What is a Craftsman Home?

The popular architecture style is uniquely American—cozy yet functional, no two are the same.

Square columns supporting a low-pitched roof hanging over a quaint front porch. Exposed rafters under elegantly wide, overhanging eaves. Double-hanging windows with separate top and bottom panes. Charming fireplaces, dreamy reading nooks and handcrafted wood details galore.

This... is the American Craftsman home.

In the late 19th century, the British Arts and Crafts movement was born. A revolt against the Industrial Revolution’s ingrained abuse of the average worker, the movement turned against mass production in favor of artisan crafts and worker dignity. Ironically, this reaction resulted in more costly construction materials and labor, so Arts and Crafts style homes were ultimately only accessible to well-meaning (but point-missing) upper class “champagne socialists.”

Meanwhile, the American Arts and Crafts movement—a righteously timed spinoff—shared the basic philosophy of its English counterpart, favoring artisan handiwork and revolting against the eclectic, frilly, aristocratic Victorian aesthetic that dominated U.S. architecture of the era. This movement elevated sturdy simplicity, making use of local materials and labor to create an overall home-grown look. And, for its part, the American movement also aimed to make these homes available for the growing middle class.

As far as the style’s etymology, in 1901 philosopher and designer Gustav Stickley founded a magazine called “The Craftsman” that featured original house and furniture designs. In addition to the Arts and Crafts movement, Stickley is said to have gleaned inspiration from India’s bungalow designs as well. The magazine sold architectural blueprints so that sustainable, functional-yet-beautiful home design was finally accessible by the masses.

Like all movements, Craftsman architecture has evolved over the decades to encompass a wider variety of traits, though unique handcrafted details are still the homes’ bread and butter. In fact, the style still so viscerally “American” that literal bread and butter can likely be found in each and every Craftsman kitchen.

Craftsman homes are simple in design while cozy as all get-out. As Tara Mastroeni of Freshome points out: “Today, their popularity continues because their functionality doubles as an added sense of charm. Remember, most original bungalows were built by their owners, meaning that no two are exactly alike. Most feature unique details that are impossible to commission these days. In doing so, these homes have become an irreplaceable part of history.”

Once you see a Craftsman, you won’t stop noticing them. A favorite of the middle class to this day, Craftsman homes can be found from Alaska to Oklahoma to Indiana—and you’re not unlikely to find an American flag planted into one of its columns.

“The style continued in popularity until the World Wars when modernists took the trending reigns, but even then the craftsman wouldn’t be forgotten, making a comeback in the 1990s. You probably recognize it more recently from many classic 90’s movies,” writes Casey Watkins for Homedit.

According to Watkins, Craftsman homes come in four styles: Prairie, Mission, Four-Square and Bungalow, the last of which is most popular—thanks again, Gustav Stickley. “Whether the bungalow is big or small, its history and individuality will make it the perfect family home,” writes Watkins.

Craftsman homes are best styled to match their exteriors, with lots of wood trim, white and neutral paint and minimalist touches that suggest a rustic life on the farm. Craftsman-dwellers shouldn’t be shy about using wood—flooring, cabinetry, go absolutely nuts.

“If one plain wood shade is getting a bit monotonous for you, feel free to opt for two,” writes Watkins. “Two-toned cabinets have such a nostalgic appeal, you’ll never want to leave your kitchen again.”

Adorable window reading nooks are pointless without plenty of bookshelves, so load up on tomes. The Craftsman’s signature multi-paned windows add elegance to simplicity, and you can even play them up with small stained glass additions.

“Paying close attention to your lighting options is essential in such a warm woody space,” writes Watkins. “Hanging sconces help you get the light where you want it instead of trying to light up the entire room at the same time,” especially in the kitchen.

Beckoning the family to gather around one wholesome focal point, the fireplace is often the main event of a Craftsman, be it grand or understated (again, the Craftsman is for everyone.) “Consider hanging your TV above the fireplace,” Watkins suggests. “When framed in all that thick beautiful craftsman wood, it will almost look like art instead of entertainment.”

Craftsman bedrooms tend to be a tad snug, so make the most of them by adding splashes of modern color, built-in storage spaces and spending most of your leisure time in the living room, gazing at the fireplace with hands wrapped around a mug of homemade hot cocoa, socked feet tucked beneath you.

Lastly, make the most of your delightfully whimsical (yet utilitarian) porch by landscaping the yard with bushes, fruit trees, herbs and bright floral beds that contribute to a cottage feel. A stone, brick or textured walkway lined in bushes all complement the adaptable Craftsman residence.

Classicly functional yet perpetually modern, a Craftsman home is unavoidably familiar. Just looking at one can feel nostalgic—so imagine how cozy living in one would be.