Years ago, if you had asked me to describe the key features of Craftsman style homes I would have replied, “A Craftsman house has a big porch and lots of woodwork.” To be completely honest, the first time I heard the term Craftsman style uttered in reference to a specific type of home, I didn’t have a clue.
Was a clueless condition your first Craftsman experience, too? Can you now spot a Craftsman style house but not really describe one very well?
Or are you well versed because you have perused Craftsman books at your local library or bookstore and browsed the internet for images of Craftsman homes?
Whatever your situation, let’s answer this one question.
What is a Craftsman House?
In the original and truest sense, a Craftsman house is one constructed from house plans published in Gustav Stickley’s magazine The Craftsman (published between 1901 and 1916) or sold through his catalogs.
The magazine promoted the ideals of the Arts and Crafts Movement with articles, how-to plans and advertising, and Stickley used the magazine and his catalogs to sell house plans, furniture and other Arts and Crafts style accessories.
Following the lead of Stickley, many other magazines, plan books and catalogs sprang up with plans and offers for Craftsman-like homes and furnishings.
The word Craftsman was soon used commonly to describe any house that expressed Arts and Crafts style ideals through its architecture, design, furniture and decorative arts, especially in the popular and affordable middle-class bungalow.
Craftsman Style Door and Architecture
Any survey of American housing quickly reveals that there exists today a wide variety of houses that were built in the Craftsman style and which can be legitimately identified as Craftsman style homes. There are cottages, cabins, farmhouses and bungalows.
There are foursquare and prairie house versions. There are duplexes and multiplexes and bungalow courts.
There are oriental influenced (such as the famous Gamble House in Pasadena, CA built by Greene and Greene) and Swiss chalet influenced varieties.
Craftsman homes can be easily identified by observing that they have an ample number of the exterior and interior characteristics contained in the below exterior and interior checklists.
What are the typical exterior and interior features that characteristically define Craftsman style homes?
Craftsman Style House Characteristics
- low-pitched, front or side gabled roofs (sometimes clipped or hipped)
- dormer windows and multiple roof planes
- generously overhanging eves
- exposed rafters and beams
- extended rafter ends, sometimes decoratively shaped (e.g., oriental flares)
- decorative braces and stickwork under the gables
- decorative attic vents in front facing gables
- wood or stone siding such as horizontal wood slats, wood shingles, cut stone cladding
- generous full or partial width front porches
- porch support columns often extending to ground level (no break at the porch floor)
- tapered porch columns supported by low pedestals made of stone, brick, wood or stucco
- sloping foundation walls and porch supports
- stone covered foundation walls and porch supports
- stone exterior chimneys
- additional trellised porches
- wide exterior window and door casing
- windows with multi-paned top sashes and single-paned bottom sashes
- stained glass in exterior windows and doors
Craftsman Interior Checklist
- open floor plan
- natural materials: wood, stone, brick, glass, tile
- exposed rafters, joists and beams
- handmade decorative objects
- functional, aesthetic furnishings and decoration (i.e., an overall functional beauty in the space itself and the objects in it)
- wide door and window casing
- natural finishes on wood trim: casing, baseboard and other molding
- built-in woodwork: cabinets, bookcases, shelving, storage, window seats, benches
- other natural or rustic woodwork: box-beam ceilings, hardwood floors, wall paneling, wainscot
- fireplaces, sometimes with an inglenook, centrally located as a focal point for socializing or relaxing
- numerous windows for natural light
- Arts and Crafts stained glass in windows, doors, sidelights and cabinet doors
- original and replica decorative finishes: wallpaper, stenciling, textiles
- earthy colors and harmonious wood tones (warm, cozy, welcoming)
Summary of Craftsman Style Homes
Craftsman style homes are effectively works of art doubling as functional living spaces, or vice versa as you wish.
In the purest sense they are family abodes artistically constructed by hand from natural materials with the purpose of creating a warm, welcoming and peaceful home that has the power to nurture and sustain family, friends and the community.
As with anything, you get out of it what you put into it. Creation is a joy, so have at it!