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How To Design: American Craftsman

Updated: May 22, 2021

This post will outline key design framework for achieving beautiful American Craftsman design. Readers will walk away having a detailed understanding of what it takes to create a home in the Craftsman style.

A Brief History of the American Craftsman Style

It's the turn of the 20th century and near the precipice of both the Arts & Crafts style of England and the Prairie Style of the American Midwest. A time at the height of American industry as Henry Ford is crafting the automobile and Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir are working to protect America's beauty. Born from the coastal regions of California grew a new American Style of architecture– the American Craftsman. Prominent architecture brothers Greene & Greene pioneered the movement characterized by low sloped gables, large overhangs, deep porches and a celebration of hand-crafted wood structures.

At its core, the American Craftsman style (similar to that of the Arts and Crafts) is an outcry of a new age of designers that were seeing a loss of personality and warmth in their industry. The rise of machines and mass produced elements were stripping unique qualities from everyday design and the pioneers of this new style were opposed to a world full of design banality. So in order to combat this troubling problem, these designers developed a new style of architecture. Enter Scene - American Craftsman.

Now that we understand the history and upbringing of the American Craftsman style, let's take a closer look at what components characterize this unique style.

Revealed Structural Elements

A great amount of detail in these American Craftsman homes comes from the exposed structural elements. The craftsman style celebrates structure in the form of exposed rafter ends, roof bracketing, outriggers, columns, and decorative stone bases. These details go a long way to adding the charm and character we've come to love about the American Craftsman home. 

Decorative Muntins

In the early days of the American Craftsman style, windows were adorned with stained glass, beautiful wood, and of course, decorative muntins. If you don't know what a muntin is, do a quick google search or you can read details about it on our How To Design: Farmhouse Modern post Here.

The decorative muntins of the American Craftsman style were used in ways to compliment the interior designs– adding style without sacrificing natural light and ventilation. It also added the opportunity for a learned craftsman to add further detail to the style in a much more delicate way. Today there are a few solid craftsman window styles, arrangements and finishes that can make your craftsman home resemble those of the early 20th century.

Masonry Bases

Many craftsman homes incorporate the skilled touch of a master mason. Some of the early American Craftsman works use entire walls of stone or masonry which provides a dramatic contrast to the lightness of the wood structures while maintaining the similar hand-built aesthetic. In the style today, you'll often see these craftsman homes elevated on a stone or brick base with decorative stairs up to the front porch.

Decorative Banding

The American Craftsman home also uses banding to separate larger vertical portions of exterior material. This is most commonly found at the gables or with a change between two materials. When strategically implemented, this banding often helps make a home feel shorter in stature and more integrated into its surroundings. It also poses the opportunity to add a different color, material, or orientation of exterior materials. Often times scallop siding, vertical board and batten, or accent paint color will be applied above these bands as a form of ornamentation.

Natural Materials

The American Craftsman style is often illuminated by its use of natural materials that (as mentioned above) are easily crafted by hand. Wood scalloped siding, cedar shingled or slate roofs, stone bases, and wood columns. An often mixture of differing natural materials or the same material used in different forms (i.e. wood scallops vs wood lapped siding) is also important to the overall scheme of the craftsman home.

Earthy Hued Color

The color palettes most associated with the American Craftsman style are those of earthy tones like greens, browns, beiges, whites, and soft blue hues. Often times American Craftsman homes also implement a complimentary color scheme where two or three earthy tones make up a rich field of color and a heavy-hued color pop at the accents create a rich, playful color palette. They also often rely on the beautiful colors found in the use of natural materials, especially on the inside.


The American Craftsman has come a long way since the original cold shoulder it gave to the industrial revolution but it still has a strong foundation in American Architecture today. If you're looking to build or remodel an American Craftsman home, follow these key characteristics (Revealed Structural Elements, Decorative Muntins, Masonry Bases, Decorative Banding, the use of Natural Materials, and Earthy hued color palettes) and you'll be certain your home will be reminiscent of the American Craftsman style of the past.


If you're looking for additional direction to help you achieve the perfect American Craftsman style, our experts can help you get there! Visioneering Homes is an innovative and brand new online exterior design service that helps people just like you visualize your home's exterior design! We help you make design decisions on everything from color to landscaping to give you a roadmap for achieving the design of your dreams. And the best part of all, is you get to see what your home will look like before you lift a paintbrush!

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Brad | Owner | Visioneering Homes | Online Exterior Design Service | Exterior Design Help | Exterior Design Residential Home

About the Author:

Brad is the CEO & Founder of Visioneering Homes. He is passionate about all things architecture, residential design, and providing easy access for homeowners to professional design services. Him and his wife have 3 kids and enjoy an adventurous life in the mountains of the American west.


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