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Anthony Grumbine: Craftsman Homes Became an Essential Santa Barbara Style

Popularity of movement helped establish a natural foundation here

A current Craftsman house on Santa Barbara’s Riviera.
A current Craftsman house on Santa Barbara’s Riviera.  (Harrison Design Associates photo)

By Anthony Grumbine, Harrison Design Associates |

[Noozhawk’s note: This article is one in an occasional series exploring Santa Barbara’s distinct architectural styles. Click here for a previous article on Santa Barbara’s Victorian architecture.]

Craftsman Architecture

Fundamental to the Victorian era of the 1800s was the ability to mass-produce decorative ornaments through the machinery and distribution of the Industrial Revolution. This mass production necessarily resulted in a loss of hand-craftsmanship, however. No longer was the individual artist creating a unique and personalized element. The machine had won the day.

Reacting to this shift in culture, the Arts and Crafts movement formed in England and soon spread to the United States. The Craftsman movement — as it became in the United States — proposed local, natural materials, simplicity of forms, originality and the hand-crafted detail.

In 1901 came the debut of The Craftsman magazine published by Gustav Stickley, a strong proponent of Craftsman furniture, textiles and architecture.

Architects such as Greene & Greene (brothers Charles and Henry Greene) in Pasadena and David Owen Dryden in San Diego championed the Craftsman style, helping it to become the most popular style of the early 1900s.

A Change in Form

Architecturally, this change in principles translated into changes in form. Rather than the tall, complex and steep roofs of the Victorian house, the Craftsman roof became low-sloped and simple. Instead of intricate cornice moldings that decorated the eaves of Victorian houses, the Craftsman had large, exposed eaves with rafter tails adding subtle details to the simple form.

The Craftsman used natural materials such as wood and stone, and complimented these with an earth-toned color palette. Unlike the mitered moldings of the Victorian houses, Craftsman window and door moldings express basic post and beam construction by extending the lintel molding slightly past the posts on either side. As well, porch columns of Craftsman architecture followed the lower, more horizontal proportions of the overall house. Basic details such as these helped set the Craftsman apart from other architecture styles.

A Change in Function

The Craftsman also came at a time of subtle, yet important social change. The Victorian house, with its separate servants’ quarters, separate servants’ dining area and separate servants’ stair, was designed for distinctly upper-class living that depended on a house run by servants. This was soon to change.

The Craftsman house was predominantly designed for the middle-class family. Smaller and much more efficient than its Victorian predecessors, the Craftsman house spread throughout the country. Built-in cabinetry and a more open floor plan provided a compact design that still had opportunities for beautiful carpentry detailing. Beauty and efficiency met in the Craftsman house.

Craftsman in Town

In Santa Barbara, the Craftsman house enjoyed a popularity that can still be seen today. From the small bungalow to the large, almost grandiose house, Craftsman architecture thrived in Santa Barbara. Even Greene & Greene designed a house in town.

In recent years, the popularity of Craftsman architecture in Santa Barbara has seen a resurgence, with many residences built in this style.

Although Santa Barbara is known predominantly for its Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, it is not from any one style that this town gets its beauty. The Craftsman style, like those styles before it, has helped make Santa Barbara one of the most desirable places to live in the world.

— Anthony Grumbine is a project designer at Harrison Design Associates, an architecture firm in Santa Barbara (as well as Beverly Hills and Atlanta) specializing in high-quality architecture in a range of styles. Harrison Design Associates is dedicated to the improvement of the field of architecture through study, education and leadership. Anthony can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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» on 03.13.11 @ 12:28 PM

Love the article!  There is actually a book on craftsman homes (and other interesting Santa Barbara information), that provides a tour around downtown where many original craftsmans still stand today.  I understand there are organized tours of homes in town as well.  it would be great to see a craftsman-specific tour!

» on 03.14.11 @ 01:16 AM

Interesting article

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