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Bungalow Renovation Tips for Bay Area Homeowners

Homeowners in the Bay Area looking to renovate their bungalows face special considerations due to the region’s unique architecture, climate, and real estate market. Updating these historic homes while preserving their character requires careful planning and strategic decision-making.

This article provides Bay Area homeowners with expert tips on budgeting, hiring contractors, selecting materials, and updating layouts to renovate bungalows successfully. With the right approach, homeowners can modernize their homes while maintaining the charm of these iconic Bay Area properties.

The article that follows offers homeowners 15 insightful tips to achieve their ideal renovated bungalow.

Bungalow Renovation - A Brief History

Bungalow architecture, rooted in early 20th-century British India, is known for its space efficiency and harmony with nature. This style, originally named after the Bengali term ‘Bangla’, became especially popular in America.

In California, the bungalow was adapted to include features like overhanging eaves and outdoor spaces, fitting the local relaxed lifestyle. Post-WWII, bungalows were often replaced, but a revival in the 1980s aimed to preserve their history.

Renovation focuses on keeping original elements like wood siding and hardwood floors while updating for modern living. This includes improving the layout, and utilities, and adding energy-efficient features.

Expansions like attic conversions respect the bungalow’s scale, maintaining its historical essence. This approach ensures bungalows remain a cherished part of California’s architectural heritage, blending the past with contemporary needs.

Common Bungalow Renovation Mistakes to Avoid

Renovating a bungalow in the Bay Area requires careful planning to avoid costly mistakes. Homeowners should do thorough research on permits, costs, and design choices to ensure a successful remodel.

Not Obtaining Proper Permits

Obtaining the correct permits before beginning any remodeling project is crucial. Starting work without permits can lead to hefty fines and work stoppages. Homeowners should check with their local building department regarding permit requirements for their specific remodel. Common permits for bungalow renovations include electrical, plumbing, and structural.

Underestimating Costs

Remodeling an older home often uncovers hidden issues, so homeowners should budget for overages and unforeseen costs. A typical bungalow renovation in the Bay Area can easily exceed $200,000, depending on the scale of the project.

Homeowners should work closely with contractors to develop accurate cost estimates and set aside at least 20% more than the total budget to cover additional expenses.

Compromising Architectural Integrity

Bungalows are charming for their unique architectural details like wood floors, built-ins, and exterior facades. Homeowners should aim to preserve these integral design elements when renovating.

Simply updating fixtures and opening up floor plans while maintaining original architectural features helps bungalows retain their historic appeal. Complete teardowns or poorly designed additions compromise the home’s character and resale value.

Removing Too Many Walls

An overly open floor plan diminishes the functionality and coziness of a bungalow. While opening up select walls does improve livability, removing too many partitions eliminates necessary storage space and privacy.

Homeowners should open up areas incrementally, starting with doorways rather than entire walls. A good rule of thumb is to keep at least one wall in each room. With careful planning, bungalow owners can balance openness and function.

By avoiding these common mistakes and working with experienced remodeling contractors, homeowners can renovate their bungalows successfully while maintaining the charm of these historic homes. With proper planning and permits in place, bungalow renovations in the Bay Area can be very rewarding.

Where to Start With Your Bungalow Renovation

Renovating a bungalow in the Bay Area requires careful planning and consideration. Homeowners should evaluate how they intend to use the space to determine priorities and set a budget. They should also research the architectural elements characteristic of bungalows to ensure any updates respect the home’s original style.

Assess How You Use the Space

To begin, homeowners should assess how they currently use each space in the bungalow and how they would ideally like to use each space. They may find that certain rooms no longer meet their needs or that the layout does not suit modern lifestyles. Evaluating space usage will help determine which areas to focus on in the renovation. It may also uncover opportunities to improve flow and connectivity between rooms.

Set a Realistic Budget

With a plan for how they would like to use the space, homeowners can develop a realistic budget. They should get estimates from contractors for any major work like reconfiguring walls or installing new windows. Unforeseen issues often arise during renovations, so homeowners should budget for contingencies. They should also determine which updates they can afford to complete now and which may need to wait for future phases. An experienced remodeling contractor can provide guidance on costs and budgeting for a bungalow renovation.

Honor the Bungalow Style

Bungalows were designed with signature architectural details like wood trim, built-in cabinetry, and natural light. Homeowners should aim to preserve or restore these details when possible to maintain the home’s character.

Simple updates like refinishing hardwood floors, painting wood trim, or repairing original windows help revive a bungalow’s style at a lower cost. More substantial changes should also respect the scale and materials of the era. With careful planning, homeowners in the Bay Area can renovate their bungalows to meet modern needs while honoring their architectural heritage.

