At Home with the Bungalow

I’ve been at home since the middle of last week. First with a sick baby, then I fell ill, and my husband followed suit. So I’ve had ample opportunity to consider the walls around me. Not the literal walls, but the walls of the house type known as a bungalow. Built across America with zeal in the early 20th century, bungalows  can be found in almost every Kentucky community, ranging from examples with well-defined Craftsman style details, or simple houses with very little exterior ornamentation.

A bungalow with a jerkinhead roof in Bardstown, Nelson County, Kentucky.

Bungalows, which combined “moderate price with attractive design,” appealed to Americans seeking an end to renting and a comfortable place to raise their families. The low lines of the bungalow gave the building a solidity which offered comfort and security.[1]  

A brick bungalow in Louisville, Kentucky.

The open, wide front porch is one of the bungalow’s most particular features (and my favorite). The porch created a harmonious relationship between the outside world and the home, allowing residents to chat with passersby or simply escape the summer heat.

Details of a bungalow porch in Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky.

The inside of a bungalow historically is as simple and efficient as its exterior.  It has an open floor plan – at least when compared to the rigid formality of Victorian-era dwellings.  Bedrooms were located near the dining and living rooms, and many bungalows also have a circular floor plan which facilitates movement within the dwelling.

This bungalow illustrates a typical plan, with two bedrooms on the first floor, and two on the second. Plan is from 500 Small Houses of Twenties, which is a great resource if you are interested in houses from this time period.

The bungalow  is typically one to one-and-one-half stories high – a low form, with the roof eaves stretching out beyond the walls – and  built in array of materials. The type is usually two rooms wide and two rooms deep (though additions and porches could increase the depth of the original plan).

A brick bungalow with its porch enclosed in Brooksville, Bracken County, Kentucky.

Most bungalows have the previously mentioned front porch, details like exposed rafter tails and brackets (both elements of the Craftsman style) under overhanging gables; dormers if an upper story exists, double-hung sash windows, often with vertical lights set over a single lower sash; a chimney, and usually a full-light or multi-light entry door.

A bungalow with Tudor Revival stylistic characteristics, Bellevue, Campbell County, Kentucky.

I will point out that while I do recommend McAlester’s Field Guide to American Houses, I (and many of my colleagues) depart from its nomenclature when it comes to the bungalow. McAlester treats Craftsman as the type, while I use the term bungalow as the type, and its stylistic attributes can be anything from Craftsman, to Tudor Revival, to Colonial Revival. Sometimes, it’s just a bungalow – the word itself derives from the Indian word “bangla,” or a low house with galleries or porches all around. But that’s all semantics.

A frame bungalow with exposed rafter tails (a trait of the Craftsman style) on the south side of Lexington, Kentucky.

Although California may have taken the influences for the bungalow and translated them into a housing form that would be built by the thousands across the United States, I find that its most important feature is well-suited for Kentucky – the porch. It’s an extension of the living room, but also of the outdoors – the garden of the bungalow was “an adjunct to the bungalow, a sharer in its life.” I like sharing my life with my bungalow, its porch, and the outside world.



[1] Clifford Edward Clark. The American Family Home, 1800-1960. (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1986), 173.

[2] Clay Lancaster. The American Bungalow, 1880-1930. (New York: Abbeville Press, 1985), 241.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Sharon Thelin says:

    While living in Southern California in the 1970’s–80’s I fell head over heels in love with bungalows. I was aware of them from having grown up in Lexington, but the number of whole neighborhoods of them L.A. and Orange counties was just amazing. One thing that has saddened me here over the last several years is that no developer has tried to “save” what neighborhoods of them we have (shades of John D. Rockefeller Jr. & Williamsburg). Rosemont Garden used to be a prime example of the style, but so many of the houses now have been changed that the street is losing its continuity. A real loss, I think, to Lexington’s architectural history.

    1. Janie-Rice Brother says:

      I agree – I run into this issue all the time, and I think one of the problems is the “recent past” stigma. Some people have problems understanding why a type like the bungalow should be saved, protected, respected, etc, when there are so many of them – and they “aren’t that old!” I fervently wish I’d had the foresight to walk around Pasadena when I was there years ago, taking photographs of block after block of amazing bungalows. Sigh. I’ll get back there one day.

  2. Annie Jaech says:

    My vote is cast for the last bungalow, in Lexington, celery colored. I can feel and hear the peace behind the front door. When I come home, a blend of MY aromas greet me. It’s perfect. This is my favorite style and I appreciate that you shared it with us. Several neighborhoods in North Tacoma, WA neat the U. of Puget Sound feature bungalows backed into the hills, angled as they need to be because of the boulders of basalt. Tacoma is always a lush green and there’s often drizzle or rain. They offer the ultimate in coziness. Some are quite small. For hobbits?
    I hope you are all well by now.
    Thank you!

    1. Janie-Rice Brother says:

      I love the idea of hobbit bungalows! One of my sisters lived in Seattle for a number of years, and I was a very poor graduate student who could only cobble together money for the flight once – but I remember being enthralled by the bungalows there. Recovery is underway – it’s just taking a while. 🙂

  3. Don Jones says:

    I grew up in a neighborhood of bungalows and then I ended up living in two as an adult. Virtually all of the ones in my life have actually been three rooms deep Plus back porches that were frequently in closed. The one Bungalow that I personally owned is now in a precarious position as it is in a landslide area. Rafter over 80 years overlooking the city of Paintsville it will be gone soon.

    1. Janie-Rice Brother says:

      Oh no! Is there anyway you could document it before it does disappear? I haven’t been to Paintsville for a while, but I have a few work trips coming up that may take me in that direction – if you want to tell me where it is, I’ll see if I can get some photographs. You can email me at

  4. David Ames says:

    Bravo!! Great piece but I am biased as a bungalow lover/owner for the last 25 years — the last in Louisville in the last year. Indeed, one of the exciting parts of moving to Louisville was anticipating finding a great bungalow — which I did!! I agree with you on your McAlester and McAlester modification as seeing bungalow as the building type that sports different styles — the same is true of the shotgun in my view. Sorry that your and your family got sick but this piece is the silver lining!

    1. Janie-Rice Brother says:

      Thank you David! You should do some digging on the history of those cool bungalows on West Broadway – the “airplane” ones? I think you’ve posted a photo of one of them (it may be a daycare) before – I’ve always been intrigued by them.

  5. Dennis Webb says:

    There are several nice bungalows here on Suburban Ct. I can see the house with the exposed rafter tails from my bungalow here on Suburban Ct. We had our front porch screened by a professional trim carpenter. He even built us a standard sized screen door. Getting our porch screened was the best decision we have made for our house. Its like having another room to use, since we don’t have to worry about flies and mosquitoes.

Comments are closed.