As the 19th century drew to a close, women were making it clear that they were fed up with the overblown proportions, labyrinthine floor plans and acres of dust-catching ornament in their Victorian houses. Magazines such as Good Housekeeping began advocating simplicity, efficiency and modesty as the new watchwords for residential design.
In keeping with this drastic reversal in domestic ideals, the humble little bungalow became the new century’s antidote to Victorian pomposity. Compact, chastely finished and low to the ground, the bungalow was the very definition of simplicity. Some early examples didn’t even have a central hall–the floor plan was a sort of six-pack affair in which one room opened directly onto the next. Larger bungalows had a short interior hall leading to two or three bedrooms and a centrally located bathroom.
Alas, for modern-day owners, these virtues of compactness and simplicity can also make for cramped living and a lack of privacy. Solving these problems can be a challenge since, unlike their Victorian predecessors, bungalows have little wasted space that can be “borrowed” to expand living or storage space. Hence, interior remodels often have to rely on more subtle approaches, such as increasing natural light levels or opening rooms up to the outdoors.
Adding on to a bungalow presents a different set of problems. The narrowness of the typical bungalow building lot usually restricts a ground-level addition to the rear of the house. This in turn usually requires that a rear bedroom be sacrificed to create a hall leading to the new portion. Simply calling this former bedroom an “office” and walking through it into the addition is an amateurish old chestnut of a solution, and shouldn’t be resorted to–future resale value, if nothing else, demands a proper hallway. What’s more, since gaining one bedroom at the cost of another is hardly worth the effort, the new addition should contain at least two more bedrooms.
Fortunately, those same narrow building lots are often quite deep, allowing a substantial addition at ground level. To get an idea of how much land is available, find out your side and rear yard setbacks from the local zoning department (the setback is the portion of the property you’re not allowed to build on). Whatever is left over after subtracting these amounts is generally available for construction.
When there’s no space available at the rear or sides of the house, adding a second story is sometimes an option, though it’s seldom a simple one. There are three major hurdles to be overcome in adding a second story. The first is that bungalow foundations, which aren’t too substantial to begin with, often require reinforcement or even complete replacement in order to carry the extra load of a second floor. This is invariably an expensive proposition.
Second, it’s relatively difficult to integrate a looming second story into the bungalow’s ground-hugging profile. As you may already have noticed, most such attempts range from barely tolerable to abominable.
Lastly, stairs take up far more space than most people realize. Carving out space for a staircase can effectively wipe out an entire room on the ground floor, as well as gobbling up a large chunk of space on the upper floor. Given all these complications, a second-floor addition should be your last resort.