Kitchen Renovation Ideas for Bungalows

Optimize Counter Space

Bungalow kitchens typically have limited counter space, so maximizing what’s available is key. Homeowners can consider replacing a freestanding table with a built-in island to provide extra prep space and seating. Quartz, granite, and butcher block are attractive, durable countertop options for islands and perimeter counters. For the sides and back of the island, homeowners can choose a contrasting material like brick or wood to complement the style of the bungalow.

Choose Space-Efficient Appliances

In a bungalow kitchen, every inch of space matters. Choosing smaller appliances designed for small kitchens can help make the most of the available space. Options include:

  • A 24-inch range or cooktop rather than a standard 30-inch model.
  • A slimline dishwasher sits on the floor beneath the countertop.
  • A refrigerator with a bottom freezer drawer rather than a side-by-side model.
  • A microwave drawer was installed below the countertop rather than taking up counter space.

Open Up the Floor Plan

Bungalow kitchens often feel cramped and closed off. Opening the floor plan by knocking down walls to adjacent rooms like a dining room can make the space feel more airy and inviting. Homeowners should consult an architect to determine which walls are load-bearing before removing them. Opening up the floor plan also improves traffic flow, allowing for an easier transition between the kitchen and other living spaces.

Add Natural Light

Small kitchens can feel dark and dreary without adequate lighting. Adding windows or skylights introduces natural light that brightens the space. Strategically placed windows, especially on walls opposite and adjacent to countertops, provide task lighting for food preparation and cooking. For kitchens with little wall space for windows, skylights and solar tubes are excellent alternatives. Additional pendant lights, recessed lights, and under-cabinet lighting also help ensure the kitchen is well-illuminated.

With some careful renovation, bungalow kitchens can be optimized to feel more spacious, functional, and inviting while maintaining the home’s original charm. Focusing on maximizing space, improving flow and lighting, and choosing the right mix of materials and appliances are keys to a successful bungalow kitchen remodel.

Bathroom Renovation Tips for Bungalows

When renovating a bathroom in a bungalow, there are several considerations to keep in mind. Space constraints are common in bungalows, so opting for a minimalist and functional design is ideal. Choosing a timeless style with high-quality fixtures that stand the test of time is also recommended for bungalow bathrooms.

Focus on Functionality

Given the compact size of most bungalow bathrooms, focusing on functionality is key. Opt for a walk-in shower instead of a bathtub to save space. Undermount sinks and wall-mounted faucets also keep counters clear. Recessed shelving provides storage without bulky cabinets. Radiant floor heating, humidity-sensing fans, and dimmable lighting add function without sacrificing square footage.

Choose High-Quality Fixtures

When space is limited, each fixture and finish matters more. Select high-quality pieces that will endure for decades. Porcelain or ceramic toilets, tubs, and sinks are classic choices. Chrome or nickel faucets and hardware complement most styles. Consider installing a wall-mounted toilet to simplify cleaning underneath. These high-end touches make the most of a small bathroom.

Keep it Timeless

Trendy styles come and go quickly, so choose a timeless design for a bungalow bathroom remodel. Subway tiles, hexagonal floor tiles, penny round tiles, and black-and-white color palettes are all classic choices. Avoid loud wallpapers and opt for neutral paint colors instead. Brushed nickel or satin brass hardware and fixtures also stand the test of time. These timeless touches will keep the bathroom stylish for years to come without frequent remodels.

Keeping the space minimal and functional, selecting high-quality and enduring fixtures, and choosing a classic style are keys to a successful bungalow bathroom renovation. Focusing on these elements will transform the room into a stylish yet practical retreat. With some strategic choices, even a compact bungalow bathroom can become a space to enjoy for decades.

Bedroom and Living Room Makeover Ideas

When tackling a bungalow renovation in the Bay Area, the bedroom and living room are two of the highest priority spaces for homeowners to remodel. Several design concepts can modernize these areas while maintaining the characteristic charm of the bungalow style.

Bedroom Design Concepts

  • Space Opening: Remove non-structural walls to open up the space. This could mean knocking down walls between small bedrooms or between a bedroom and an adjacent closet or hallway.
  • Door Replacement: Consider replacing traditional doors with bi-fold or pocket doors to enhance flow and openness.

Living Room Remodel Ideas

  • Refinishing Hardwood Floors: A timeless choice that complements the bungalow’s craftsman style. Refinishing is cost-effective compared to replacing.
  • Fireplace Updates: Clean and seal stone or brick fireplaces to brighten the living room’s focal point.
  • Natural Light: Invest in skylights or large windows for more natural light.

