Craftsman Style: Yesterday and Today

March 18, 2018
California Mission Style

Craftsman Style

“To a purist, the essential distinction is that a Craftsman house is unique, typically architect designed and artisan constructed, using the natural materials and flow demanded by the site and environment in which it is built. By contrast, a Craftsman-style house has many of the same design characteristics, but may well be a kit or stick-built by a developer using the same three plans over and over. The difference is in the handcrafted quality of the true Craftsman versus the stylistic elements that may be found in both.“


Exterior Characteristics

Craftsman Style homes generally feature low-pitched roofs and porches, the covered front porch being a strong feature of this style.  The porches, sometimes substantial in size, typically have columns on either side that rest on stone bases.  These homes are usually one or two stories, some as small as two and others as large as five bedrooms.  Shingle, lapped or stucco siding is common.  Overhanging broad eaves and exposed beams are distinct features on these homes.  Banks of two or three windows in a row often appear on these homes.  Double-hung windows, with multiple panes over a single pane below are attributes of a Craftsman Style home, although casement windows are also seen.

                                             Interior Features



An open floor plan is utilized in Craftsman homes, and floor plans often separate rooms with half walls to create an open feeling in these homes.  Natural materials indigenous to a location are used.  A fireplace in the living room is often made of stone or brick.

Handcrafted, built-in cabinetry including buffets, bookcases and colonnades are incorporated.  Unique custom features like window seats and inglenooks (a space on either side of a fireplace- see below) can be amazing.  

Natural wood frames the walls, and many homes feature exposed beams on walls and ceilings. Stained glass windows sometimes bring in the natural light of a home.  Craftsman-designed hardware, lighting and tile work are also distinctive traits of Craftsman interiors. 

Craftsman Furniture

The common characteristic of built-in cabinets, window seats, bookcases in natural wood make the best use of space, and allow homeowners to avoid using large furniture that takes up space in a Craftsman home.  Comfortable and relaxed, a Craftsman home is not congested with furnishings.  Simple Mission Style furnishings work well in a Craftsman home.



The colors of nature are the rule with Craftsman homes: brown, reddish brown, subdued green, tan, soft yellow, or crème are all great choices.  If you are really dying to use blue, make it a grey-blue.  Grey is also a color occasionally used as well in Craftsman Style homes.  Consider your natural landscape, and pull your color palette from the softer and subdued colors to show off your Craftsman style home.

Some History!

The Craftsman home is the direct result of the Arts and Crafts movement, which occurred in England in the late 1890s and early 1900s.  John Ruskin, a writer, theorist and critic was involved in promoting the development of the Arts and Crafts movement because of its “honest” use of materials and its emphasis on highest quality craftsmanship.  Here's a fabric from Ruskin representing his work in this style.

William Morris (1834-96) was the best known and most influential figure in this movement.  He designed wallpaper, textiles, tapestries, stained glass and a few pieces of furniture, most notably with all arm chairs with adjustable tilt backs. (See the Morris chair below.)  I have one in my home today, and it will be passed down to our daughter when the time comes! 

The primary individual in the Craftsman movement was Gustav Stickley (1858-1942,) whose family owned and operated furniture factories.  He started out as a furniture store manager, selling historic reproductions.  After becoming interested in Ruskin and Morris, he made a trip to England to see the Arts and Crafts work being made there.  Upon his return, he began to design and produce simple oak furniture, generally of very large size.  These were made with wooden joints, iron hardware, leather seats and minimal (if not non-existent) ornamentation.  The style was often termed Mission Style, because of its similarity to simple furniture made for the earlier California missions.  Stickley’s designs are sold today in better furniture stores through North America, heirlooms to pass down to your children’s children should you be so lucky as to own some of it.

Craftman Style homes abound through North America.  It is striking that there are so many Craftsman homes across our country- lots and lots of wonderful examples of this style.  If you are living in one, why not take a look at ways you might honor the traditions and authenticity of the era by utilizing it in your home.  Got questions or comments?  As always, we love to hear from you!

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