When I first encountered Tudor houses in my study of the Arts and Crafts Movement, I conjured up images of medieval residences crafted in 16th century England during the Tudor period under the rule of the Royal House of Tudor.
However, those are not the Tudor houses of which we speak in the present day with regard to Arts and Crafts style.
Tudor style homes today are more correctly referred to as Tudor Revival style or sometimes Medieval Revival. They are reinventions of the Tudor Period homes of old, adding much in the way of modern comforts and construction methods inspired by the Arts and Crafts Movement.
Tudor style homes of the Arts and Crafts Movement era were built during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Tudor houses became very popular with new home builders and designers in the early 1920s, reaching a peak around 1930.
“Stockbroker Tudors” were popular with the newly affluent through the mid-1940s. Tudor architecture enjoyed another round of popularity in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s.
Throughout these varying periods Tudor houses shared certain aspects with other homes of the Arts and Crafts Movement: rustic simplicity, building materials taken from nature, and an emphasis on artisan craftsmanship.
What are Tudor Style Homes?
A broad range of styles can be found in Tudor houses. Many have a cottage feel akin to common dwellings of medieval times while others have the appearance of a country home. Still others are quite large and stately. But in general, the features of these homes are simpler, more rustic, and more humble than those of older European Tudor architecture.
Tudor homes built in the cottage style often feature a faux thatched roof made to resemble those of medieval times. They are, of course, not actually thatched, but are nonetheless an architectural element approximating the appearance of thatched roofing and bringing to mind the original Tudor cottages of England.
Tudor houses built on a more grand scale model themselves after Tudor palaces or manors and may include large additions or extensions. They incorporate multiple gables and dormers, parapets, elaborate stonework, decorative chimneys, and many other elements.
However, despite the grandness, to the eye they are still fundamentally Tudor style homes.
Tudor homes in the United States were built to emulate those of the actual Tudor period but not to exactly duplicate them. For example, in most cases the exterior timbering on Tudor style houses is false half-timbering applied to the underlying framework of the house as decoration.
It brings to mind the original Tudor period architecture but does not faithfully reproduce it. It is not part of the structural framework of the house as it was originally.
Tudor Style and the Arts and Crafts Movement
Considering a list of important homes of the Arts and Crafts Movement, one thinks of Gustav Stickley and Craftsman Farms in Morris Plains, New Jersey; the Gamble House of Greene and Greene fame in Pasadena, California; or the Prairie Style of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House in Chicago, Illinois.
Some may argue that Tudor style homes do not belong on such a list, that there is no connection to the Arts and Crafts Movement, and therefore Tudor homes are not in the family of the Arts and Crafts styles.
I beg to differ. There are significant historical links between homes of the Tudor style in the United States and the Arts and Crafts Movement. A fine example is the Cranbrook House in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. I visited there just this past summer.
Cranbrook House was built in 1908 for George Gough Booth, who was both a newspaperman and a philanthropist, and his wife, Ellen Scripps Booth. It was a Tudor style country home designed by Albert Kahn, inspired by traditional English Arts and Crafts, and built on a grand scale in the English Tudor Revival style. It became the center of an educational community and the entire complex is now a National Historic Landmark.
There are definite links between Tudor style homes and the Arts and Crafts Movement in the greater Detroit area. George Booth and Albert Kahn, the owner and the architect of the Cranbrook House, were both founding members of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts (DSAC) which was established in 1906. Booth was the first DSAC president as well as an admirer of William Morris, father of the English Arts and Crafts Movement.
Appropriately, the massive wrought iron gates at the entrance to the Cranbrook property were designed by Samuel Yellin, an Arts and Crafts master metalworker from the Philadelphia area. On the interior, beautifully carved wood paneling and trim was supervised by Johannes Kirchmayer, one of the founders of the Boston Arts and Crafts Society.
Tapestries, tiles, pottery, and other decorative objects still on display inside the Cranbrook House are the works of well-known craftsmen and artists of the Arts and Crafts Movement who participated in exhibitions at the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts.
Thus both the exterior and the interior at the Cranbrook House support the existence of historical connections between the Tudor style and the Arts and Crafts Movement in the United States, and distinguishing characteristics of the Arts and Crafts style can be found aplenty in and around Cranbrook.
How to Identify Tudor Style Homes
You can identify Tudor houses simply by using a list of architectural features and then identifying those specific elements individually in order to identify the overall Tudor style.
Lists of both exterior and interior features are provided below. While not all of these features must be evident to make a Tudor style house, they are some of the common elements that you can look for and use to help you identify Tudor homes. Take a look and may you find them useful and interesting.
Exterior Features of Tudor Style Homes
- simple, rustic materials such as stone, brick, stucco, and wood
- decorative faux half-timbering infilled with stucco, cement, brick, or stone
- herringbone brickwork
- arched entryways decorated with brick and stone
- stone headers and sills on windows, doors and archways
- steeply pitched roofs with gables and cross-gables, often with minimal overhang at the eaves
- faux thatched roofs
- tall, ornamental chimneys, sometimes massive, often clustered and with chimney pots
- oriel windows (large bay windows projecting from upper floor walls, often supported by brackets)
- dormer windows supported by consoles (support brackets)
- window canopies supported by brackets
- diamond-shaped window panes
- tall, narrow windows with mullions, arranged in groups, sometimes arched
- windows are typically casement sash rather then double-hung sash
- heavy wooden doors with detailed craftsmanship
Interior Features of Tudor Style Homes
- central great room
- prominent stone fireplace hearth
- inglenook by fireplace
- exposed beams and decorative half-timbering
- dark woodwork
- high wood wainscot
- linen fold paneling
- decorative, carved moldings
- patterned wallpaper
- plaster relief ceilings
- decorative metalwork, such as on doors and lighting
- heavy stone and tile in entryways
- hard flooring of wood and stone
- rugs and tapestries
- thick, floor length curtains
- heavy weight fabrics
- furnishings that create a warm and comfortable home
More Information on Tudor Style Homes
For an in depth look at Tudor revival houses in the United States, author Lee Goff, assisted by noted photographer Paul Rocheleau, produced the book “Tudor Style: Tudor Revival Houses in America from 1890 to the Present”. It includes striking photography of Tudor style homes.