The word "bungalow" comes from the Bengali bangala, which refers to both the Bengal region of India and the area's native houses, one-story buildings with a porch or "verandah," probably a Persian word. The imperialists and entrepreneurs who went to India devised many variations on the bangala, incorporating characteristics of English cottages and the conveniences of Western civilization, as well as the British army tent. The resulting bungalows usually had a central living room and an aura of openness created by banks of windows and many exterior doors which opened to porches almost entirely surrounding the core rooms.
The European and American bungalows that developed over the next century were eclectic creatures, idealized retreats set in a garden and associated with a return to the simple life. In many former colonial territories, "bungalow" still refers to a building in a private compound.
This bungalow, mid-block on a shady stretch of Willett between Poplar and Court, embodies many characteristics of earlier Anglo-Indian bungalows. Unlike most American bungalows, it has a symmetrical façade. A prominent gable with Craftsman brackets covers the broad front porch. The central front door has a distinctive transom with thin, horizontal panes. The door opens into a hall, in the medieval sense of entrance room and multipurpose space. Originally the living room, it could serve equally well as the dining room or as a parlor with a couple of easy chairs pulled up to the Colonial Revival fireplace. Doors from this room lead to the kitchen, the back hall, and a large adjoining room, which could be either the living or dining room.
The kitchen has been refurbished with new cupboards and commercial-style appliances. Its arrangement, with an island at the center and a wide-cased opening to the breakfast room, encourages congregating while providing efficient work areas. The breakfast room has double windows and its original glass-doored china cabinet. The original walk-in pantry has been modified to also serve as a laundry.
A vestibule off the kitchen has doors to the basement and the huge, screened back porch, which, like most of the other rooms, has a ceiling fan. One of the two downstairs bedrooms has a French door to the porch. The downstairs bath retains its original hexagonal-tile floor, linen closet with full-height double doors, and classic dish-base tub. The Craftsman-detailed stair in the back hall has pyramid-capped newels and block-spindle balusters.
The upstairs room has four pairs of casement windows facing east and a pair of double-hung windows on the south side. It has a full bath and two large closets. Deciding whether to use it as master bedroom, home office, or summer parlor would be a tough call.
All the rooms have the same period-appropriate color scheme -- straw, sage, putty -- that imparts a soothing glow. Floors in the living/dining area and the downstairs bedrooms were hand-sanded and have a dark, rich finish. The kitchen, breakfast room, and upstairs floors are painted a light khaki, a traditional country house treatment.
The backyard, shaded by a grove of pecan trees, is enclosed by a high fence with an automatic gate. A new tin-roofed storage shed contributes to the colonial compound feel of this sensitively rehabilitated enclave in the heart of Midtown.