Bungalow Curb Appeal: Embrace the Coziness and Stage That Inviting Porch

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The bungalow has established itself as one of America’s beloved small homes — a distinction that’s held true since the turn of the century. In fact, in one commissioned 2018 Harris Poll of more than 2,000 Americans, 43% ranked this home style as their favorite, with 52% of people ages 18 to 34 preferring this style of architecture over ranch, colonial, Cape Cod, and Victorian.

Sometimes called “Arts & Crafts” homes or Craftsman homes, bungalows tend to have one or one-and-a-half stories with low-pitched roofs, wide overhangs, and columns along a porch or veranda. With an average size of about 1,800 square feet (although some are smaller than 1,000), they’re not as large or stately as a colonial but have more flair than the modest ranch.

“I think bungalows have loads of personality,” says Pei Lin Huang, a top real estate agent in Syracuse, New York, who specializes in single-family homes.

Bungalows are at home in historic neighborhoods from Pasadena, California, to Tampa, Florida, as well as in newer developments that blend their quintessential characteristics with modern amenities. Here’s how to enhance your bungalow curb appeal so that buyers want to size up this cozy favorite inside and out.

A bungalow home with curb appeal during a snowy day.
Source: (Kelly Lacy / Pexels)

Bungalow architecture: Practical yet sophisticated

More than 94% of the agents surveyed in HomeLight’s Q2 2019 Top Agent Insights report say curb appeal adds to your bottom line. To elevate your bungalow curb appeal, it’s wise to start by knowing the features your home has to offer.

Bungalows have a particular size and style because they’re based on the houses that British Army officers in India used in the 19th century (the word bungalow comes from the Hindi word bangala, meaning “of Bengal”).

These petite homes first appeared in the United States around 1885 and became popular through the 1930s. Costing as little as $900, bungalows “symbolized for many the best of the good life,” according to American Bungalow magazine.

Bungalows are beloved for blending affordability with sophistication through Spanish, British, and Dutch influences, says ThoughtCo, an award-winning educational site ranked as one of the top 10 information sites on the web.

There are roughly a dozen different bungalow types, with variations based on where they were designed and built. California Bungalows merge the Arts & Crafts architectural style with Japanese and Swiss details, for instance.

Chicago Bungalows combine Craftsman touches with brick construction, thanks to the cold climate and the 1871 Chicago Fire. Spanish Colonial Bungalows include stylings such as arched doors or windows.

But even among newer builds, bungalows maintain a homey aesthetic because of their common features, says The Plan Collection, a company that has sold pre-drawn house plans since the 1970s.

These include:

  • A horizontal silhouette.
  • A low, sloping gable roof with a fairly steep pitch. Often with dormers or wide overhangs.
  • A front stoop.
  • Exposed roof beams and rafters.
  • A covered front porch and often a rear porch as well.
  • A detached garage or no garage.
  • In the interior: Wood details, an informal floor plan, and a hearth.
A blue bungalow house with curb appeal.
Source: (Paul Brennan / Pixabay)

6 ways to emphasize a bungalow’s exterior features

When selling a bungalow, you might be tempted to spruce it up from roof to foundation — but take a moment to review any necessary repairs that cropped up during a pre-listing home inspection. Then see which of these other tips fits best into your time frame and budget:

1. Frame a warm welcome

Bungalows show off their craftsmanship, with exposed roof beams and rafters, and exteriors that often include wood siding, brick, stucco, or stone. Think lots of muted earth tones such as taupe, green, and brown, according to Elle Décor. “Its exterior colors are reflective of nature,” the magazine says.

While this is a soothing palette, the entryway can blend in with the rest of the home, especially if the house is set back a bit from the street. Huang recommends painting the front door in a color such as:

“It gives a focal point when you’re walking up to the house,” she says.

2. Handle vintage masonry with care

Bungalows have horizontal silhouettes. They’re mainly one story, perhaps with a crawlspace, basement, or attic, with a high foundation. Although you might be tempted to paint the front stoop to add color, it might be better in a historic or revival home to clean the stoop instead based on the building material.

