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Don’t Discount Your House’s Exterior Statement…

by Patricia Poore on May 7, 2014

in House Styles

Rugged shingles define a 1914 West Coast house. Photo by William Wright

Rugged shingles define a 1914 West Coast house. Photo by William Wright

Architecture: It’s More Than Skin Deep!

Material often defines the architecture not just of bridges and skyscrapers but even of the most common American houses. Federal homes are brick in the South, wood- frame and clapboard in the North. International Style is concrete, and Shingle Style speaks for itself. But what of Arts & Crafts buildings?

Stucco on the very English Ragdale in Illinois. Photo by Ragdale Foundation

Stucco on the very English Ragdale in Illinois. Photo by Ragdale Foundation

Yellow brick and art glass, typical for the Chicago Bungalow. Photo by Robynn Upton

Yellow brick and art glass, typical for the Chicago Bungalow. Photo by Robynn Upton

The cladding material is not a reliable style marker for Arts & Crafts houses, despite their association with the use of wood. “Craftsman” homes often follow the vernacular, built of brick in post-fire Chicago and redwood in California, or cedar-shingled near the shore. The iconic buildings of the movement are cases in point: the Gamble House in Pasadena has board-and-batten siding, the house at Craftsman Farms in New Jersey is log construction, the Midwest’s Prairie dwellings are often stuccoed, and Asheville’s Grove Park Inn is made of stone.

River rock and eyebrow windows in rural New York. Photo by Dan Mayers

River rock and eyebrow windows in rural New York. Photo by Dan Mayers

Lap siding brought back in Oregon. Photo by Phillip Clayton-Thompson

Lap siding brought back in Oregon. Photo by Phillip Clayton-Thompson

Sometimes the exterior cladding provides a clue; stucco, for example, may suggest English or Spanish inspiration. Yet it’s possible to find the same planbook bungalow built several ways, here with pebbledash and there with clapboards, or with fancy-cut shingles in the gable; brick porch piers on one, river-rock on the second.

All of which supports the musing that Arts & Crafts is not a style, but rather an approach to building, with consideration for local practice and for the materials and skills at hand.

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