Bungalows were simple houses built across the United States in the first decades of the twentieth century. They were usually small, with sloping roofs and front porches. Their simple style, free of excess ornamentation, made them affordable for many Americans. Because of their availability, more Americans were able to enjoy the benefits of home ownership.
The bungalow style came from a number of influences. Two architects, brothers Charles Sumner Greene (1868–1957) and Henry Mather Greene (1870–1954), began designing what came to be called "Craftsman" bungalows after 1903 in Pasadena, California. They were inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement in England, an art and design style that used forms from nature such as leaf patterns and flower shapes. The Greene brothers were also inspired by Asian architecture, which emphasized wood construction. They put these two styles together in the homes they built. The bungalow itself came from the architecture of India. (The term comes from the Indian word bangla, meaning "house.") Its simple, functional style proved to be a good fit with the early twentieth-century mood at a time when overly ornate Victorian architecture was falling out of fashion. The bungalow fit the needs of the modern family.
The bungalow might have stayed a regional California style were it not for the efforts of Edward Bok (1863–1930). Bok, the editor of the very popular magazine Ladies Home Journal, wanted to promote his image of the ideal American home, one in which women stayed at home with their children. Bok sought to encourage that image by popularizing a simpler home that would be easier to live in. He publicized the bungalow style and even offered architectural plans his readers could buy for five dollars. The houses cost between $1,500 to $5,000 to build. Many of Bok's readers took advantage of the bungalow plans. Bungalows began springing up all across the United States. Although the popularity of the bungalow style faded after 1930, many examples still exist and are highly valued, proof of the enduring quality of bungalows.
For More Information
Clark, Clifford E., Jr. The American Family Home. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986.
McAlester, Virginia, and Lee McAlester. A Field Guide to American Houses. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994.