Bungalow Definition: What Makes a House a Bungalow?

What Is a Bungalow?

A bungalow is a one-story house, cottage, or cabin. Bungalows are generally small in terms of square footage, but it is not uncommon to see very large bungalows. Bungalows were originally designed to provide affordable, modern housing for the working class.

Key Takeaways

  • A bungalow is a style of house or cottage that is typically either a single story or has a second, half, or partial story, that is built into a sloped roof.
  • Bungalows are typically small in terms of size and square footage and often are distinguished by the presence of dormer windows and verandas.
  • Bungalows are cost-efficient, easy to maintain, and due to increased square footage versus multi-story homes, relatively easy to modify.
  • On the downside, Bungalows have smaller and fewer rooms than multi-story houses, and are more vulnerable to break-ins, due to how low they sit on the ground.

Understanding Bungalows

Bungalows are most often one-story houses, although they often also include an additional half story, usually with a sloped roof. There are various types of bungalows, including raised bungalows that have basements partially above ground to let in additional sunlight. There are also some bungalows that branch away from the original definition by adding additional levels such as lofts and half levels. Common features of the bungalow include a dormer window and a veranda.

Bungalow Characteristics

Bungalows are small and easy to maintain and are therefore great homes for aging adults or people with disabilities. They are also cost-efficient; heating and cooling costs tend to be lower, and the property value tends to remain relatively high. Because bungalows occupy more square footage than multi-story homes, they tend to allow more space for modifications and additions. They also afford more privacy than most traditional homes, as they're low to the ground and the windows can easily be blocked by trees, shrubs, and fences. 

On the other hand, bungalows tend to occupy a larger area of land than their multi-story counterparts; since they don't extend upwards, they take up more square footage on the first floor. This means that the initial costs are higher since they cost more per square foot, and they also require more material for roofing. 

Bungalows also tend to have smaller and fewer rooms extending off a larger living room, as opposed to large bedrooms or an open floor plan. Also, because they're low to the ground, they're more susceptible to break-ins; therefore, it's a good idea to invest in a home security system if you purchase a bungalow.

Currently-popular Bungalow styles include California, Chicago, and the chalet. 

History of Bungalows

Bungalows were first built in the South Asian region of Bengal. Bungalows, which derive their name from Hindi, were first identified as such by British sailors of the East India Company in the late 17th century. As time progressed, a bungalow came to refer to a large dwelling, often representing high social status in both Britain and America.

The term bungalow as we now know it – a small dwelling, typically one story – developed in the 20th century, although its definition varies in different areas of the world. For example, in India today, the term generally refers to any single-family dwelling, regardless of how many stories it has.

In Canada and the United Kingdom, a bungalow almost exclusively refers to one-story units. Australia tends toward the California bungalow, a type of bungalow that was popular in the United States from about 1910 to 1940 and expanded abroad as Hollywood became popular and increased the desirability of American-made products.

The California bungalow is one to one-and-a-half stories and features a large porch, sloping roof, and Spanish-inspired details. Other types of now-popular bungalow styles include the Chicago bungalow, which has Chicago roots circa the 1920s and is typically made of brick, and the chalet bungalow, which deviates from the one-story norm by having a second-story loft.

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  1. Architectural Review. "The origin and indigenisation of the Imperial bungalow in India." Accessed Feb. 15, 2021.

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