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The Craftsman Bungalow

May 31 2010

Older neighborhoods often feature bungalows – small homes that are full of charm. Among the most popular is the Craftsman bungalow, designs that celebrate the wood, stone, iron, ceramic and glass craftsmen of the early 1900s to about 1930. 

Inspired by the British arts and crafts movement of the late 1800s, California architects Charles Sumner Greene and his brother Henry Mather Greene, along with David Owen Dryden designed and built small, one-story homes by using wood to decorate the exteriors and interiors. 

Demand for middle-class housing rose after the Victorian age. Middle-class wives of the Craftsman era did their own cooking and childcare, so the kitchen grew in size and function,  in comparison to the rest of the house. Eat-in kitchens became the rage, and dining rooms with built-in cabinetry replaced butler’s pantries.  To stay small, storage and furniture solutions evolved – with more built-in bookcases, closets, benches and banquettes to reduce the need for extra furniture. 

The original Craftsman bungalows were unpainted and the natural materials untreated, including the stucco. Emphasis was on the design elements of wood, glass, and metal.  The craftsman movement also called for reduced dependency on artificial light, so the homes were designed with many windows.    

Sears-Roebuck offered a variety of Craftsman bungalow homes as a catalog item to be ordered and assembled at the site.  Homes as small as 800 square feet were cleverly designed with a living area, two to three bedrooms, a dining room, kitchen, and a bathroom.  The open floor plans fostered family interaction, which is one reason the Craftsman style is undergoing a resurgence in popularity today. 

How do you spot a Craftsman bungalow? Most have front porches, with the low-pitched, gabled porch roof held up by tapered stone, wood or brick square columns. The wide overhanging eaves of the roofs are open, exposing the roof rafter beams and allowing for decorative finishes or embellishment.  

The bungalows are clad in wood siding, stucco or shingles, and in brick in some parts of the country. The front doors are similar to the Prairie style – wood doors with decorative glass or stain glass panels.  

Inside the home, all wood trim and built-ins are in natural wood tones or stains. Trim, wallpaper, and tiles are often Art Nouveau (post-impressionistic ) William Morris was a leader in wallpaper and fabric design of the time, and reproductions of his designs are obtainable today. 

Color palettes also tend to be natural earth tones and greens.  While not historically correct, many Craftsman homeowners are adding new colors to their bungalows. The painted lady concept of Victorian homes has also swept up the Craftsman, where yellows, corals, lavenders and blues add a lift to the greens and browns of nature.

Like all housing styles, the Craftsman pays tributes to other styles such as Prairie, Mission, and Stickley, to name a few, but the overwhelming characteristic they all share is a built-to-last, solid, substantial earthiness.

These are the homes that really feel home-y.