Since the Arts & Crafts movement was based on the intellectual approach to home design rather than a single style, it varies greatly and is called by many names. In the early 1900’s the style’s most avid American supporter, Gustav Stickley, encouraged readers to follow the principles of its informal yet cultured design. Stickley so often praised the simple, open, and economic designs of the Arts & Crafts style that it became synonymous with the title of his magazine, “The Craftsman.” Thus, the Craftsman style became an off-shoot of the Arts & Crafts philosophy in architecture. Within the same movement, there were several off-shoots, including the Bungalow, the Prairie House and the Foursquare style. This is due in part to the style’s commitment to local building styles and using local materials. While this results in a widely varied look and feel between Craftsman homes, each homestead still bears similar features.
In Craftsman homes, floor plans tend to be open and simple, with a sophisticated design. One of the hallmark features of the Craftsman home is the use of natural materials such as stone, brick, and wood. Another defining feature is the economic utility of its design; there is no wasted space. Often this is accomplished with built-in cabinets, shelves, furniture, and light fixtures. In fact, the Craftsman style is so closely related to its interior design that the fittings often distinguish the style more clearly that its external features. In this vein, Craftsman homes have a dominant, centrally located fireplace; they also have numerous windows for light-filled rooms, exposed rafters, and dark wood wainscoting and moldings. Some craftsman homes even have windows with stained or leaded glass. The tasteful arrangement of a few well-designed decorative pieces signals the Arts & Crafts style.
The simplicity of its design is a credit to the style. An elegant, sophisticated plan prevents Craftsman homes from quickly looking dated, and their high quality designs help homes hold their value. With such craftsmanship inherent in the style architect, David Jensen claims, “They are like the Rolls Royce, or the Robert Redford, of the architecture world.” Their long-lasting appeal is what made the Craftsman bungalow wildly popular at the turn of the 20th Century, and still retains its architectural elegance. “Bungalow Heaven,” an area in Pasadena, California, is famous for its historic bungalows and still offers many designers inspiration. It’s the site of this year’s architectural tour for the AIBD National Convention.