What is a Craftsman Bungalow?

Written by Anita Alvarez
Updated September 28, 2015
Craftsman bungalow
The low-pitched roof and wide porch are representative of the Craftsman bungalow style. (Photo by Joseph Martin)

The Craftsman bungalow quickly populated the American landscape in the early 1900s.

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First spotted in California in the early 1900s, the Craftsman bungalow home design soon proliferated across the country through. The style stood in stark contrast to the popular Victorian style of the times, and it grew in popularity as the American middle class sought an affordable, quality home design.

Most notable for it's clean lines and simple architecture, a direct response in contrast to the ornate style of Victorian homes, the Craftsman home can feature a single-, one and a half-, or two-story home.

The most common style is the one-half story featuring a single bedroom on the upper floor, with all other functional rooms on the first floor. The low-pitched roof sometimes included a front gable, and most often incorporated a large front porch.

Nearly all of these homes feature handcrafted woodwork, both on the exterior and interior of the home. Builders almost always used natural paint colors for the exterior home color, which ranged from brown, green, blue and reddish brown.

A nod to the family-centric era, most of these homes feature a large fireplace and dominant hearth at the center of the home, in the living room, the place where the family gathered on a regular basis. Flanking the sides of the hearth, symmetrical bookshelves, or sometimes benches, gave families easy access to books and pictures for discussion or quiet reflection.

HIstory of the Craftsman bungalow

Charles and Henry Greene, brothers that grew up in the Pasadena, California area, popularized the bungalow style, and are considered the "founding fathers" of the Craftsman design.

The design became so popular, it's possible to find the Craftsman-style home in almost any part of the country. In part, the design was utilized so readily by Americans because it was suitable for a smaller home, and local carpenters could easily reproduce the home plan.

A small movement exists to have Craftsman homes restored, with people valuing their simple design, the natural wood elements used inside the home — which can't compare to the lower-quality wood trim used by many of today's home designs — and the built-ins featured in a Craftsman homes.

Problems with the Craftsman bungalow design

Sometimes, homeowners run into problems when restoring the homes.

Some of the bungalow-style homes' initial plans were small. As a result, subsequent owners would add on to the homes in increments. It can be challenging to find the original design or style, and then adapt the additions to one congruent design.

Additionally, the small bungalow homes often feel cramped, so they don't provide the open feel so many homeowners desire today. The delicate built-in woodwork can also make the interior feel even smaller, contributing to the cramped and dark feeling the rooms can exude.

As always, when considering a historic style home like a Craftsman bungalow for purchase or renovation, work with a Realtor or contractor who is familiar with the style.

Check with Angie's List for contractor ratings and references, and do your homework on the home design so you know what you're getting into, and when you've stumbled upon a treasure that's worth having and renovating.

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