Welcome to Centers and Squares

As a Cambridge real estate agent, the city squares of Cambridge, Somerville and Medford and the town centers of Arlington, Watertown and Belmont, Massachusetts are my home turf. And as a lifelong New Englander who’s lived within twenty miles of Boston most of my life, I can introduce you to other nearby towns as we search for your new home. If you’re planning to sell your home in Cambridge, MA or nearby you’ll find plenty of info about the home selling process here too. Questions? Send me an email or call me at 617-504-1737.

Architectural Styles: The Bungalow

Sometimes I think that the bungalow is the most misunderstood  architectural style.  Sellers seem miffed if you suggest that their house is a bungalow.  To them, “bungalow” connotes small,  or perhaps modest – something less than in terms of size or value.  Home buyers often ask “What’s a bungalow?” and I sometimes struggle as I try to explain. I love bungalows but too often it seems that it’s a case of “I know a bungalow when I see one.” I’ve taken to pulling out a cheat sheet  from my glove compartment- a clipping from a magazine with photos of several bungalows.

Bungalows are actually one of the most popular vintage house styles today.  There are groups dedicated to the preservation of bungalows, books about bungalows fill shelves in the architecture and decorating sections of the bookstore, and more than one magazine about bungalows can be found on the newsstand.

 What Is A Bungalow?

I guess it’s not a surprise that defining what a bungalow is might be difficult for people.  Here’s what I found in a couple of architectural guides I pulled from my shelves:  Architecture and Ornament: A Visual Guide defines bungalow as “Hindustani word for a single storey domestic house first popularised by the British Raj”.  That’s enlightening!  A Field Guide to American Houses refers to the “bungaloid style”. Huh?

Bungalows were part of the Arts and Crafts movement in the early 1900s.  Gustav Stickley, whose furniture today is highly valued, popularized the style and published bungalow house plans that were available to subscribers. Stickley’s journal was called The Craftsman and bungalows and other Arts and Crafts-inspired houses of the period are often referred to as “Craftsman-style”.  Sears Roebuck offered several bungalows models through its mail order catalogs as did other houses-by-mail companies.

A true bungalow is a one story or one-and-a-half story building.  Larger  bungalows were built however and while many bungalows were simple in style there were many very stylized bungalows built as well, especially in the West, with those designed by by renowned architects Greene and Greene some of the most elaborate examples.

In different parts of the country different styles of bungalows became popular. Variations include Prairie Style, Arts and Crafts, Tudor, Spanish, and Colonial Revival.   

Defining Features of a Bungalow

  • The classic bungalow has a low sweeping roof, often extending over a front porch.
  • The roof is usually a gable style, sometimes a hip roof, and has wide eave overhangs and, often, exposed rafter ends
  • Many are front gabled with the entry on the gable end facing the street, others are cross- or side-gabled.
  • Many bungalows have prominent, deep front porches often with tapered rectangular supports
  • Window styles are often multi-pane top sash over a single pane lower sash

When Were Bungalows Built?

 Bungalows date from the early 1900s to about 1930.

Where Were Bungalows Built?

Bungalows can be found across the United States. Bungalows’ popularity took off initially in Southern California but soon spread across the country.  Hotbeds of bungalows exist to this day in many towns and cities and bungalows pepper the streetscape in plenty of  neighborhoods.

The prevalence of bungalows is dictated by the years in which the town or city was developed.  Locally, towns like Cambridge and Somerville that were thickly developed prior to the 20th century will have fewer bungalows while towns that experienced building booms in the first decades of the century will have more examples.  Medfordand Arlington had large tracts of land that were developed in the twentieth century so bungalows can be in many parts of town.  Belmont and Watertown also had open land in the early 1900s for development and bungalows can be found in many neighborhoods throughout these towns.

Bungalows in Cambidge, MA

Avon Hill Bungalow

Avon Hill Bungalow

Few bungalows if any will be found in Cambridge’s older neighborhoods – East Cambridge, Mid-Cambridge and West Cambridge east of Fresh Pond Parkway are devoid of bungalows I believe (let me know if you spot one!).  North Cambridge has a number of modest bungalows and Chetwynd Road, a short street parallel to Upland that ends at Corcoran Park , is an all-bungalow street with several others on nearby streets. Cambridge Highlands near the Belmont line has a number of bungalows.  My favorite Cambridge bungalow, the only example on Avon Hill, and I think the nicest and most handsome bungalow in Cambridge, is pictured here.

Bungalows in Medford, MA

Bungalows can be found in North Medford, in the Park Street area, and scattered in other parts of town including several good examples on High Street in West Medford, on Winthrop Street near the rotary, and on Symmes Street off Century.  Bungalow sightings are welcomed so let me know of your favorites!

Bungalows in Somerville

The majority of Somerville’s single families were built prior to 1900 so Somerville does not have a wealth of bungalows.  Some can be found in the Ten Hill neighborhood and others in West Somerville.  A wonderful Somerville bungalow on Central Street, set amidst its handsome Greek Revival and Victorian neighbors, was on the market a few years ago and was featured in a recent article about bungalows in the Boston Globe.

Bungalows in Arlington, MA

Many of Arlington’s neighborhoods outside the center of town continued to grow in the twentieth century, often as farm land was converted to residential use.  There are wonderful examples of bungalows in East Arlington, several of which are pictured here, in Arlington Heights, and in the Morningside neighborhood which has some handsome examples.

Bungalow Resources

Magazines:

 American Bungalow

Style 1900

Books:

Loads of books about bungalows have been published in the last 15 years. Here are a few favorites I pulled from my shelves:

Bungalow Nation by Diane Maddex and Alexander Vertikoff – a beautiful book

Bungalow Kitchens by Jane Powell and Linda Svendsen – vintage kitchen lovers will drool

Bungalow Bathrooms by the same authors – a great resource when deciding what bath style is appropriate for your bungalow

American Bungalow Style by Robert Winter and Alexander Vertikoff – bungalows as they’re lived in today

Inside the Bungalow: America’s Arts & Crafts Interior by Paul Duchscherer and Douglas Keister – a room by room look inside the bungalow

 

Please feel free to share your bungalow stories, sightings, or questions here. And watch for next week’s Architectural Style article on the Mansard in Cambridge and nearby towns.

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  1. Sharon Simms

    Liz – it must be a New England perception of what a bungalow is. Bungalow neighborhoods from St. Petersburg Florida to Berkeley California are highly desired homes and communities. Some very famous architects were involved, as you mentioned above. In general, bungalows are inviting and comfortable homes.

  2. Elizabeth Bolton

    Hi Sharon, I’ve loved the bungalow neighborhoods I’ve seen featured in American Bungalow or Cottage Living. We really don’t have the equivalent around here. It’s more typical to have one or a few bungalows scattered around a neighborhood. I think that means there’s a lower awareness of the style than in parts of the country where bungalows are more common.

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