Furnishings and Decor

  • Furniture: Choose upholstered furniture with straight, square arms and wood pieces in mission or craftsman styles.
  • Wall Decor: Opt for framed botanical prints, maps, and family photos to evoke a sense of history.
  • Color Palette: Use warm, earthy colors, especially green, to enhance the historic character.

Overall Strategy for a Successful Remodel

  • Combine creativity with respect for the bungalow’s craftsman roots. Open up floor plans, refinish surfaces, and select decor that honors the past while embracing modernity. This approach ensures rooms that are both stylish and enjoyable for decades.

Exterior Renovation Ideas for Curb Appeal

When upgrading the exterior of a home, homeowners should consider several improvements that can enhance curb appeal and maximize the property value. Repainting or residing the home’s exterior in complementary tones is an easy, cost-effective option. For bungalow styles, muted earth tones, warm greys, and forest greens pair well with the architecture.

Replacing or repairing architectural details like trims, railings, and shutters provides an authentic look. For bungalows, details like overhanging eaves, exposed rafter tails, tapered porch columns, and multi-pane windows are signature elements that define the style. Refinishing hardwood floors and porches also enhances period charm.

Improving outdoor lighting brightens up pathways and entryways for safety and visual appeal after dusk. Installing new fixtures like lanterns or sconces complements the bungalow style. Updating hardware such as house numbers, mailboxes, and outdoor fixtures in a matching style unifies the exterior design.

Landscaping the property frames and complements the home. Foundation plantings, trees, gardens, and lawns create an inviting space. For bungalows, informal, naturalistic plantings with native greenery suit the cozy, handcrafted feel of the architecture. Pathways and patios provide transitional spaces for outdoor enjoyment.

For homeowners in the Bay Area seeking to renovate a bungalow exterior, consulting an expert remodeling contractor is advisable. Professionals like Rhino Builders have extensive experience upgrading bungalow homes while preserving their historic character. By combining exterior upgrades like repainting, repairing details, improving outdoor lighting, updating hardware, and landscaping, homeowners can achieve a cohesive new look that boosts curb appeal and value. With strategic renovations, the bungalow exterior can be refreshed and revitalized while maintaining its timeless style.

Backyard Renovations to Increase Value

One of the best ways to increase a home’s value is to improve the backyard. Outdoor living spaces and landscaping are appealing to potential buyers and can significantly raise a property’s asking price. For Bay Area homeowners looking to renovate their backyard, there are a few impactful projects worth considering.

Constructing a deck or patio creates functional outdoor space for entertaining and relaxing. These structures provide a solid surface for furniture, grills, and other amenities. They also connect the indoor and outdoor living areas, making the backyard feel like an extension of the home. For small yards, a patio may be better suited than a deck. However, for sloped lots, a deck is often the preferred option.

Installing a swimming pool or spa will make a backyard an oasis and vacation destination. Although pools require maintenance, they remain a sought-after feature, especially for families with children. For those wanting a lower-maintenance alternative, a hot tub or spa provides a luxurious touch that boosts property value. The increased humidity from these installations may also require the addition of shade structures, misters, or other cooling elements.

Professional landscaping and hardscaping make a dramatic difference in a backyard’s appearance and functionality. Elements like trees, shrubs, flowers, pathways, retaining walls, and drought-resistant plants create dimension and flow in the space. Thoughtful placement of these features can also provide privacy for neighbors. The design possibilities are endless, but for the best return on investment, homeowners should opt for a cohesive style that complements the home’s architecture.

With strategic renovations targeting popular amenities like patios, pools, spas, and landscaping, Bay Area homeowners can transform their backyards into alluring and valuable spaces. By elevating the overall aesthetics and function, these outdoor improvements are sure to capture the interest of prospective buyers, leading to a higher sale price when it’s time to sell.


In summary, renovating a bungalow in the Bay Area can help modernize a home while retaining its unique charm. Careful planning and research into permits, design, and contractor selection are critical first steps. Focusing updates on the kitchen, bathrooms, layout, and outdoor space can maximize enjoyment and home value.

At Rhino Builders, we understand the importance of maintaining the balance between modern living and environmental responsibility. Our expertise in energy efficiency and sustainable building practices ensures that the natural allure, that initially attracts homeowners, is preserved.

We specialize in transforming the iconic Bay Area bungalow into contemporary residences, ensuring that their unique charm is retained. Let us help you update your home with care and creativity, keeping its distinctive character intact.


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