American Architecture: The Components of Craftsman Style

What it’s : Craftsman houses were largely motivated by the function of 2 builder brothers — Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene — who worked together in Pasadena, California, in the turn of the 20th century. The Greene brothers were influenced by the English Arts and Crafts movement (a response against the Industrial Revolution in an attempt to promote the work of craftsmen and the handmade within the system made), as well as by Oriental wooden architecture.

Where to locate it: The earliest examples are in Southern California, but due to popularization of the style through national periodicals like House Beautiful and Ladies’ Home Journal and the following access to design books and kit houses, Craftsman bungalows became the most popular style of small house throughout the country from about 1905 through the 1920s.

Why you will love it: Just like most of things that come from California, there is something distinctively American about this fashion. Outside you will find details galore but inside, there is a simple, wide-open layout that makes the most of typically limited square footage.

Lawrence and Gomez Architects

What Makes It Craftsman

A low-pitched, gabled roof. The low-slung rooflines signify the effect of Oriental architecture on the style. These roofs typically possess a broad, unenclosed eave overhang with ornamental supports.

Roofs with a very low pitch are typically better suited to warmer climates, in which snow and ice aren’t likely to accumulate. They do require regular maintenance to make sure debris like leaves does not build up with time.


A front porch. It is rare to find a Craftsman bungalow that doesn’t have a porch, even when porch only covers the entryway. Porches are either full (like this one) or semi width, and therefore are either sheltered under the main roof or under a separate, extended roof.

Porches are a terrific investment — they expand the livable space of small houses and make it feasible to spend time outside.

Melaragno Design Company, LLC

Tapered columns. This is one of the most distinctive characteristics of Craftsman houses, despite the version in detailing. Tapered columns, which support the porch roof, are typically brief and break upon massive stone or brick piers that extend into floor level, both of which convey a certain solidity. Not all columns are pliable; yet another popular variant is the double column.

Borrowing the exact comfy porch supports from the Craftsman style is a great way to find a touch of the look without rebuilding your home from scratch.

RW Anderson Homes

A partly entrance door. One great authenticity test of Craftsman bungalows is the way their doors are all styled. Almost all original models have glass panes in the top third of the doorway, separated by the underside paneled portion by a thick piece of trim.

Swapping out your door to get a Craftsman one is another way to incorporate a bit of the style into your home. There are lots of excellent sources for brand new Craftsman-style doors.


Multipane instead of single-pane windows. Just like a few other Craftsman details, this window style originated with the Prairie architectural style. The most common configurations are either four-over-one or six-over-one double-hung windows. The windows are usually grouped together and cased in broad trim.

This window style is a terrific traditional or historical style for houses with an opinion, since the single-pane lower sash has no mullion obstructions.

WINN Design+Build

Earthy Colours. Craftsman houses are usually painted in a nature-inspired palette of greens and reds to assist the low-profile bungalows blend seamlessly with their surroundings. Despite the mostly muted palettes, one or two contrasting colours are generally used to highlight architectural features like trim or decorative supports.

Put your best foot forward. Irrespective of the manner of your home, painting architecture comes with a contrasting colour is a great way to highlight your house’s best features.

Gardner Architects LLC

Single dormers. When Craftsman houses have dormers, they are usually wider and stick out on their own, unlike the pairs of dormers that typically appear in Cape Cod–fashion cottages. Single dormers are usually broad enough for two to three windows.

Dormers, especially broad ones, can change unused attics into livable space by adding square footage (sometimes an entire room’s value ) and ushering in organic light.

Joe Carrick Design – Custom Home Design

Stone details. Craftsman bungalows almost always feature a mixture of materials. The siding is typically wooden clapboard (though shingled siding can also be common), but porch piers and bases are usually made of stone. Brick, concrete block and stucco are also occasionally used.

Take a page in the Craftsman stylebook and combine stuff publicly. Think about cladding a small addition in stone or brick, even if your home has clapboard siding.

Dorothy Howard AIA, Architect

Exposed rafter tails and beams beneath heavy roof eaves. This another one of the distinctive qualities of the style; it reflects the influence of the Arts and Crafts movement, which sought to make visible the handiwork that went into design, on the style.

Adding exposed rafter tails and beams does not need to involve reconstructing your house, let alone replacing your roof. These details are usually decorative and may be added under any heavy roof eave.

Christopher Templeton

Knee braces. These triangular supports are a structural solution to exposed rafter tails and roof beams. Like beams and rafter tails, they are usually decorative and may be added under any heavy roof eave.

Tell us: Do you love the visible craftsmanship of these houses? Or does it feel like overkill, particularly if you know that so much of the identifying characteristics are decorative and only made to look like engineering demonstrated?

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