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.
The earlier traditional Craftsman house tended to be symmetrical in its proportions. It was at least two floors, sometimes up to three on large lots in neighbourhoods such as Mount Pleasant, Kitsilano and Shaughnessy. The form was defined primarily by gables and porches. The large traditional Craftsman house was side-gabled with symmetry in its secondary gables set at the front and rear. Earlier versions adopted some Edwardian elements and occasionally used the Foursquare plan. Deep-set full width porches, a carry-over from Edwardian Builder houses, were common. Sleeping porches were popular, usually centred above the front porch. The rooflines tended to have a lower pitch, particularly in the secondary gables and dormers.
Squared or flared porch posts expressing strength and framing the porch – with lower sections either stone or stucco, upper sections wood with a low-set balustrade, and wide stairs leading up to the porch characterized this style. Gable ends featured exposed soffits and large brackets (either single vertical post or adding a diagonal bracket commonly known as “knee brackets”), with substantial roof overhangs and exposed rafter “tails”. Wood detailing known as “dentils” was often found at the top of the front gable.
Windows of earlier (pre-1920) Craftsman homes were casements with transom, either leaded or stained glass, while later versions opted for double hung windows in a one-third to two thirds proportion, with muntins in the upper sash. Those fronting the porch were set in groups of three or four, and in more elaborate examples, the upper sash was stained glass. The front door had an inset window and sidelights. Piano windows, those set higher up as a single sash, were found on the sides of the house, often on either side of the chimney.
The predominant material was wood, reflecting the local sources. Cedar shingles were used 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 the 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. Occasionally stucco was used as primary cladding. Brick was used for chimneys and as an accent, especially clinker bricks and off-placed or protruding bricks to achieve a rustic appearance.