The Craftsman style home developed in California during the late 1800’s and flourished through the 1920’s, reflecting the Arts & Crafts design movement. Brothers Charles and Henry Greene were among the most prominent of early architects working in the Craftsman style. Their design for the Gamble House in Pasadena, CA is among the best-known examples of their work and a standout example of Craftsman style architecture. This style came into popularity as a rejection to the more ornate styling of the Victorian era. The innate sensibilities of Craftsman style are to showcase the quality of handwork and natural materials.
Today, this style resonates with homeowners throughout the country, because it offers a simplified style that speaks to notions of tradition and home. In other words, Craftsman homes are simple and uncomplicated, two elements that continue to contribute to their appeal and rapid expansion. Craftsman designs are focused on natural inspiration, as seen in both their exterior and interior design elements.
Exterior Design Elements
Everything about the exterior design expresses natural beauty. From horizontally-oriented lines to lower pitched roofs, the Craftsman home aims to blend in with the landscape rather than oppose it. This style shows some distinctive exterior design elements:
- Lower pitched roofs with deep eaves
- Front porches, open or closed
- Square, tapered columns supporting roof resting on stone piers extending to ground level
- Mixed materials including woodwork, stone and shake shingles
- Natural earth tones and muted exterior color palettes
Selecting the right style, and even material is crucial in preserving the past of the Craftsman style, while creating a strong visual impression. Double hung windows with grid pattern mullions are the distinctive feature of a Craftsman home. These windows enhance the look of the home and make it quieter and less drafty. They are typically vertical in proportion, and tend to use wood as the main material, especially on the interiors. The exteriors favor earth tones and warm colors. Art glass and stained glass add another dimension to this design element.
Photo credit: Pella Windows and Doors
Choosing appropriate doors is a great way to improve the continuity and flow of a Craftsman home. The trademark look of Craftsman doors is the glass lite that can be found in the upper third of the door, with an ornate piece of trim immediately below. Also typical of the Craftsman style are doors with dentil shelves – although they can also be without – or doors with Shaker-style panels. In the latter, the panel layout usually has two recessed elongated lower panels and one recessed rectangular upper panel.
Photo credit: Masonite
Interior Design Elements
The core of Craftsman style is to highlight natural materials, and this can also be seen throughout the built-in cabinetry, millwork details, wood floors and wide trim of Craftsman homes. Some of the main features that characterize this style are:
- Clean lines
- Highlighted woodwork: there may also be nuanced details like columns and interesting framing separating spaces as well as exposed beams or rafters.
- Access to light: windows are a key element in helping open up spaces and Craftsman homes are known for relying on multiple windows within a space to connect it to the outdoors and help the room feel bigger
- Built-in fireplaces, mantels, storage/bookcases
- Dining rooms: traditional Craftsman homes have a specific dining room location between the kitchen and living room
- Neutral color palette to highlight the natural wood elements
Has the Craftsman Style Changed Since its Nexus?
Although a timeless style, the Craftsman home has evolved over the years. The contemporary Craftsman style still takes on elements that are distinguishing features of the original design – wood styling, hardwood floors and the clean lines – but newer interpretations have taken on a more open concept floor plan. Even the color tones are different, including lighter neutrals and lots of white. The size and scale of modern Craftsman style homes continues to maintain the warm and cozy feel of the original modest sized homes, but have moved into more traditional single or two-story homes, with or without dormers.
In addition, the Craftsman design of today has more mixing and matching, with different approaches to the general style. The most common ones are traditional – such as many historically registered homes – or bungalows. These are typically one-story homes, often with a single dormer or multiple dormers built into a wide, gently sloping roof adding usable space. Their presence comes with regional styles (e.g. Chicago, California, Michigan), whose structure reflects the needs of the area.
Photo credit: Masonite
The advent and development of this style has been one of the most popular designs in the modern period. The Craftsman style is able to bring balance to both vintage and modern styles, yet allows architects and builders the flexibility and freedom to combine and create astonishing new designs for future generations to admire.
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