Architecture July 28, 2019

What Makes a House a “Craftsman”




As a Realtor and current member of the Tacoma Landmarks Preservation Commission, nothing makes me crazier than seeing houses that are marketed incorrectly as Craftsmen. A Craftsman has a distinct architectural style that’s rarely seen with new or newer construction homes. A Craftsman is almost always an older, historic home with hallmark architectural features. With so many intact Craftsman homes in Tacoma, I thought it might be helpful to shed a little light on exactly what makes a house a Craftsman.




The Craftsman was the dominant architectural style for smaller homes built in Tacoma in the early 1900s. The style originated in Southern California but quickly spread to other parts of the country through popular magazines like House Beautiful, Good Housekeeping and Ladies Home Journal. Magazine articles were soon followed by a flood of pattern books with plans for Craftsman bungalows, and companies began marketing “kit” houses, which included pre-cut lumber and detailed instructions for assembly by local laborers.


Defining Features

The following characteristics are typical of a Craftsman home, but not every Craftsman home will include all of them.

  • Timber framing
  • Wood shingled siding and/or horizontal wood siding
  • Low pitched, gabled (or sometimes hipped) roofs
  • Decorative beams or braces under the gables
  • Exposed rafters
  • Wide unenclosed eave overhangs
  • Triangular knee brace supports
  • Shed, gabled or eyebrow dormers
  • Wide window and door casings
  • Full or partial-width covered porches
  • Tapered porch supports
  • Sloping (or battered) foundations

Craftsman homes aren’t all identical to one another. In truth, the term Craftsman encompasses a wide and wonderful variety of substyles.


Cottage Style



The typical Craftsman cottage is a one story structure with a symmetrical front façade, a centralized main entry, a partial width front porch, horizontal wood siding, a compact rectangular floor plan and a side-gabled, low pitched roof.  This is a listing in North Tacoma that we sold a few years ago.



Bungalow Style






The typical Craftsman bungalow is a one story structure with broad, low pitched gables. A lower gable covers an open or screened front porch, and a larger gable covers the main portion of the house. With larger bungalows, you may see steeper gables and interesting cross gables or dormers. The bungalow is probably the most common and most popular Craftsman style in Tacoma.  This is a listing that we sold in North Tacoma a few years back.




Clipped Gable (Hip Roof) Style



The typical clipped gable Craftsman has a gabled roof with the points “clipped off”. The roof can be front, side or cross gabled and may have hipped or eye brow dormers.



Colonial Style



The typical colonial style Craftsman features a symmetrical façade with columns and trellised front and/or side porches.  This was a really unique listing in Proctor that we sold a few years back.




Airplane Style



The typical airplane style Craftsman features a setback second story and wide overhanging eaves, which give the impression of airplane wings.




Transitional Style



The typical structure transitioning from Victorian to Craftsman embodies elements of both – including a more vertical façade than later Craftsman homes.



I love older, historic homes.  I’ve renovated and sold more than 50 to date, including quite a few Craftsmen. If you’re thinking about buying or selling a historic home, you should consider working with a Realtor who really understands the value of the architecture.  Give me a call. I’d be happy to help.




Jeff Williams is a top-producing Realtor with Windermere Professional Partners, specializing in historic homes sales in Tacoma, Gig Harbor, University Place and Lakewood.
Jeff Williams: (253) 303-1135