American Craftsman Style Defined

House Portrait Painting of a Craftsman Style Foursquare
Rosemont Neighborhood, Alexandria, Virginia

If you are reading this web page you most likely own or live in one of a wide variety of Craftsman homes that exist in the United States today. Possibly a Craftsman bungalow built between 1900 and 1930. Maybe a much scarcer Craftsman farmhouse in a quiet, rural setting. Perhaps a newer suburban home built from modern house plans.

Whatever your situation, the question is this: What is it about a Craftsman house that appeals so strongly to our hearts and minds? Let's face it. Few of us are expert on the subject.

The label American Craftsman Style denotes a style of architecture, design and decorative arts that was prevalent in the United States between 1900 and 1930. It grew from the Arts and Crafts Movement and focused on artistic craftsmanship, simplicity, function and harmony with nature.

But for many people in the past and present, possibly you included, it is also a lifestyle - a simple, practical, harmonious lifestyle through which you can joyfully carry out and execute your craft in life, whatever that may be.

How Dictionaries Define American Craftsman Style

Dictionary definitions and other descriptions vary quite a bit. I searched the internet and visited libraries and found a wide variety of opinions and answers. Here is a general composite definition, excluding extensive architectural and decorative arts details.

Craftsman style, also called American Craftsman or Arts and Crafts style, was born and raised out of the English and American Arts and Crafts Movements during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The term designates a style of architecture, interior design and decorative arts that became the most popular style of affordable middle class homes built in the United States between 1900 and 1930.

On a philosophical and social level the style was founded on simplicity, harmonious blending of function and beauty, space planning and building materials reflecting ties to nature, and a high level of craftsmanship. For the home and community it was intended to create a simpler home life with greater health, comfort and productivity.

Craftsman style is distinguished by its quality of craftsmanship and attention to Arts and Crafts details, particularly in affordable bungalow homes, and is recognizable by features including low-pitched roofs, broad eaves, substantial front porches and exposed structural wood.

Okay, that is a pretty good general definition, but if we dig a bit deeper we can gain a better understanding. The key to this matter lies in the answer to this question: What is a craftsman?

Definition of a Craftsman

Let's determine the definition of the word craftsman. I did my research and below is my best shot definition, one that is both comprehensive and concise.

A craftsman is an artist or artisan who practices a trade or handicraft and creates beautiful (decorative) or practical (useful) objects and structures from natural materials with skill and dexterity using his or her hands.

This definition could no doubt be embellished, but even with no elaboration it defines the essence of the Craftsman. The beauty, usefulness and quality of workmanship in the structures and objects that constitute a Craftsman house is exactly what is appealing to us. When we step inside we sense a soothing warmth, we get that relaxed a-h-h-h-h feeling, maybe a pleasant connection to the earth by way of the natural wood and stone materials, a sense of home and heart.

Summary: Craftsman Style Defined

Robert Winter, noted Arts and Crafts author and lecturer, neatly expressed this essence of the Craftsman with regard to home and architecture, and what it means to each of us, when he defined it with these words:

"The popularity of Craftsman architecture, both old and new, lies in the fact that it looks like home."

I enthusiastically agree with Mr. Winter and I am sure that you do, too. It is a concept that we can all take to heart and put into action as we create a warm, welcoming home of our own.

Better yet, involve your local community in your restoration efforts to the benefit of all. Recently, we discovered a wonderful example of this in Lansing, Michigan. With the support of his neighborhood, a contractor and restoration specialist transformed a dilapidated former drug house into a beautiful home for his family. He teamed up with a local filmmaker to make a movie entitled Craftsman Style that documents his house restoration journey.

Restored Craftsman Home in Lansing, Michigan

Additional Reading on American Craftsman Style

Additional reading can be found at wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Craftsman.