Craftsman Style

Early in the twentieth century, an style of architecture was developed in southern California, completely unlike anything before seen in this country. It featured shallowly-pitched saddle roofs with deep overhangs, exposed structural elements, and earth-tone colors. It received its inspiration from the English Arts-and-Crafts movement, from the picturesque Swiss chalet, and from Japanese architecture, with its elegant exposed woodwork. Like Japanese architecture, and unlike the Queen Anne and Neoclassical Revival styles, it emphasized straight lines and angles. Round or curved shapes were rare. The emphasis was on the horizontal rather than the vertical. Its early exponents preached a return to hand-craftsmanship as opposed to the mass-production used for the prevailing styles. They published their house and furniture designs in a magazine called The Craftsman; the style therefore acquired this name. The style swept America in the early 20thcentury, and became the most popular residential style by the 1920s. By that time its parts were just as likely to be mass-produced as those of other styles. The style became especially popular in the South, as its deep eaves provided shade, and the shallow roof pitch was not a problem where there is no heavy snowfall.

523 East Lane Street

526 N. Bloodworth St., built c.1927, is typical of the Craftsman style. The front eaves are supported by triangular brackets, with pyramidal ends. One can see the rafter tails under the side eaves; they are not enclosed by fascia and soffit boards as they would have been in earlier styles. The porch is supported by “battered” (tapered) square columns on brick pedestals. This is the most common type of Craftsman-style porch support. The windows feature upper sashes divided into three panes, and single-pane bottom sashes. The “clipped gable” is a new feature occasionally employed on Craftsman houses. The dark gray-green color, while never common, was a typical Craftsman color.

523 E. Lane St., built c.1920, is a very fine Craftsman house, with its impressive cross-gabled saddle roof. The windows are particularly fine, with the upper sashes divided into nine unequal rectangles. The tan brick and stucco and brown trim are typical craftsman materials and colors. Notice the long unsupported beam across the front porch. The rectangular projection on the left side is a typical feature of the Craftsman-style dining room, replacing the angle-sided bay windows of the Queen Anne and Neoclassical Revival styles.

610 North Bloodworth Street. Photo: Phil Warner

These two houses are in the form known as the “bungalow.” The word is a corruption of “bangla,” the Hindi word meaning literally “Bengal style.” While most people in India lived in multi-family houses, people in the Bengal region favored single-family houses, with shallow-pitched roofs and deep overhangs.

The American bungalow was a one- or one-and-a-half-story house plan that became very popular between the World Wars. The roofs were of shallow pitch, the ceilings were lower than in earlier styles, and there was no central hall or foyer; the front door led immediately into the living room. The interiors usually had brick fireplace mantels and many built-in cabinets. The north side of the 600 block of N.Boundary St. is lined with a wonderful row of Craftsman bungalows in a variety of shapes and details.

But not all Craftsman-style homes were bungalows, and not all bungalows were in the Craftsman style. 412 New Bern Ave., built c.1921, is in the Craftsman style, but is not a bungalow. It is in the second-most popular Craftsman form, the “chalet.” It is of two full stories, with the gable facing front. A typical Craftsman feature is the shingle siding on the second floor. Unlike Queen Anne shingles, which were often cut in interesting shapes, Craftsman shingles were always rectangular. They were never painted, but were stained dark brown or red or green, as on this house. The triple windows were also a popular Craftsman feature.


NEXT: Craftsman Variations