For instance, many Chicago bungalows have limestone steps and accents. But Tracie Thompson, who blogs about her home renovations at My Chicago Bungalow, notes that limestone is a soft and porous stone that naturally evaporates moisture; Painting limestone can damage it and increase annual maintenance costs as the paint peels.

Instead, the Marble Institute of America recommends cleaning exterior limestone using a diluted mixture of either ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, or bleach (1/2 cup per 1 gallon of water) to remove moss, mold, and other biological stains. (Note: Do not mix bleach and ammonia. This causes a toxic gas.)

You also can purchase a mild soap or cleaner that does not contain acids or citrus to clean limestone, according to Materials Marketing of San Antonio, Texas, a natural stone manufacturer since the 1960s.

For pressure rinsing equipment, the U.S. General Services Administration recommends Sure Klean 766 Limestone & Masonry Prewash, followed by the same manufacturer’s limestone and masonry afterwash.

3. Accentuate the roof

Bungalows, particularly those in the Craftsman style, have overextended eaves and low-sloped roofs. Although pressure washing can refresh an exterior at an affordable cost, the high-powered water stream can damage certain surfaces, including shingles, if the pressure is set too high.

Huang said that if an inspection discovers moss or algae on the roof — a common problem below shady trees — you should hire someone to remove the growth and stains correctly instead. A gentle spray wash with a 50% mix of water and bleach is a good start.

A porch for a bungalow house with tropical plant landscaping.
Source: (Lucas Pezeta / Pexels)

4. Play up the porch

Without its porch, a bungalow would be a cottage, says the book Bungalow Nation. Because of a bungalow’s wide eaves, a porch is such a bungalow staple (often with tapered columns) that some bungalows have porches in the backyard as well as the front.

Old House Journal says that a traditional bungalow porch is about 8 to 10 feet deep and is no less than an outdoor living room, so why not feature it as one?

“I have had houses sell… [where] we paid attention to dressing up the porch,” Huang said.

“There might be only 1,400 square feet in the house, but making that outside space a usable space makes it feel larger.”

Invite buyers to imagine themselves relaxing outside with a porch swing, such as the Polywood Vineyard 60-inch swing, available in seven colors, for $379, or a couple of rocking chairs, such as the Walnut Sonnenberg Rocking Chair from August Grove or the Linda Outdoor Chevron Rocking Chair from Breakwater Bay. “Rocking chairs, swings, and porches all seem to go together,” Huang said.

5. Give house numbers the spotlight

House numbers tend to fade over time, so at the very least, paint them before selling your house to make them more noticeable. To really set them off — or if your house numbers and exterior lighting have become mismatched — replace one or both with finishes that are more in tune with the house’s architecture.

Modern Bungalow, a Denver, Colorado, shop that grew from the owners’ renovations of a 1919 bungalow, recommends brass house numbers or an address light in the Arts and Crafts style, such as the Willowglen Address Light ($329 for medium size). Complement the numbers with lighting such as the Kennebec Pendant ($342) or Mission Wall Mount Sconces ($216 each).

A landscaped bungalow house that has curb appeal.
Source: (Grant Durr / Unsplash)

6. Keep landscaping proportional

A lot of bungalows take up a sizable part of their lots, so the house can look disproportionately large compared to the yard without the proper landscaping, the Chicago Bungalow Association says. 

Low-growing evergreen shrubs are one traditional way to frame the architectural details of these homes, the association says. Keep the shrubbery below the porch line; Smaller trees, arbors, or pergolas are other proportional alternatives to large shade trees, which could look overwhelming.

Be sure to make use of original concrete window boxes or planters, or consider adding replicas compatible with your home’s style and period. Huang recommends filling them with hydrangeas, forsythia, roses, pentas, grasses, or lilacs.

Curb appeal is a tried and true way to bring buyers to your door, but improvements can be hard to picture when you’ve lived in your home for a while.

So before starting on any curb appeal projects for your bungalow, Huang suggests looking at the house as if you were buying it. “What would you think? What does it need? Are there cobwebs anywhere?” she said. “It’s pulling everything together in a pretty package and looking at things with a really discerning eye.”

Header Image Source: (David Papazian / Shutterstock)