Craftsman-Style Homes: The History and Simplicity Behind Their Classic Character

craftsman style homes

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Craftsman-style homes are a classic type of house characterized by their bungalow-inspired layouts and quaint, charming designs. They typically feature detailed wood trim, large covered front porches, and columns supporting the front portion of the roof. Craftsman homes are typically between one and two stories tall (some featuring split-level layouts) and date back to the late 19th century when the era's architectural design was influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement. The movement applied to many creative pursuits, including landscape design, architecture, and interior styling, which all contributed to the modern Craftsman homes we're familiar with today.

As a symbol of simplicity in the home, Craftsmans have functional floorplans and details that make their rooms suitable to various designs, décor styles, and uses. Here's what you should know about how this style came to be, its key characteristics, and what to expect in the interior of a Craftsman home.

Craftsman-style homes feature a type of architecture that came from the Arts and Crafts movement of the mid-19th century. They are characterized by wide, low layouts, gabled roofs, open floor plans, wood framing, and front porches that feature support columns and exposed rafters.

What Makes a House Craftsman-Style?

what makes a house craftsman style

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As they were designed for easy construction and resemblance of century-old dwellings, Craftsman homes feature a bungalow style with plenty of open space and windows to allow for natural lighting. They also have a relatively small footprint including only one or two stories (with the second story usually nestled under the roof). These homes are typically wide, short, and feature exteriors with exposed rafters, beams, and wood trim.

From the outside, Craftsman designs can most easily be identified by their gabled roofs with wide eaves that extend several feet past the home's exterior walls, under which you'll often find the rafters or minimal decorative brackets. Unlike the steeply pitched gables on their Victorian counterparts, these homes tend to have less pronounced, softer pitches on their roofs. At the front, the eaves extend far enough to create a covered porch with tapered columns for support.

Since they were built to celebrate a natural form of beauty, the building materials of a true Craftsman home will have their roots in the natural world: Wood, stucco, stone, and rustic brick are the most common materials used for siding. Large single dormers may sit above multiple windows, and original houses will often feature decorative stained glass. When it comes to color, many Craftsman homes of today still incorporate the simplistic, earthy tones of their origins—but it's also common to see updated homes painted in modern colors and bright shades.

Original Craftsman homes are a great choice for small families, as they typically feature two to three bedrooms and modest living areas; however, some modern styles are built to accommodate larger numbers of residents.

Inside, the layout of Craftsman homes is designed for function. You'll likely find an open living room that connects to a dining or multi-use space, and a smaller kitchen toward the rear of the house. The use of natural materials continues inside the home, with accents of handcrafted stone or wood and built-in architectural features like shelves, seating, and cabinetry. Craftsman houses utilized open floor plans long before they were cool, emphasizing practical design that not only allows their owners to easily move about, but also to keep it well-lit and climate-controlled.

The main living area will feature a fireplace, and if the home has a second story, there will likely be another fireplace in the largest bedroom. Ceilings were kept low to help conserve heat, which adds to the snug, cozy feel of these houses.

Here are the common features of a Craftsman-style home.

Exterior:

  • Bungalow design
  • Gradually pitched gabled roof
  • Large, covered front porch
  • Support columns
  • Exposed rafters or beams
  • Detailed wood trim
  • Stained glass windows
  • Wood shingles or siding
  • Stucco accents
  • Earthy and neutral or bright, vibrant colors

Interior:

  • Functional layout
  • Hardwood floors
  • Open living and dining areas
  • Archways
  • Wood molding

The History of Craftsman-Style Homes

history of craftsman homes, colorful craftsman style home

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By design, Craftsman houses are meant to evoke simpler, quainter times. They came about in response to the Victorian architectural movement from the late 1830s to the early 1900s, which focused on extravagant architecture and ornate details.

Midway through the 19th century, after decades of seeing the Industrial Revolution radically transform the world, the Arts and Crafts Movement began. British architects and artists began to push back against the design and inferior quality of mass-produced goods, and the ideals quickly spread to the United States.

This embrace of the handcrafted aesthetics of a pre-industrial world didn’t make its way to the United States until the turn of the 20th century. It became popularized by a magazine called The Craftsman, which sold residential blueprints by famed Arts and Crafts furniture designer Gustav Stickley. Stickley’s simple designs stood in stark contrast to the ornate Victorian styles that were popular at the time, and soon enough, an American design movement was born.

Today, Craftsman designs are still very popular among homebuyers and renters. Their original open-concept layouts allow residents to enjoy historical charm with the comforts of modern floorplans. Since their layouts are simple and functional, it's easy to decorate a Craftsman home in a wide variety of styles—which has helped them remain a fan favorite for more than a century.

The Different Types of Craftsman-Style Homes

Though the term “Craftsman” originally applied solely to homes built from Stickley’s blueprints, today it encompasses a number of styles built containing some of the signature features from his designs. If you're a fan of the architecture, you're in luck—Craftsman homes have sustained their popularity from the East Coast to California, and it's possible to find this style in many regions of the United States. At their heart, prairie-style, Mission Revival, and bungalow homes are all a part of the Craftsman movement.

Original Craftsman Homes

historic craftsman house

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True Craftsman homes date back to the late 19th century through the 1930s. A well-maintained design will still bear its earthy, neutral exterior colors, and sometimes feature stone, brick, or stucco accents alongside its primary wood siding.

While many interiors have been renovated since their construction, the signature elements are still present in many Craftsman homes. Look for wood trim on doors and windows (that hasn't been painted over), crown molding, and hardwood floors. Stained or leaded glass is a popular decorative accent characteristic of original homes.

Prairie-Style Homes

frank lloyd wright designer prairie style craftsman home

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Most popular in the Midwest, these homes incorporate the low-to-the-ground layouts characteristic of original Craftsman designs. Designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, prairie-style homes are defined by their pronounced horizontal lines and wide, sprawling floorplans. Modern versions often feature large windows, low-pitched or flat roofs, and covered front porches, and may also incorporate a second story.

These homes tend to be more rectangular in overall shape than the Craftsman, with less of the ornamental exterior accents and more functionality to blend into the rolling hills of the region. Building on the Craftsman's historical design, prairie-style homes usually have a more contemporary look that is better suited for modern décor and furnishings.

Mission Revival Homes

mission revival style craftsman home

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The Arts and Crafts Movement didn't just seek to preserve the popular home styles of the East Coast: While you may not immediately recognize them as a style of Craftsman, Mission Revival homes are a Southwestern-influenced variation on the classic design. These homes can also be found in areas of the country like Texas, California, and Florida thanks to the spread of the Spanish Colonial Revival Movement.

Mission Revival homes typically feature details like white stucco exteriors, clay roof tiles, and built-in archways. The style was noted by Stickley in The Craftsman, and it was named for the region's churches that influenced its residential architecture (similar to many original Victorian designs). These homes may feature curved shapes on their gabled roofs, but typically resemble a standard Craftsman built with different regional materials.

Bungalow Homes

bungalow style craftsman home

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Similar to the ever-popular cottage design, bungalow homes can be influenced by a variety of regional styles, and are typically defined more by their layout than their architectural details. Bungalows are usually one-story homes (but may have a hidden second story under the roof) with practical, quaint floorplans. Second stories usually feature dormer windows to allow light to reach the upstairs bedrooms.

If you're on the house hunt for a bungalow, you'll likely find that most designs incorporate covered porches or verandas to increase their living space despite small square footage indoors. Like the Craftsman, bungalows became popular in the United States during the early 1900s as the Arts and Crafts Movement spread across the nation.

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