Sunday, May 11, 2014

Why We Love Craftsman Style

Richard and I LOVE Craftsman style.  And I thought it might be helpful to give you a little background on how that came to be (but fair warning, this was before we had a digital camera, so you won't be wowed by the photography!).

We used to live in a small town called Mountain Lakes - which, we were told, has one of the biggest  collections of true Arts & Crafts homes in America (that might not be true anymore, because sadly many of them have been torn down).  That's not surprising, possibly, because it is only a short distance from Craftsman Farms, the home and workshop of Gustav Stickley, one of the greatest influences on Arts and Crafts style in America.

The houses were built in the early 20th century by a man named Herbert Hapgood.  He did a lot to create the beautiful town that it is today.  He drained the swamps, developed a series of manmade lakes (remember, this was the early 1900's, so this was back breaking work), and created a 'haven' from city life.  Ultimately, he built 500 Craftsman style homes in this small, 4 square mile town.  But he was a bit of a wheeler and dealer.  We've all heard about crooked contractors today, but Hapgood is a good example that they've existed for a long time.  He did multiple financing on these homes, by driving the bankers in circles and bringing them through the front door one time and the back door the next - making them think they were seeing two different properties and allowing him to get double loans! (he ultimately went bankrupt and fled the country, but that's another story!)  For more on Hapgood and to see many original photos of his homes, check out the town website - Mountain Lakes History

Puddingstone fireplace, with lots of rubble!
These are large homes, built before energy efficiency was important.  The house we owned had started life in 1918 with 8 bedrooms (thankfully it had been pared back to 6 by the time we bought it) a tiny kitchen and bathrooms that had seen few updates since it was first built.  There were two furnaces in the basement (with little insulation, we needed them!) and we got 6 inches of water in the garage every time it rained.  Most of the rooms were painted cantaloupe orange - walls, ceiling and trim.  The kitchen floor was stick-on vinyl brick pattern and the back porch was falling off (our carpenter said the only thing holding it up was 'habit'!)……so as you can imagine, we got a pretty good deal on the place.  And we loved that house and all its craftsman details - the deep eaves, the covered porches, the dormers and puddingstone foundation & fireplace.

Over the years, we tackled lots of projects in that house.  We completely renovated the kitchen (twice in 6 years - so now you know why Richard is so glad I can update other people's homes, instead of driving him crazy tearing our house apart!).  We also updated the bathrooms.  We revived the perennial gardens in the back yard.  But one of the biggest projects -removing a dilapidated old sun porch with its subterranean garage and adding a new garage and family room.  And with all the updates, we worked hard to maintain the Craftsman character of the home - including rebuilding portions of the original 'pudding stone' fireplace in the back of the family room.

Since then, we've lived in other beautiful old homes.  But there is something about the Craftsman style that has stayed with us and will always be one of our favorites.   I can't wait to take some of that Craftsman aesthetic and use it on our bungalow!

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  1. Your ex-home ;) is amazing!
    EIGHT bedrooms?!?! Holy fright!
    You know we love our Craftsman and dreamt about living in one for years till we found this one.
    There's just something about their charm, isn't there?

  2. You're so right Leslie!!! There is something about this bungalow that just feels right. I don't quite know how to explain it, but it's so warm and welcoming - even its current state! I really think the Craftsman focus on simple, honest design has a lot to do with it.


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