What Is a Craftsman House?

Craftsman-styled house with white exposed beams and open porch

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A Craftsman house is a popular home style that emerged from the American Craftsman movement of the turn of the 20th century that spanned everything from architecture to interior and landscape design, in addition to applied and decorative arts. 

History of Craftsman Architecture

Like political elections, architectural movements are often a result of what has come before, a rebellion against the status quo. Craftsman homes are an American architectural tradition that emerged and spread primarily between 1900 and 1929. It was a backlash against the mass-produced, Industrial Revolution-fueled Victorian architecture boom that prized ornament and decoration made all the more accessible by new technologies.

If the Industrial Revolution celebrated the wonders of manmade materials and the possibilities of what machines could do for people, Craftsman architecture was an aesthetic reaffirmation of the beauty of natural materials and forms, and the marvels of what humans can make with their own hands. 

Small craftsman bungalow
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American Craftsman style was inspired by the British Arts and Crafts movement, which itself resulted as a backlash to Europe’s Industrial Revolution. Craftsman architecture was particularly popular in California and the Midwest, but it spread across the country in part thanks to American furniture designer Gustav Stickley, an Arts and Crafts movement booster who helped popularize the style (and coin the name) with his early 20th-century monthly magazine "The Craftsman."

The California Bungalow style of Craftsman home was also popularized by Pasadena, CA-based brothers Henry and Charles Greene, who were heavily influenced by Japanese style. Another notable style that emerged from the American Craftsman movement was the much celebrated Prairie School of architecture founded by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who went on to design some of the world’s masterpieces of Mid-Century Modern architecture

Yellow bungalow style house with garden, exterior view
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Unlike the ostentatious McMansions that would emerge a century later, Craftsman style homes were small to medium-sized single family homes that showed the beauty of simplicity and modesty in architecture. While Craftsman style houses such as the popular California Craftsman homes are also bungalows, keep in mind that not every bungalow is a Craftsman-style home. 

Craftsman-style homes remain one of the most popular home styles in the United States. Original Craftsman houses are still widely sought after, and the core elements of Craftsman style continue to inform architects and neo-Craftsman new builds to this day. 

Craftsman Style Bungalow
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Key Characteristics of Craftsman Houses

  • Low-pitched roofs with protruding single or double gables and overhanging eaves
  • Exteriors feature intentionally exposed beams, brackets, and/or rafters
  • Wide, open front porches are held up by signature thick tapered columns
  • Typical Craftsman homes are one to one and a half stories tall
  • Home design may be symmetrical or asymmetrical 
  • Large bay or picture windows include a small overhanging roof ledge positioned over the window, with rafter tails
  • Exteriors are typically painted wood siding, traditionally cedar shaker shingles
  • Often includes stone or stucco accents on both the interior and exterior
  • Original Craftsman homes were generally painted in earth tones such as brown and green, but today can be found in a rainbow of colors
  • Sash windows on original Craftsman homes may feature iconic Frank Lloyd Wright leaded glasswork
Front exterior of a gray bungalow with red door
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Craftsman Interior Design Style 

Undoubtedly one of the reasons that Craftsman houses remain one of the most popular American architecture styles is because they reflect timeless aesthetics and values that never go out of style. A Craftsman home is solidly made with natural materials and nature-inspired colors and motifs, with a focus on the beauty of artisanal craftsmanship. While Craftsman designs were focused on simplicity and functionality, they nonetheless feature more attention to detail and built-in character than today’s streamlined, minimalist contemporary designs. 

Craftsman interiors are built to be cozy, homey, unpretentious, and warm. Unlike today’s typical open-plan spaces, they feature distinct living and dining spaces; small eat-in kitchen nooks; and a traditional, human-scaled space plan. Living and dining rooms are typically anchored by one or two fireplaces as central room features, which may be clad in brick or tile.

One of the elements that makes Craftsman homes feel inviting to live in is the extensive use of woodwork. This includes thick wood framed windows and doors; built-in bookshelves, window seats and other custom millwork; beamed ceilings; and hardwood floors. The use of medium to dark-stained wood on the interiors lends Craftsman interiors a traditionally masculine feel.

While Craftsman homes feature large bay or picture windows to let in natural light, they can feel somewhat dark by contemporary standards. While purists would never dream of painting out the wood in a traditional Craftsman home, many people choose to lighten up some of the natural woodwork, usually with neutral shades of white, taupe, gray, and beige paint.

Craftsman home exterior and front yard
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