Simple Elegance and Beautiful Handicrafts Define the Arts & Crafts Home
It was a philosophy that had a tremendous impact on American architecture.
With the Industrial Revolution in full force in England, factories grew by the numbers, and mass production became the standard. A group of British artists and writers led by William Morris launched the Arts &Crafts Movement—which began in 1860 and lasted through 1930. This protest against the opulent Victorian Era and the machine-dominated Industrial Age revived interest in the simplicity and beauty of nature and the use of handicrafts and natural materials in architecture and art.
William Morris’s Red House was the symbol of the Arts & Crafts movement in England. The free-flowing style of the two-story red brick home embodied the ideals of the movement—simplicity, a return to nature, handcrafted furniture, and the use of natural materials. The Red House interior showcases wood details, handcrafted fixtures, and hand-woven rugs typical of the Arts and Crafts movement. (Photo credit: Philip Webbs Red House in Upton by Ethan Doyle White used under CC BY-SA 3.0)
Key Elements of the Arts & Crafts Style
As a statement against the over-decorated Victorian style and the Industrial Ages mass production, the Arts & Crafts style emphasized creativity, simple forms, clean lines, sturdy structures, natural materials, and handcrafted objects. The result was elegance and beauty in the style’s simplicity and originality.
Some of the features that distinguish the Arts & Crafts style:
1. Natural materials—Handcrafted stone or woodwork and mixed materials are used in the exterior and interior of the home.
This one-story, three-bedroom home has a brick-and-stucco exterior and a gable roof. Like most Arts & Crafts style homes, it has a covered front porch with stylish columns (Plan # 153-1535).
2. Handcrafted furniture and objects emphasize crafting and working with one’s hands instead of using machines.
From the stone exterior and steps, columns, gable roofs, and rafters, this two-story, three-bedroom house plan (above) illustrates the beautifully simple, creative, and natural look of the Arts & Crafts style. Below, a gorgeous wooden staircase to the second-floor living quarters displays the hand-hewn craftsmanship characteristic of Arts & Crafts (Plan # 115-1000).
3. Well-designed and affordable built-in furniture
Floor-to-ceiling built-in wooden cabinets make this spacious kitchen look more roomy and airy. Dark-brown hardwood floors and the wooden table and chairs provide a nice contrast to the beige cabinets and exposed ceiling beams (Plan # 106-1276).
4. Porches with squared-off columns
This charming two-story, four-bedroom Arts & Crafts home with an exterior rock-stone facade has a welcoming front porch. Note the square stone columns on pedestals and the decorative glass panes on the front door (Plan # 163-1006).
A covered wraparound front porch adds to the curb appeal of this two-story, four-bedroom home (Plan # 161-1001).
5. Shallow roof with wide eaves
The front and rear views of this one-story Arts and Crafts country home show the wide eaves. From the covered front porch and the lanai, one can enjoy wonderful views of the natural surroundings (Plan # 117-1095).
Beautiful in its simplicity and clean lines, this two-story home has a hip roof with wide eaves, a rock-stone-and-wood-siding exterior, four bedrooms, a covered front porch, and a covered rear deck (Plan # 127-1000).
6. Exposed wood beams inside
This delightful two-story home is modern, comfortable, and inviting. There are exposed rustic beams in the foyer, kitchen, hearth-room areas, and the second-floor landing. The perfect blend of earth tones adds to the feeling of warmth and ease (Plan # 146-2810).
7. Open floor plans—A wide, uncluttered space with unobstructed views creates a sense of calm and peace in the home.
There is space, space, lots of space in this dreamy open-floor-plan, one-story, four-bedroom home. Visible here are the kitchen, kitchen island, peninsula-eat-in bar, hearth room, casual dining area, and part of the living area. (Plan # 161-1042)
Walkthrough the front door of this two-story Arts & Crafts bungalow, and be amazed by a classically simple but elegant wooden staircase (left) and wood/stone fireplace (right) (Plan # 116-1007).
Origins in the U.S.
Not too long after its establishment in England, the Arts & Crafts movement wielded its influence on France, Germany, and the United States. While the British spurned machines and industrialization, American architects combined the artistic and modern as they brought refreshing new ideas to the American home.
As the 1900s unfolded, American architects—from coast to coast—began constructing Arts & Crafts-style homes that were beautiful, decorative, and functional. The core ideals of simplicity, clean lines, balance, harmony with nature, and traditional handicrafts engendered other Arts & Crafts styles like the Craftsman, Prairie, California Mission, American Bungalow, and American Foursquare.
Arts & Crafts Derivative Styles
The most popular offshoot of the Arts & Crafts style, the Craftsman home plan derived its name from The Craftsman, a popular magazine founded in 1901 by Gustav Stickley, a trained stonemason famous editor, and furniture designer/maker who was the main proponent in the U.S. His style embraced the principles that attracted him to the Arts & Crafts Movement—simplicity, natural materials, and handcrafted artistry over the machine-produced. The home he designed and built for his family in Morris Plains, NJ, embodies all those ideals.
