What is a Craftsman bungalow? These small homes, anchored by charming front porches, originated in colonial India (that's the "bungalow" part). But bungalows really took off in the United States after the style was adopted by the Arts and Crafts movement (that's the "Craftsman" part), which added intricate woodwork and handcrafted details to the interior and exterior.

Think: focal-point fireplaces, charming dormers, coffered ceilings, exposed rafter tails, and open floor plans. At one point, the Craftsman became such an American classic, you could even build your own bungalow from a kit in a mail-order catalog. Just one more thing to love about these Craftsman cuties!

Origins of the bungalow home

The term "bungalow" dates to 18th century India. Bangla, or bangala, is the Hindi word meaning "of the province of Bengal," and was also used to refer to small, one-story huts, typically with thatched roofs (but still quite comfortable for India at that time). The term came to be used to mean houses built for the British colonial authorities.

Photo by Moore Architects, PC
Today in the United States, the term "bungalow" has evolved to refer to a small home with a gabled roof, typically no more than one or one and a half stories, often with a veranda or roofed front porch.

Bungalows have spawned a variety of styles—Mission, Tudor, Prairie Pueblo, Chicago, Cape Cod, and even Victorian (a seemingly contradictory mashup), among others—but the Craftsman bungalow is arguably the most popular. Craftsman houses are found in neighborhoods throughout the United States today, having taken root in Southern California in the early 1900s. Bungalows are also particularly common in the Midwest.

History of the Craftsman bungalow

The term "Craftsman" comes from the name of a popular magazine published by the furniture designer Gustav Stickley from 1901 through 1916. Stickley was a leading proponent of the Arts and Crafts movement, which bucked the rise of industrial mass manufacturing by espousing the virtues of handcraft and simple, folksy design.

While Craftsman-style homes are often described as simple in design (compared to, say, Victorian-style homes), the details are not especially austere.

Photo by En Vie Interiors by Melanie Bowe

Bungalows, which could be built without an excess of materials or effort, suited the Arts and Crafts movement and were designed with the working class in mind. Craftsman homes are relatively small, easy to care for, have no wasted space, and are easily tailored to the owner's preferences.

Stickley started selling Craftsman bungalow kits through his magazine for the low price of about $1,000 (which was cheap even for the early 1900s). From there, the popularity of Craftsman bungalows took off. Copycat Craftsman designs began to crop up from architects throughout the United States, with kits available in the Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog, among other sources.

Photo by Allen Construction

Key features of a Craftsman bungalow

No doubt about it—Craftsman style is iconic and often integrated into a variety of design schemes. Not sure if the small home you have an eye on is really a Craftsman home? Many homes include bungalow-style design elements but don't quite fit the full Craftsman criteria. Here are some key features that will help you identify the real deal Craftsman-style bungalow.

  • Low-pitched, gabled roof (occasionally hipped), with wide, unenclosed eave overhang
  • Exposed roof rafters
  • Simplified decorative beams or braces under gables
  • One and a half stories
  • Horizontal shape
  • Porch with thick square or round columns
  • Porch supports usually squared and sometimes tapered
  • Porch support bases extending to ground level
  • Wood, stone, or stucco siding
  • Exterior stone chimney
  • Most of the living spaces on the ground floor
  • Living room at the center
  • Dominant fireplace
  • Connecting rooms without hallways
  • Built-in furniture and lighting
  • Numerous windows
  • Some windows with stained or leaded glass
  • Beamed ceilings
  • Dark wood wainscoting and moldings

All in all, Craftsman bungalows are intimate homes that, due to their small size, are still fairly affordable today. Here are more architectural styles of houses to consider.

Updated from an earlier version by Steven Marsh