American Craftsman Style

The Gamble House, Pasadena, CA Built 1908 by Greene & Greene (one of the first finest examples of the American Craftsman Style.

The American Craftsman style is the quintessential home style of America. More popular and more replicated than most others is is the sum of all America is. It stands for simplicity, excellence and utility. Simplicity in design, excellence in craftsmanship and utility in its functionality.

Craftsman houses were inspired mainly by two California brothers – Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene  who practiced together in Pasadena from 1893 to 1914. About 1903 they began to design simple Craftsman-type bungalows. By 1909 they had designed and executed several exceptional landmark examples.

Common architectural design features

    • Low-pitched roof lines, gabled or hipped roof
    • Deeply overhanging eaves
    • Exposed rafters or decorative brackets under eaves
    • Front porch beneath extension of main roof
    • Tapered, square columns supporting roof
    • 3-over-1 or 6-over-1 double-hung windows
    • Hand-crafted stone or woodwork
    • Mixed materials throughout structure

Influenced by the English Arts and Crafts Movement, an interest in oriental wooden architecture, and their early training in the manual arts appear to have lead the Greenes to design and build these intricately detailed buildings. These and similar residences were given extensive publicity in some of the most popular magazines of the day thus familiarizing the rest of the nation with the style.

As a result, a flood of pattern books appeared, offering plans for Craftsman bungalows; some even offered completely pre-cut packages of lumber and detailing to be assembled by local labor. Through these vehicles, the one-story Craftsman house quickly became the most popular and fashionable smaller house in the country.
-from A Field Guide to American Houses (McAlester)

The American Craftsman (commonly Bungalow) style was a complete about face stylistically from the preceding Victorian style which was characterized by it’s formality and overly ornate detailing.

Most Craftsman homes were one or one and a half-story homes of modest proportions. This style was a return to a simpler way of living that was more in touch with nature. Thus the extensive appearance of natural woods in construction and landscaping design that seamlessly transitions from garden to living space.

Craftsman Catalog

What a steal!

The evolving needs of contemporary life in the 1910s-1930s also necessitated a smaller and more user friendly kitchen with the new range of appliances available to homeowners for the first time. Bathrooms of the era were usually all white tiled floors (typically with mosaic borders) and tiled or wainscoted walls. Having an all white bathroom ensured that homeowners could keep their bathrooms clean of the newly discovered idea of germs (or so they thought!)

The American Craftsman was the darling of middle-class families and the dominate house style from 1905 until the 1920s. It quickly faded from favor by the early 1930s and many homes fell into disrepair over the following decades. Today, the Craftsman is one of the most often restored house styles in America due to its manageable size, family friendly design and prime location in first-rung neighborhoods near or surrounding the city centers across America.

Wondering what style your old house is?
Try our Old House Architectural Guide

 

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by Scott Sidler

I'm a historic preservationist and author. I help old house lovers understand & restore their homes so they can enjoy the history and character that surrounds them more everyday! When not working, writing or teaching about old houses I spend most of my time fixing up my own 1929 bungalow with my wife Delores and son Charley.

http://www.austinhomerestorations.com

30 comments

  1. karen casiday on said:

    We are in the process of saving a Craftman and our biggest problem at this point is the front door. The prior family had kicked in the door and the left side by the handle needs to be replaced since a good bit of the wood is missing. My thought was to replace the board that runs from the top to the bottom…how do we get it apart?

    • Karen, wood doors are usually dowel led or have a mortise and tenon joint which were sometimes glued. It can be taken apart sometimes but probably requires a skilled carpenter to make sure things don’t go wrong. It can be tough.

  2. Scott on said:

    I have a repair man suggesting sistering in board to the partially rotted rafter tails and adding a board of facia on the ends and guttering. Am I ruining my 1914 exposed rafter tail home?

    “The entry is marked by beveled glass and sidelights while exposed rafter tails and prominent lintels complete the well-preserved dwelling.”

    • I wouldn’t apply fascia over exposed rafter tails. It completely changes the look of the house. Instead repair the damaged wood and make sure the drip edge is applied properly so that water isn’t running onto the rafters during rains.

  3. Lois Foraker on said:

    Hi!
    Am hoping to find some Los Angeles resource from you regarding a plate rail molding for a 1910 craftsman home. I would like a doug fir rail with 2 grooves in the top. It’s 1 & 3/4″ by 3″ by 10′. Obviously, I will need the molding underneath and the corbel pieces as well.

    • I’m not sure I understand exactly, but any shop in your area that sells or installs custom moldings should be able to accommodate your specific needs.

  4. NancySmith133 on said:

    Is this blog still active? Doesn’t seem to be? Please let me know, I just bought a home in College Park.

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