The American Craftsman style developed out of the British Arts and Crafts movement, which was a reaction against the Industrial Revolution. During the 1880s, English designers launched the movement, which encouraged the use of simple forms and natural materials. The American arrival of Arts and Crafts style coincided with the decline of the Victorian era, and it encouraged originality, simplicity of form, local natural materials, and the visibility of handicraft. The name “Craftsman” comes from the title of a popular magazine published by the famous furniture designer, Gustav Stickley, between 1901 and 1916.

In the United States, two California brothers, Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene, began to design houses that combined Arts and Crafts ideas with a fascination for the simple wooden architecture of China and Japan. The architectural firm of Greene and Greene was established in Pasadena in January 1894. Active primarily in California, their houses and larger-scale bungalows envision the highest ideal of the American Arts and Crafts Movement. Their crowning achievement was the “ultimate bungalow” – an example being the 1908 Gamble House in Pasadena, generally considered one of the finest examples of residential architecture in the United States.

Like all things that come out of California, there is something distinctively American about this style.

The Features of Craftsman Style Architecture:

  • Wide-open layout, efficient floor plans – making optimum use of typically limited square footage
  • In the purest sense, artistically constructed by hand from natural materials
  • Horizontal shapes
  • Nature used as inspiration
  • Purity of style
  • Asian wooden architecture
  • Architectural Features: Low-pitched, gabled roof, front porch, tapered columns (or double columns) with massive stone or brick piers
  • Window Features: Multi-pane instead of single-pane windows cased in wide trim, single dormers – often wide enough for two to three windows, stained or leaded glass
  • A partially paned door (upper third)
  • Exterior Features: Exposed rafter tails and beams under deep roof eaves, knee braces (alternative)
  • Earthy colors, with one or two contrasting colors to highlight architectural features
  • Wood, stone, or stucco siding – mix of materials, sometimes utilizing concrete block and brick

The Features of Craftsman Interior Design:

  • A warm, welcoming, nurturing, and peaceful ambiance
  • Built-in cabinets, shelves, and seating
  • Beamed ceilings
  • Dark wood wainscoting and moldings, natural finishes on wood trim, hardwood floors, wall paneling
  • Open floor plan
  • Natural materials: wood, stone, brick, glass, tile
  • Exposed rafters, joists, and beams
  • Handmade decorative objects
  • Functional, aesthetic furnishings
  • Fireplaces (sometimes with an inglenook) located as a focal point
  • Numerous windows for natural light – use of stained glass
  • Original and replica decorative finishes: wallpaper, stenciling, textiles, earthy colors, harmonious wood tones