-just right for Chicago families today.
Features include: all brick (in an assortment of shades, three levels of living space, elbow to elbow with the neighboring house, 20 first-floor windows (leaded or stained glass), generous use of wood and ceramic tile, tile roofs artful, multipaned doors and doorways, expansive interior
Art Deco may have been too high style to be used for the modest bungalow, but in the 1930s quite a few bungalows were designed in what is now called Streamline Moderne.
Features include: curved corners (providing a sense of motion), occasionally portholes and bulkheads, concrete and stucco material (often painted in pastels), glass brick (especially around entrances), terra-cotta ornaments, light, airy interiors with simple modern touches
Adapted from American Bungalow Style by Robert Winter and Alexander Vertikoff. Published by Simon and Schuster in cooperation with American Bungalow magazine, 1996.