Frequently Asked Questions
urious about bungalow-related topics? Here is a list of frequently asked questions. Watch for additions to this list in the future.
Q. What is a bungalow? Is my house a bungalow?
A. A traditional bungalow is a small one or one-and-a-half story house that was built between 1910 and 1930. They have a low-pitched roof and a horizontal orientation (rather than vertical, as in Queen Anne Victorian houses). They usually feature a prominent front porch. The roof frequently has a wide overhang with exposed rafter tails supporting it. Sometimes angled wood brackets supported this overhang.
Bungalows in the Midwest often have dark oak woodwork inside, with built-ins such as a dining room buffet (china cabinet), and an arch, or colonnade, between the living room and dining room that sometimes incorporates columns and bookcases.
A bungalow is a house type (small, one-and-a-half story, horizontal orientation); and many decorative styles were applied to this basic form. Some of the most common were Craftsman, Colonial Revival, Spanish Colonial, Tudor, and Pueblo.
Small houses continued to be built after 1930, but the styles were different from the bungalow. Nineteen-thirties houses were usually Cape Cods or English Tudors with a steeper roof line.
Some bungalows are quite large, with very nearly a full second story, while still keeping the low-slung, horizontal orientation and traditional bungalow styles. These larger houses were sometimes called “Semi-bungalows” (though it seems that “Super-bungalows” would have been more apt).
Q. What is the Arts & Crafts movement?
A. The following answer is excerpted from the preface to The Arts and Crafts Movement by Elizabeth Cumming and Wendy Kaplan. 1991. Thames and Hudson Inc.
“The Arts & Crafts movement had its roots in late nineteenth-century Britain. Its leading theorists, men such as William Morris, C.R. Ashbee and W.R. Lethaby, had trained as architects and worked towards unity in the arts, believing that all creative endeavour was of equal value. Not only did they want to reform design but to give quality once more to the work process itself. With its division of labour, the Industrial Revolution had devalued the work of the craftsman and turned him into a mere cog on the wheel of machinery. The aim of the Arts & Crafts reformers was therefore to re-establish a harmony between architect, designer and craftsman and to bring handcraftsmanship to the production of well-designed, affordable, everyday objects.
These principles were adopted in America and to a lesser extent in Continental Europe. Although practitioners had widely differing agendas, they shared the ideal of individual expression, of design that could draw inspiration from the past but would be no slavish imitation of historical models. Buildings were crafted of local materials and designed to fit into the landscape and reflect vernacular tradition. To provide design unity with these structures, furniture was often simple and ‘honest’ ‚ left unpainted to display its method of construction and unpolished to reveal the beauty of its wood. Non-architectural, ‘movable’ crafts, from printed books and embroideries to jewelry and metalwork, on the other hand, were frequently far from plain and were intended, in an era of economic and social confidence, to equal the technical virtuosity and visual brilliance of earlier civilizations.”
Q. Why a bungalow club? Isn’t that a little, um… specialized?
A. Well, yes, it is specialized, but there are a number of reasons to promote bungalows.
One is that they are charming, though under appreciated, houses. In the early 20th century, bungalows were so popular that songs were written about them, and every newly-married couple wanted one. Large companies such as Sears-Roebuck offered bungalow mail-order kits. Pre-cut lumber and other materials would be delivered to your lot, and owners would hire local builders to assemble it.
Though they were generally small, bungalows were known for being solidly-constructed, high-quality houses with “artistic” detailing. They were far different than the cheap post-WWII housing that was quickly thrown up for returning GIs.
Bungalows were built with old-growth lumber that is very expensive to obtain today. Most are still rock-solid, though now of an age where they need good maintenance and upkeep to remain viable. That’s the other reason to promote bungalows—neighborhood stability. Bungalow neighborhoods have a charm and livability that is available nowhere else. In other words, they don’t build neighborhoods like they used to. In order for bungalow neighborhoods to remain viable, residents must appreciate what they have and invest in upkeep.
Until the last few years, bungalow neighborhoods were considered disposable. In the early 1990s, the Longfellow neighborhood in Minneapolis conducted a housing survey, and concluded that their bungalows, which comprised some 60 percent of the housing stock, were old, outmoded, and too small. Now, a decade later, Longfellow is promoting itself as “A Traditional Bungalow Community,” and housing prices continue to rise. It’s all a matter of perception.
Q. I need to make some repairs and improvements to my bungalow. Where can I find a contractor who is sensitive to the historical aspects of the style?
A. Competent carpenters and contractors, those who are historically sensitive and otherwise, are often difficult to find. Many of us in the Twin Cities Bungalow Club have used workers that we’ve been happy with, but they’ve asked us not to publicize their name and number, as they have more work than they can handle.
Because bungalows and the Arts & Crafts movement are becoming widely known, however, it’s easier than in previous years to find workers who have at least heard of the terms. And, increasingly, there are craftspeople who are knowledgeable of the era and its architecture.
Don’t overlook the benefits of hiring an architect for your project. Many specialize in historic houses and will work with you to update your home while keeping its scale and style intact. Money spent on an architect is money well spent.
When it comes to construction, start by finding a contractor who has a good reputation for being professional and reliable. See if he or she is willing to listen and do what you want, namely, work that restores or replicates historic aspects of your house. If the contractor seems more interested in doing what he or she wants (usually a standard kitchen, bath or addition pulled from the shelves of Menard’s or The Home Depot), keep looking. Modern elements added to a historic house will be outdated the day they’re finished. To leave your house better than you found it (something all homeowners should strive to do), improvements should be done in keeping with the original style and proportion of the structure.
Q. Where can I find out more about bungalows and the Arts & Crafts movement?
A. Fortunately, there is now a wealth of information available. A good place to start is the Twin Cities Bungalow Club, which offers quarterly newsletters, quarterly presentations, an annual bungalow house tour and more. For a copy of the Bungalow Club’s recent newsletter, call 612-724-5816 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another excellent resource is American Bungalow Magazine. Go to their online site at www.ambungalow.com, or call 800-350-3363.
Other excellent magazines are:
Old House Journal. Visit them online at www.oldhousejournal.com or call them at 800-234-3797 for subscription information.
Old House Interiors. Their web address is www.oldhouseinteriors.com; phone 978-283-3200.
Though the above two magazines cover a range of old house styles, they always contain an article or two about Arts & Crafts houses. Plus, much of the information in them is applicable to any old house.
Arts & Crafts Homes and the Revival. A new publication as of spring 2006 that grew out of the Old House Interiors magazine. It covers contemporary practitioners as well as the historical antecedents of the continuing movement. Web address is artsandcraftshomes.com; phone is 978-283-3200.
Style 1900, the magazine of turn-of-the-century design. Their web address is www.style1900.com; phone 609-397-4104.