“There is a working class—strong and healthy and happy— among both rich and poor:
there is an idle class—weak, wicked and miserable—among both rich and poor.”
–John Ruskin

The Bungalow, until it became the darling of the Arts and Crafts movement, was a temporary shelter, often a vacation home for the privileged. Arts and Crafts disciples, with their adoration of nature and propensity for self-sufficiency and the authentic, adopted the bungalow as a permanent home, and the earliest examples could often be found in idyllic settings, nestled into the landscape.

That cozy image stuck, aided by the somewhat exotic, good-natured name: bungalow. It’s even fun to say the word aloud.

Bungalow mania spread to the middle class, taking Arts and Crafts tenets along forth  e ride. Interest in bungalow life had gained enough momentum to survive the demise of the Arts and Crafts era and World War I. In fact, the industrial age resulted in a proliferation of bungalows, most on small lots near towns and industry. The working-class bungalow was born.

This explosive final phase offered the bungalow and its arts and crafts principles to the working class, providing homes for returning veterans, new immigrants and those whose labor was no longer required on the mechanized family farm. The new bungalow set knew little of Arts and Crafts philosophy, yet they were psychologically ready for a little home of their own, one offering independence, self-sufficiency and a private piece of Mother Earth to come home to after a day’s work.

The working-class bungalow is small—two or three bedrooms and a single bath. Most have Craftsman features: a living room focused on a fireplace flanked by bookcases, even though the fire might be from an open flame gas heater with faux andirons. There is efficiency in the design: built-in evidence like an ironing board that folds out of a wall; a hallway lined with linen closets and drawers; a laundry porch; a single-car garage. Detached.

Outside, fenceless front lawns and broad porches welcomed the democracy of a neighborhood, while a private rear garden offered an escape into the natural world. Some cultivated a small farm of fresh organic produce; others preferred a lawn for badminton or croquet, and some preferred to be lost among trees adorned with nests of wild birds. Fishponds were popular. Butterflies were frequent visitors. Working-class bungalows soon proliferated.

I’m fascinated that this bungalow phenomenon happened only in places with a pioneering history: the New World. Elsewhere the bungalow remains a temporary shelter, even among arts and crafts devotees.

Many of those adopting the working-class bungalow life were born into pioneering families or were themselves pioneers in a new land and lifestyle. They were self-assured adventurers, used to simple living, independence and places where Nature makes the rules. They weren’t burdened with excess and they understood the concept of living with only the beautiful and the useful.

The working-class bungalow, historically and in present times, is a home that fulfills Ruskin’s promise of a strong and healthy and happy life. It’s a good thing that so many of them were made.


Looking forward to hearing from you,


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