The Craftsman style is derived from the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 20th Century. It was a style that builders could take on with or without the services of an architect, and generally used locally sourced materials. Customized components and even pre-fabricated sections were readily available using catalogues such as Sears, Montgomery Wards and Aladdin. It promoted simplicity with clean lines and evoked strength and quality in how the exterior components were placed.
With its popularity spanning a 20-year period, several variations of Craftsman houses developed, three of which are particular to Vancouver. These are traditional Craftsman, Vancouver Craftsman and Craftsman Bungalow. Each was influenced by builders’ budgets and changes in taste over time and the adaptations in design to suit both large and small lots in neighbourhoods across the city.
A number of similarities can be found between the three, as well as unique traits.
Like the Vancouver Craftsman, the later variation of the Craftsman Bungalow and California Bungalow tended to be set on smaller urban lots. While they were also front gabled, they were asymmetrical in most respects. They were commonly scaled down to one and a half floors, and more modest examples were only one floor (plus basement). The off-set entry meant that stairs were also set to one side, and covered porches were either full width (esp. on California Bungalow) or in later variations were half width or less.
To add floor area on smaller lots they often had secondary gables along one or both sides, but these were not full-length gables as were found in the Vancouver Craftsman. Covered entry porches were a predominant feature on all Craftsman houses. Lower pitched rooflines remained the norm.
The details found on the Craftsman Bungalow were simplified from the Traditional Craftsman. Flared or squared porch posts framed the porch – but the common approach of a half width (or less) porch made it a less dominant feature. The lower sections of porch posts were any combination of stone, concrete imitation of stone, brick or rough stucco. The porch was framed by a low-set balustrade, while stairs leading up to porch tended to be narrower than the traditional Craftsman. Gable ends featured exposed soffits and large brackets (either single vertical post or adding a diagonal bracket commonly known as “knee brackets”), with roof overhangs and exposed rafter “tails”. In the top of the front gable, wood detailing known as “dentils” or plain horizontal banding was commonly used, with variations of contrasting shingle, lap siding or stucco.
Windows of Craftsman Bungalows were most often double-hung with leaded or stained glass transom, while later versions opted for double hung windows with sashes in a one-third to two thirds proportion. Those at the front were set in groups, usually three. Most windows had muntins in the upper sash dividing the glass into smaller panes, and stained glass was generally limited to piano windows on side walls or no stained glass at all. The front door often had a window inset in the upper portion and sidelights were generally no longer used.
The most common material was wood, reflecting the local sources, typically shingles on the main body of the house with lap siding covering the lower portion. Stucco with divider boards was used as an accent in front gables. Toward the end of the 1920’s some Craftsman Bungalows had no shingles, opting for entirely lap siding in a wider (more modern) profile, and stucco in gables often had no divider boards. The Craftsman Bungalow was more modest in the application of stone and brick, with the exception of the California Bungalow where brick continued to be applied in a “rustic” manner, roughly set and “linker” bricks.
The predominant material was cedar shingles, both for cladding and decorative components (e.g. in gable peaks). A combination of narrow lap siding and shingles was also in vogue. Smoother cut wood was used for upper portion of porch posts, on other decorative pieces such as dentils and knee brackets. Stucco was predominantly an accent material usually combined with half-timber dividers in gables, and occasionally stucco was used as primary cladding.