Bungalows of the Arts and Crafts Movement

A home for Everyman

Sears Kit Home - The Osborn

Sears Kit Bungalow - The Osborn

You see them everywhere in older neighborhoods. They are small by today's standards, event the largest bungalows are modest compared with today's McMansions. Often unless they have been remodeled they have two or three bedrooms, one bathroom, a nice size living room that flows into the dining room, kitchen, and often a full basement. Many times they have a second floor with additional space. What they lack in size, they more than make up for in charm and character. Whole neighborhoods are now being designated as historic districts and competition to buy these small gems is fierce in many cities.

The bungalow is a tropical house found in India as way stations for travelers. The architecture was adopted by British officers stationed in India during the 19th century. The houses were practical with verandas shaded by the overhanging roof. The floor plan was open to facilitate the movement of air in the hot climate. There were often doors from the inner rooms to the outer living spaces to take advantage of every whisper of wind. They were simple houses and very livable.

In the US, one of the first areas to build the bungalow style was California. The tropical Indian architecture was well adapted to the sunny climate of southern California where outdoor living has always been a part of daily life.

GarlingHouse Bungalow

1924 Garlinghouse Bungalow

Bungalows meet the Arts & Crafts Movement

Bungalows by definition were simple homes designed for living. It was perhaps inevitable that the style would be discovered and explored by the architects of the Arts & Crafts Movement. Until 1906, bungalows were considered to be summer homes, small cottages by the lake or sea to be used as a retreat. As architects worked their magic, more and more of them experimented with natural materials like indigenous rock, local woods, and metals like copper and iron. By 1906, there was not a home magazine that didn't feature "small homes of distinction." Gustav Stickley posed the question that perhaps the bungalow might work well as a year around home? The answer from Americans? A resounding yes!

Bennett Kit Bungalow

1920 Bennett Bungalow Kit House

From 1907 to 1925, the bungalow was one of the most sought after home designs. It appealed to the wealthy who could afford the Craftsman home designed by the Greene Brothers or other lesser known architects like J. Constantine Hillman.

This early simplicity movement called for harmony with nature, craftsmanship instead of shoddy machine-made material goods, dignity of the working man and woman. It was a backlash to the Industrial Revolution by philosophers and designers begun first in England, then migrating across the Atlantic to the US. The bungalow was the architectural manifestation of art pottery and mission-style furniture with which it is now so closely associated.

J. W. Lindstrom Bungalow

1920s Chalet Style Bungalow

Bungalows go mainstream

Some of the most impressive bungalow style homes are large, handcrafted residences designed by the Greene Brothers in California. With handwrought copper and iron work, joinery by master carpenters, and what are still considered excellent architectural monuments in residential design, most of the early bungalows were unaffordable by the vast majority of Americans.

However, by 1908 a few companies had begun to dabble in selling plans and materials. Within just a few years, Aladdin, Sears, and Gordon Van Tine had established themselves as purveyors of the ready-cut home. The social consciousness that all people desired a home of their own in which to bind families together and rear healthy families was proclaimed from pulpit and publications across the country. The problem, as it is today, was affordability. And this was precisely the problem stick and kit-built bungalows solved.

Small houses of between 800 and 1200 square feet were offered by the trainload to prospective homebuyers in every corner of the US. The market for these homes grew rapidly from 1910 to 1920 as dozens of smaller companies joined the build fest. Lumber dealers like the owners of Ready Built House Company in Portland, Oregon and Bennett Homes in North Tonawanda, New York with the milling capability were quick to see the advantage of offering their own regional kit homes. Styles included the Colonial Revival and its subtypes like the Foursquare and Dutch Colonial, and the bungalow in its many variants such as the Swiss-chalet, airplane (or aeroplane which is slightly different), and California styles.

Aladdin Kit Home

The Brunswick - Aladdin Kit House

Though most could be considered the generic children of the original, early Craftsman bungalows without their unique artistry, these more common, working man bungalows were typically built of high quality materials. Most today are considered highly desirable, especially kit homes. Therein lies a certain amount of irony of course, because kit homes were successful not only because of their materials and design, but because they were manufactured on an assembly line ... a characteristic that would have been anathema to the early proponents like William Morris of the Arts and Crafts Movement.

Bungalow characteristics

The following characteristics are typically found in some combination on most craftsman-derived bungalows:

  • Low-pitched roof which may be gabled or hipped
  • 1–1½ stories, sometimes two
  • Large porches covered by the overhanging roof and supported by substantial columns
  • Broad eaves with exposed rafters
  • Decorative knee braces and elaborated rafter ends
  • Open floor plan with front entry opening directly into the living room
  • Lots of windows and doors to exterior porches or verandas
  • Large fireplace often with built-in cabinetry, shelves, or benches on either side
  • Inglenooks
  • Built-in cabinetry such as buffets, china cabinets, and bookcases; beamed ceilings; simple wainscot sometimes with a plate rail most commonly seen in dining and living room.
  • Dormers, shed, hipped or gabled.
  • Double-hung or casement windows with multiple lights in the upper window and a single pane in the lower, often seen in continuous banks. Simple, wide casings.

More bungalow information

Bungalow reading

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