Architectural Profile: Craftsman Style HomesThe brothers Charles Sumner and Henry Mather Greene from Pasadena, CA, inspired America’s Craftsman style of architecture in the early twentieth century. Rejecting the Industrial Revolution’s machine age slickness as well as the excesses of Victorian formality, the Greenes looked to the English Arts and Crafts movement to rediscover “the hands that make the art” and to the organic architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright to reconnect nature’s light, simplicity and materials to where and how people actually live. Not only could Americans put together the pieces inside their Craftsman style home construction kit (sold by Sears & Roebuck and Montgomery Ward) themselves, they could make the most of the limited square footage space their wallets could afford.
Craftsman style architecture has distinctly American style points:
Craftsman style houses have an open floor plan that maximizes space. Rooms typically flow into one another.
A horizontal rather than vertical sensibility is fundamental to Craftsman houses.
A low pitched, gabled roof with an unenclosed eave overhang is signature Craftsman. Exposed, primarily decorative rafter beams, tails or triangular knee brace supports sitting underneath those open eaves reflect the influence of the English Arts and Crafts movement. Well suited to warm Western state climates that generate relatively no snow/ice accumulation, this low pitched roofline protects against too much sun exposure in mountain, beach and desert states.
Front porches are iconic Craftsman style elements. In fact, it’s rare to find any Craftsman house, original or contemporary, without one. The porches can be either full or partial width of the house and can be sheltered beneath the main or separate extended roof. Craftsman style porches distinctively feature short, tapered columns made in various designs with stone, wood and/or brick piers. The piers often extend to the ground level of the home to provide support to the porch roof. Definitely worth the investment, a porch renovation/add-on can be done without extensive rebuilding of the original house.
Authentic Craftsman houses have partially paneled front doors with glass panes on the upper third of the door. It’s not uncommon for the glass to be artisanal or stained.
Open kitchens and dining areas are organized around food preparation and buffet islands. Beautifully handcrafted cabinetry is a nod to the English Arts and Crafts influence. Often the kitchen and dining area blend into the house’s great room.
If dormers are present, they tend to be two or three windows in width and extend out on their own, unlike Cape Cod style cottages.
Windows tend to be multi, not single, paned. Common configurations feature four or six over one groupings rather than double hung glass. Again, artisanal and/or stained glass can be used. Wide trim, usually painted in contrasting colors, cases the windows.
Originally painted with darker earth colors, browns and greens, today’s contemporary Craftsman houses tend to be painted with lighter earth tones such as cream, beige, tan. One or two contrasting colors highlight trim and decorative features.
Exterior and interior walls tend to be wood siding or shingles.
Alcoves, nooks and built-in window seats are common Craftsman style elements.These elements soften transitions from one space to another in the open floor plan and add to the coziness factor so inherent to Craftsman houses.
Most all of Craftsman style points can be added to or swapped out in existing houses without extensive rebuilding as long as the low pitched roof line is a given.