In the early 1990s bungalows were built in every style, from arts and crafts to colonial, and in every state, from Illinois to California. Today our love affair with their charm and craftsmanship lives on.
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When my daughters were babies, I never needed a baby monitor; I could hear every cough and gurgle from their room just across the hall. That's because our house is small — in fact, at 1,000 square feet, it's about as small as a two-bedroom, one-bathroom house could conceivably be. But it's also because our house is a bungalow, and bungalows are all about intimacy — the kind of intimacy that grows out of hearing one another breathe.
"Simplify your life," that oft-heard slogan of the late 1990s, could just as easily have been the credo of the bungalow craze that swept America from 1890 to 1930. The emphasis on craftsmanship, family life and outdoors-oriented good health seems surprisingly in tune with what many families find themselves earnestly in search of today. I know, because from the moment I stepped into the redwood-paneled living room of my circa-1925 bungalow in San Rafael, Calif., I knew I had found a home, in the full meaning of that word.
Defined in many different ways but most comprehensively as a one- or one-and-a-half-story house in which the living areas and sleeping areas are all on the same floor, a bungalow is quintessentially cozy, building intimacy out of proximity. Always an economical form of housing, bungalows were designed to emphasize common spaces over private spaces, with deep front porches and gracious living and dining rooms, making whatever sacrifices were necessary where they were least likely to be noticed.
"Many bungalow designers were incredibly creative in their use of space," says San Francisco designer Paul Duchscherer, author of The Bungalow and Inside the Bungalow. "They wanted the house to feel as big as possible, so they would give people plenty of room to entertain friends and be with family, then limp by with a bare minimum for private space."
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