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THE PORTLAND CRAFTSMAN: A HISTORY AND GUIDE TO A TIMELESS REMODEL


(Portland Craftsman style house. Image via apartmenttherapy.com.)

There are many unique and charming characteristics and details about the Pacific Northwest, and more specifically, Portland. It’s one of those cities that is easy to like, and even easier to love. While this can be attributed to almost any of the special things about Portland (the excellent restaurant scene, the proximity to nature, the beautiful climate…(just kidding), there is undoubtedly something special and exceptionally charming about the architecture. If you couldn’t already tell where this is going, we’re getting into the history of the Portland Craftsman style house. These packed-with-personality architectural staples of every Portland neighborhood may sometimes appear clownish to some, but they are actually a testament to the city’s commitment to preserve and honor the creative spirit, and the value of craftsmanship; of building something top to bottom with dignity. Let’s dive in!


(Another gorgeous and fun modern Craftsman. Image via curbed.com.)


Starting in the mid-1880’s, England had developed a movement called the Arts and Crafts movement, which was a design philosophy characterized by medieval conceptions of handmade, artisan produced goods (hipster much?). This came to be as a reaction to the popularization and abundance of machine-made, poor quality products that were saturating the market during those times. The industrialized Victorian landscape just wasn’t cutting it anymore for the major thinkers and tastemakers of the time, and the culture this kind of industrialization harbored was a culture of stressed and burnt out workers coming home exhausted and dirty, to small and packed housing at the end of the day (sounds familiar!!) The Arts and Crafts movement was founded around the idea that workers would have a sense of accomplishment and dignity through utilizing their craftsmanship by building their products from beginning to end. The implementation of this movement would also allow for people to live closer to the land where they could get materials, which would in turn encourage less need for industries that cause pollution (preservationartisans.org). Hmmm...sounds like a modern day concept. Who says you can't learn from history?


(A historic craftsman. Image via irvingtonpdx.com.)


(1930's Craftsman style bungalow. Image via pinterest.com.)


Thus, the Arts and Crafts house was born, and later came to America in the 1910’s by way of an interpretation by Gustav Stickley in his Craftsman Magazine, which provided hundreds of plans for American Arts and Crafts houses. Eventually, Craftsman became the generic term for any house built in the Stickley Craftsman style. Out here in the Northwest, Craftsman style houses can usually be identified by the generous use of natural wood, which makes sense since we’re smack in the middle of lumber country! The abundance of this material specifically encouraged incredibly creative and ornamental uses for wood in this style of house. Another characteristic of the Portland Craftsman is the large, exposed, beams to create the illusion of grandeur inside, and as support for a sweeter, more down-to-earth porch out front (although the most recognizable feature out here is usually the unique and funky way homeowners tend to paint these beloved Craftsmans) (preservationartisans.org).


(Painted craftsman style house in historic Irvington. Image via pdxmonthly.com.)


Now, let’s say you live in one of these wonderful, endlessly charming Portland Craftsman houses, and you’re looking to modernize a little. This style of house is, after all, over 100 years old! There are ways to modernize while still maintaining the integrity of the beautifully detailed charm of the house as a whole. For one, the wood trims, molding, and columns would be almost near tragic to lose entirely. Ideally, it would be a good idea to keep the original woodwork, but if it’s not possible try opting for thick custom molding of your choice. You can either make it ornate and detailed and stay true to the Craftsman style, or make it modern! Either way, some custom molding would fit right in with the rest of the house.


(A renovated 1907 Craftsman. Image via nytimes.com.)


There are, of course, a multitude of ways to modernize your Craftsman while keeping it true to its essence through, for example, making updates to appliances, installing a kitchen island, creating eating/working/leisure spaces out of existing nooks, doing a grand fireplace remodel, updating outdoor living spaces, the list goes on! Here are a few of our favorite Craftsman remodels with a modern twist:


(Modernized fireplace renovation from the same remodel as above. Image via nytimes.com.)


(Stunning kitchen renovation in 1920's Portland home. Image via architecturaldigest.com.)



(Craftsman bathroom remodel. Image via houzz.com.)


Feeling inspired by the spirit of craftsmanship? Thinking about bringing your Portland Craftsman into this century? Reach out to us through our website, or email us at info@webuildforward.com. We would love to hear from you and help make your dream home a reality!


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