Everything You Need to Know About the Arts and Crafts Home Style Movement

Ginny Bartolone
Written by Ginny Bartolone
Updated April 12, 2022
A family plays outside a house
Photo: MoMo Productions / DigitalVision / Getty Images


  • The Arts and Crafts movement inspired a range of American architectural styles.

  • The philosophy focuses on handmade craftsmanship, fine materials, and an appreciation for nature.

  • The homes often include front porches, open floor plans, and built-in elements.

  • The interior design offshoot showcases finely made furniture, natural patterns, and high-quality materials.

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The Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th century may leave you thinking, "Hey, that sounds familiar." Between the industrial revolution and the rise of fast and flashy Victorian architecture, a group of artists craved a return to simplicity, craftsmanship, and quality materials. Much like today's rebuke of fast fashion and appreciation for rustic farmhouse design, the Arts and Crafts movement called for a return to easily maintained architecture, intentional interior design, and even a simpler way of life.

History of the Arts and Crafts Movement

Long before the architectural style crossed the pond to the U.S, the Arts and Crafts movement started as a social mindset. The working class in England had primarily transitioned to large cities during the industrial revolution, often pushed into overcrowded and poorly built buildings.

These conditions inspired writers, activists, and eventually home designers to push back. The Arts and Crafts movement celebrated a return to nature, family life, and an appreciation for handmade goods. 

By the early 20th century, Arts and Crafts societies popped up across the U.S. and inspired the craftsman and bungalow-style homes as well as an interior design movement. While the style dwindled after WWI, many of these finely crafted homes stand today. The movement is even making a comeback as a return to handmade goods makes another resurgence.

Arts and Crafts vs. a Craftsman Home

It's easy to mix up a craftsman house with an Arts and Crafts-style home. And while they are incredibly similar, they are not exactly the same. 

Think of it this way: The Arts and Crafts movement inspired the craftsman house. But you will find Arts and Crafts-style elements in everything from bungalows to ranch homes. The Arts and Crafts features are best displayed in a craftsman, but it's just one example of the larger movement.

Key Features of an Arts and Crafts-Style House

The Arts and Crafts style may not be as easy to pinpoint as say, a Chalet-style home or a shotgun home. It is more likely that you will find elements of the early 20th-century that stemmed from general philosophy. Let's clarify what we mean.

1. Durable Design

Arts and Crafts design allowed working and middle-class homeowners to thrive in well-made and low-maintenance homes. Homebuilders often used fine materials like oak, red brick, and natural stone for their construction. A series of low-pitched roofs with overhanging eaves, multiple fireplaces, and well-placed windows complemented the local climate.

Additionally, an Arts and Crafts home showed off its fine materials. Exposed rafters, wood beams, and hardwood floors provided a natural, farmhouse quality. Metalworkers could also showcase their skills in cast-iron or steel accents.

2. Built-In Furniture

If you've ever daydreamed about built-in bookshelves and a front porch bench, this is the style for you. An Arts and Crafts home is functional and encourages easy use for the whole family. Built-in furniture made another move to show off the craftsmanship of its designer.

3. Open Floor Plan

In the same theme, the floor plan of this style celebrated a central gathering space. The primary living room on the first floor typically focused on a fireplace. Homeowners had space to transition easily from the kitchen to the dining area. And while the homes often have second or third stories, they are less segmented than other 19th and early 20th century homes of the time.

4. Focus on the Outdoors

Nearly all Arts and Crafts architecture features a front porch or back patio. A return to quality meant a return to nature, so homes encouraged their owners to spend time outdoors together. Spacious windows, tall ceilings, and exits into the garden were common.

5. Stylized Windows

You can often pick out a bungalow or craftsman home based on its window structure; the top floor often features a single dormer window with a cross-gabled roof. Arts and Crafts homes overall featured multiple windows on the bottom floor. They were often double-hung—and therefore easy to open—and multi-paned. 

Additionally, artists could show off their skills by including stained glass in these homes, both in the primary windows and smaller accents on doors.

Arts and Crafts Interior Design Elements

Closeup of wallpaper over a fireplace
Photo: EmilyKam / Adobe Stock

If you fall in love with the Arts and Crafts movement, you don't have to live in that style home to adopt the lifestyle. Work with a local interior designer to determine which parts of your home can make the switch—from furniture choices to new cabinets.

1. Display of Fine Materials

Oak and other fine woods are a central theme of an Arts and Crafts home. Wood flooring, high-backed dining chairs, and oak doorframes all tie together when you choose the same material. You can also showcase artistry with hand-painted tiles in your bathroom or kitchen as well as by choosing a natural stone countertop.

2. Nature-Inspired Patterns

Some of the original Arts and Crafts designs of the 1850s stem back to floral and other natural patterns. Use these patterns as an accent in wallpaper, curtains, or upholstery against an otherwise simple wooden design.

3. Handcrafted Furniture

The Arts and Crafts furniture movement was one of the key ways artists displayed their fine craftsmanship. Like the homes, it often features fine wood, metal, stone, and glass. Oversized hutches, tables, and chairs act as the focal point in a room—instead of overuse of ornate decor. Living room seating was over beautifully upholstered and overstuffed for a welcoming look.

4. Quality Over Quantity

Arts and Crafts design may include eye-catching items like wallpaper and crafted furniture, but it is anything but busy. Surfaces are often left clear of decor and clutter unless the item adds to the energy of the room.

5. Purposeful Lighting

Floor, table, and built-in lamps have a huge opportunity to both set the tone of the room while showing off additional artistry. Tiffany lamps are popular accents in these homes, as are cast-iron sconces or chandeliers. Not that you will find a wide range of eras represented in accents like lighting, from Art Decor to mid-century modern.

6. Focus on the Fireplace

In line with the movement's original intentions, a living space often faces its furniture toward the central hearth. You'll find more elaborate mantelpieces in Arts and Crafts homes, often featuring wood carvings, tiles, and stonework. Many mantles connect right to built-in bookshelves as well. So while the mantelpiece decor should remain simple and intention, the layout of the room should showcase its beauty.

If you're building a new home and are hoping to embrace the Arts and Crafts style philosophy, be sure to work with local home builders familiar with the quality-focused style. And remember, many different architectural styles and interior styles can incorporate this approach, it just takes a bit more time and internal planning.

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