Taking cues from nature, the Arts & Crafts movement and even a hint of Oriental architectural detail, the Craftsman home has its roots in Southern California, growing from a philosophy of simplicity and purposefulness. The flow of the layout and adaptability in scale made them extremely popular in the early 20th Century and the Craftsman home became common across the country. The easy transition from the outdoors to an indoor space that is at once intimate and functional as well as the intricate design details and attention to workmanship made for a charming and eclectic house – and a multitude of them are still standing today. There have been cycles of renewed interest in the style, with variations on the theme, and the homes are popular with preservationists and homeowners interested in restoration. Today, builders are including the Craftsman-style in their new construction and portfolios of floor plans, as empty-nesters and Baby Boomers discover the virtues of this classic design aesthetic.
The American Craftsman style grew out of the British Arts & Crafts movement, which was a reaction to a perception that the Industrial Revolution emphasized mass-production over workmanship. Reaching the United States as the Victorian era – with its tendency toward excess and ornamentation – was in decline, the Arts & Crafts movement was embraced for its philosophy of originality, quality, simplicity and use of local natural materials. Proponents saw the movement as more than a design trend; it was considered an ethic, in which one lived more modestly. And as the number of households with live-in domestic help shrunk and the American middle class grew, so did the need for architecture to reflect the new way many families were living. The Craftsman home answered the need with its emphasis on functionality (the flow of a home that, for instance, now incorporated a kitchen into the living space), workmanship, comfort and modernity.
Probably most importantly, though, was the principle of the Arts & Crafts philosophy that emphasized not only the well-designed object (or home) but that it be affordable to the masses. While the scope of Craftsman homes can range from upscale to grand, it was the affordability of the simple bungalow that brought quality craftsmanship to the working class.
In fact, from 1908-1940, Sears & Roebuck Co. sold through their Modern Homes Catalog “kits” which included the Craftsman bungalow style. In 1915, for example, Modern Home No. 264P182 was a five-room bungalow kit that sold for $785.00. The description touts everything from mill work to flooring, sash weights to mantels, paint to shingles. Excluded from the cost was labor, cement, brick and plaster, though Sears assured buyers that in the end the cost would not exceed around $1,750. These homes were shipped in kits that included most materials needed for construction via rail and were meant to be constructed by the homeowner, relatives and neighbors in a manner perhaps similar to a barn-raising. Depending on how you look at it, though, Sears was either providing affordable, quality and modern homes to the masses or was peddling the antithesis of the Arts & Crafts philosophy in a form of mass-production. Regardless, some 70,000 of these homes encompassing a range of architectural styles were sold in North America.
Over time the Craftsman bungalow evolved into the Ranch home, which with its generic style became common after World War II. But trends are cyclical: displays of wealth came in vogue again in the 1950s and 1960s; luxury, glitz and excess marked the 1970s and 1980s; and then from the 1990s to the present, the emphasis has turned again to minimalism, nature and simple living. Though it never really disappeared, the Arts & Crafts philosophy of the Craftsman home is not only fashionable for a new generation, but is a ideal design trend for those who are looking to down-size and to a generation of empty-nesters and Baby Boomers. The open floor plans of the rustic yet refined homes are Boomer-friendly in accessibility and builders are keeping down-the-road needs in mind.
The Craftsman and Arts & Crafts philosophies mirror those of ours at Southern Serenity: with an emphasis on workmanship, we can build quality, affordable and beautiful homes. Our Fairway Hills Community of Craftsman homes proves this by building on the aesthetics of the original movement while incorporating the necessities our modern world demands.