The California Bungalow grew out of the British Arts and Crafts movement and similar homes that the British built in India’s warmer climates. Although the first California Bungalow is attributed to San Francisco architect Arthur Page Brown in the 1890s, other architects adopted Arts and Crafts-style homes in southern parts of the state. A common, inexpensive house built during this time, California Bungalows share architectural features with Craftsman and Arts and Crafts-styled homes.
Large department stores offered California Bungalow prefabricated mail-order kits for on-site assembly for as little as $900 during the late 1890s to the early 1900s. These bungalows were built all the way from San Diego to the state’s northern border near Eureka in the California’s growing city, beach and mountain mining communities.
When you first look at a California Bungalow, you notice that its porch is held up by tapered wood columns with bases often composed of brick, round boulders or natural stones. The homes’ low sloping roofs have a gable end on their fronts or sides, with hipped roofs and wide eaves or overhangs that help to keep the blazing California sun at bay during hot summers. Most Cal Bungalows are one story, but sometimes they have an attic or a small second story referred to as a one-and-a-half story bungalow.
Materials and Size
Most bungalows have two bedrooms: a master bedroom and a second bedroom or a den with an average footprint that covers about 1,800 square feet. Usually outfitted with one bath, many Cal Bungalows have a distinct entrance off the kitchen, a large living room and separate dining room. As California’s population base continued to surge in the 1900s, these easy-to-build, yet artistic homes offered an easy housing solution for the growing population in a state that didn’t need high-pitched roofs for winter snows or basements. Cal Bungalows hug the ground on a short raised foundation and bring the outdoors in with screened porches, pergolas, verandas and trellises. Natural materials -- round boulders and wood -- were used both inside and out of these homes.
Built-in sideboards, bookcases and window seats are common features of the Cal Bungalow, along with a lot of wood on the interior of the home with open beams sometimes in the living or dining area. Prominent fireplaces become the focal point in open floor plans with living rooms open to a dining area. Living or dining rooms also sometimes featured wood ceiling tiles in geometric patterns accompanied by hardwood floors, wainscoting and chair rails. Windows include leaded and stained glass or intricate scrollwork in windows that face the curb. Kitchens often include cabinets with leaded glass doors.
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