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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.