All About Craftsman Design

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Craftsman design style actually refers to a group of architectural styles first made popular in the U.S. between 1905 and 1930. These charming and distinctive home styles appear in neighborhoods across the country. They can look very different, but share some basic characteristics in common.

How did Craftsman design start?

Craftsman style architecture embraces the use of natural materials and basic, functional design. It also started as a celebration of artisan craftsmen, a reaction to the assembly line construction techniques being adopted as part of the industrial revolution. It was a rediscovery of simple, natural forms as they related to efficient function.

The idea began gaining popularity among forward thinking designers in late 19th century England. Some of the pioneers of the early movement were William Morris, John Ruskin and Philip Webb. In the U.S., two brothers, Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene, were instrumental in introducing Craftsman style principles to the West Coast and later combining them with minimalist Oriental wood based architectural design. The results started a trend that would grow in popularity for over four decades.

What are the different Craftsman design styles?

The most basic craftsman architectural style is the bungalow. It has natural charm inside and out. This single family dwelling style often sports at least a few of the following features:

The Classic Craftsman Bungalow

  • One or one-and-a-half stories
  • Low-pitched roof (often cross gabled)
  • Ample ground floor living space
  • An efficient floor plan
  • Built-in cabinets, shelving, and seating
  • Rooms that connect without intervening hallways
  • Porches with roof overhangs
  • Columns supported by low stone pedestals
  • Transom windows

Greene and Greene, the firm started in Southern California by the green brothers, was influential in developing the craftsman style (as part of the American Arts and Crafts Movement) and making the craftsman bungalow popular across the U.S. and particularly in California and along the West Coast.

Other styles of handcrafted, efficient design started to develop that mirrored elements of the craftsman bungalow but offered their own unique regional or artistic focus. Some were:

Craftsman Cottage Style

Often rectangular with single story construction, cottage style architecture still reflects many craftsman elements and details, including:

  • A low-pitched roof
  • Exposed rafters
  • Triangular knee-braced supports

They also often exhibit:

  • A central, symmetrical entrance
  • Stucco or wood siding exterior
  • Wide windows

Prairie Style

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright reinvented the single family dwelling with long, low lines and plenty of open interior space to reflect the open spaces of the American prairie. Some common features of the craftsman bungalow, like the use of multiple built-ins, open interior spaces and natural materials, were adapted for Wright's design. Elements of Prairie style architecture often included:

  • Long lines
  • Double or sloping lots
  • A central fireplace
  • Low-pitched roof
  • Use of natural stone and wood building materials
  • Neutral or minimal exterior ornamentation
  • Multiple windows arranged in a long band or ribbon


Foursquare

Also called the prairie box (after the Frank Lloyd Wright prairie style home), the foursquare architectural style has both prairie style and craftsman bungalow features. Because it's a blend of styles, it's sometimes called transitional in design. Its unique features include:

  • A boxy shape (often featuring brick) that can accommodate a small city lot size
  • Two or two-and-a-half story construction
  • A simple four room floor plan (on each floor)
  • Arched interior entries

Craftsman influences in foursquare construction often include:

  • A deep overhanging roof with a large porch
  • Multiple built-in cabinets and shelves
  • Beamed ceilings
  • A single, wide dormer
  • Columns supported by low stone (or brick) pedestals


Craftsman Ornamentation and Materials

Here are some other decorative features that distinguish craftsman construction in different areas of the country:

  • Fieldstone foundations
  • Stickwork
  • Decorative rafters
  • Decorative knee brace supports
  • Eyebrow or shed dormers
  • Round, picket fence or lattice vents
  • Stone, stucco or brick columns and pedestals
  • Front, side, cross or clipped gable roofs

Craftsman style home are an American favorite, and are a great way to show you love having a cozy, natural and “sturdy” feeling home.

Last Updated: January 14, 2013
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About Sara Elliot Sara Elliott is a freelance copywriter and dedicated blogger. Her popular gardening, cooking and crafting blog, The Herb Gardener, was cited by The Wall Street Journal for its fun and frugal tips. Sara has a degree in English, and you can find her health, crafting, and lifestyle pieces on sites like DiscoveryHealth.com, HowStuffWorks.com, Savvi.com and TLC.com.

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