Updated May 10th, 2019
If you’ve been watching house-hunting and remodeling shows on tv, you’ve probably seen (and may have even fallen in love with) craftsman-style homes. And it truly is no wonder! Designed to be a family home, you can’t help but picture holidays in those living rooms by the fireplace or spending warm summer evenings under the wide eaves of the front porch.
Craftsman-style homes have clearly stolen the hearts of many Americans who are anxious to combine the historical and modern to create a home for their families today. But where did these pleasant homes get their start and how can you tell if it is truly a craftsman-style home?
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History of Craftsman-Style Homes
You can’t start a discussion about what makes a craftsman-style house without first discussing its origin.
Arts and Crafts Movement
The craftsman style originated in Great Britain during the late 1800s’ Arts and Crafts Movement. During this time, English reformer William Morris became one of the founders of a movement meant to contrast the uniform cookie-cutter homes and industrial age. His goal was to make handmade architecture and custom furnishings available to everyone—not only the rich.
Gustav Stickley and the Craftsman
That movement eventually made its way to the US at the turn of the century and was picked up by Gustav Stickley. Stickley—a well-known furniture maker—owned a magazine known as The Craftsman. He was so enamored by the arts and crafts style of homes that came out of the movement that he became the American leader of the arts and crafts architectural style.
He coined the title craftsman house by creating a floor plan for his magazine of a house with exposed rafters, pitched roofs, and open floor plans. The house was meant to attract families and the working class with its useful and comfortable atmosphere.
The plans were picked up by the Greene brothers who designed and built the famous Gamble house (of Proctor and Gamble), which started a wave of craftsman popularity throughout the first 30 years of the 20th century.
During its popularity, craftsman house plans and kits were available for anyone to buy and construct, whether on their own or with the help of a local contractor. These homes, while all maintaining the essence that is unique to the craftsman-style, are also meant to be unique to those building them.
Today, you can find craftsman-style homes that have been restored, remodeled, and reconfigured to fit the lifestyles and tastes of homeowners today. The characteristics dreamed up by Gustav Stickley still can be seen throughout the history of the craftsman house, however.
Craftsman-Style Homes Characteristics
What makes up a craftsman-style home? There are certainly many homes that fit the craftsman-style but look different from the traditional Gamble home. Here are some defining characteristics that make up a craftsman home.
Open Floor Plans
Meant to be a stark contrast to the sectioned-off Victorian homes that had become so popular, the craftsman open floor plan allowed every room to flow into the next. These open floor plans make use of all of the space available, meaning the bedrooms often have sloped sections of the ceilings and odd corners.
The openness and use of space were designed to incorporate family life that was especially important to the working class, without costing an arm and a leg.
Seen as the center of the family gathering, many craftsman homes have a main fireplace that immediately draws the eye as you enter the house. These are not small fireplaces, either. These grand fireplaces, often flanked by built-ins or windows, serve as the hearth and home of the family.
True to William Morris’ goal of providing handmade architectural style to the masses, craftsman-style homes can be characterized by the woodwork and attention to detail. From built-in bookcases and cabinetry to even the light fixtures in some houses, the handmade, built-in style is a prominent feature of craftsman-style homes.
Most craftsman homes boast a wide porch that wraps around the front of the house. Thick round or square columns often support these porches.
The beams on the porch and interior of the house are often exposed, giving the house a rustic, natural feel.
The roofs of these homes are usually low with wide eaves (or a hip roof) with angular brackets. These brackets can be decorative or simple, depending on the home designers.
There are a lot of natural materials used throughout craftsman-style houses. From the brick that often graces the exterior, to the wooden floors and cabinetry featured so elegantly in the kitchen, the natural elements add to the comfort and style of the home.
Types of Craftsman-Style Homes
There are four different kinds of craftsman-style homes.
- Chicago roots
- Designed to have low, flat, straight lines like the Horizon
- Famous prairie-style architect Frank Lloyd Wright said they were meant to look as if they sprung up from nature. Rather than designing furniture specific to each home, he built the furnishings specific to each room.
- Term mainly used on the East Coast
- Patterned after Bernard Maybeck’s Swedenborgian church in San Francisco
- “Mission” was actually a trade name (similar to Craftsman) of factory-made furniture
- Designer Joseph McHugh of New York said he patterned the style after the missions in California
- Simple materials of stucco, brick, shingle, or clapboard siding
- Rectangular design
- Two floors
- Large front porch jutting out and not wrapping to the sides
- One-and-a-half stories tall
- Low pitched gable roofs
- Large brick columns
- Dining room or bedrooms feature large picture windows
- Simple design
Buying a Craftsman-Style Home
Homes built in the craftsman style have elements that can both charm and repel prospective homebuyers of today. With odd-angled rooms and bedrooms that often don’t have any closets, it can be difficult to come by storage space. But that’s where the built-ins come into play. With the built-in bookcases and window seats comes with welcome storage and style that you can’t find in many other styles of homes.
Craftsman-style homes are usually built in states with warm climates, although you will find them throughout the Midwest, often with covered porches for the colder weather.
These homes make a great remodeling canvas, but can be difficult to tackle due to the intricate details. Many remodelers work months (or even years!) trying to preserve the historic charm while updating it to more modern tastes.
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If you are looking to buy a craftsman-style home, talk to a real estate expert like those at Clever! Call us today at 1-833-2-CLEVER or fill out our online form to get started.