Craftsman Farms, the country estate designed and built by Gustav Stickley on 30 acres of land, is now a National Historic Landmark in Morris Plains, NJ. The home embodies all of the Arts & Crafts ideals of simple forms, clean lines, natural materials, and harmony with nature. (Photo credit: Craftsman Farms by English Wikipedia user Daniel Case under CC BY-SA 3.0)
At the Stickley Museum, the Dallas Museum of Art, and other museums across the United States, one can find displayed oak furniture designed/made by Stickley. (Photo credits: Daderot under CCO 1.0)
American Craftsman houses have low-pitched gable or hip roofs with wide eaves, exposed rafters, or decorative brackets under the eaves. Tapered, square columns support the roof of the covered front porch beneath the extension of the main roof. Handcrafted stone or woodwork and mixed materials are used throughout the structure. Other features include open floor plans, exposed interior beams, built-in cabinets/shelves, and numerous windows.
This two-story, four-bedroom Craftsman-style home displays the signature wide eaves, covered porch, tapered columns supported by square stone pedestals, and plants/shrubbery that connect the homes natural surroundings (Plan # 146-1917).
While Stickley is credited for the Craftsman name, the style was perfected by transplanted Californians Charles Summer and Henry Mather Greene. The Ohio-born Greene brothers formed the firm of Greene and Greene in Pasadena and flourished as architects. They built most of their homes, including the Gamble House, between 1907 and 1909. Impressed by Japanese minimalist architecture, they designed houses that combined Arts & Crafts ideals with the simple wooden architecture of China and Japan. The brothers studied woodworking, metalworking, and toolmaking, and at the urging of their father, they studied architecture at MIT and learned traditional classic styles.
The Gamble House in Pasadena, CA, was built in 1908 for David and Mary Gamble of the Procter and Gamble Company by Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Green. It has wide terraces, open sleeping porches, and custom-designed wooden cabinetry and furniture. (Photo credit: Gamble House, Pasadena by Diane Kane, Caltrans)
As the Greene brothers popularized the Craftsman plan in Southern California, the other side of Pasadena witnessed the birth of another Arts and Crafts style—the simple, smaller, less formal, economical, and extremely popular American Bungalow. Bungalows are typically one or one-and-a-half-story homes with wide front porches, gable roofs, and open floor plans. Like the Craftsman plan, the Bungalow has tapered columns that support the porch. Although modest-looking from the exterior, Bungalows can be spacious because of the open living area.
(Please click herefor more information on The Plan Collection’s Bungalow style.)
This delightful two-story, three-bedroom Bungalow (left) packs a lot of charm. The covered porchs close-up view shows off its tapered columns (right) (Plan # 116-1007).
The historic St. Francis Court was the first bungalow court in Pasadena. Built in 1909, it was made up of 11 bungalows, each with its own garden and driveway. Bungalow courts refer to a form of multi-family housing that involved groupings of small one-story individual houses or duplexes oriented around a common landscaped courtyard, usually on one property. Today, five of those original bungalows still exist. (Photo credit: Pasadena Museum of History, Photo Archives)
While the East and West Coasts focused on Craftsman and Bungalow homes, Frank Lloyd Wright, inspired by the flat expanse of the Midwest, began designing homes that extolled the beauty of the prairie. Wright and his Chicago Group built houses that mixed the functional with the beauty of the natural environment. Prairie-style homes are constructed close to the ground, with sweeping horizontal lines, low-pitched roofs, and overhanging eaves.
It was actually the first style to open up interior spaces—breaking down hallways, walls, and doors that separated the kitchen/dining and living room areas. With no walls, the interior was one open and harmonious space—just like the wide Prairie.
(Please click here for more information on The Plan Collection’s Prairie House Plans.)
This beautiful one-story, four-bedroom Prairie-style home features an open floor plan, a formal dining room, nook/breakfast area, private deck, screened sunroom, and other amenities. From the stucco, rock/stone exterior to the matching columns on the covered front porch and the landscaped courtyard, this home would make Frank Lloyd Wright proud (Plan # 161-1058).
Like the other Arts & Crafts derivative styles, California Mission home plans are characterized by stucco or rock exteriors, low-pitched gable (or flat) roofs, and exposed rafters. Some Mission-style homes may feature large square pillars and arched doorways and windows.
The American Foursquare is mostly influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright’s down-to-earth Prairie style, combining both Craftsman and Colonial Revival elements. Distinguished by its box-like shape and shallow hip roof, the Foursquare is typically two stories, with a covered porch (sometimes wraparound) and a centered entryway with the same number of windows on each side.
The traditional two-story Colonial-style home at right achieves a balance like the Foursquare style with its centered front door and second-floor balcony flanked by two windows on each side. The three dormers are also positioned to enhance the centering effect (Plan # 146-1263).
With its simple elegance and classic lines, the Arts & Crafts style continues to charm a new generation of Americans. In the 21st century, this creative and original style is still alive and well!
Footnote: The lead image (upper) in this article is from a one-story, three-bedroom Arts & Crafts-style home. For more details, view: (Plan # 106-1276)