Saturday, June 15, 2024

Craftsman, Prairie, or Mountain Modern: Which One Do You Prefer?

Luxurious new construction home in Bellevue, WA. Modern style home boasts two car garage framed by blue siding and natural stone wall trim. Northwest, USA

Residential architecture in the American West is distinct in many ways. Three of the most popular design styles to have appeared in that part of the country over the last hundred years are craftsman, prairie, and mountain modern. Of the three, do you have a preference? If not, do you know the differences between them?

Mountain modern is the most popular in terms of modern design and construction. Craftsman and prairie design styles are still out there, but you find them mainly in existing homes. Not a lot of people are building new houses in either style. It is not to say those styles are irrelevant, but simply that people prefer mountain modern and other options.

The Craftsman Movement

The craftsman movement, also known as American craftsman, was America’s version of the British Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th century. Both British and American architects saw their respective movements as a way to turn back the clock on the industrial era while simultaneously ushering out the Victorian designs that had remained so popular for so long.

Craftsman style architecture is all about simplicity and modesty. At the time it was born, the Victorian and colonial homes of the Northeast were big and imposing. They were ornately decorated. Wealthy landowners in the mid-Atlantic region and deep South also preferred large and audacious structures.

Out West, a new way of life was just beginning. Settlers were seeking a new adventure. The towns they built were built on a combination of hard work and dreams of something different – just like their homes.

The Prairie Movement

Largely viewed as the first uniquely American design style, the prairie style was established by none other than Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright borrowed the simplicity of the craftsman style and combined it with his belief that buildings should somehow reflect the environment in which they are built.

It is ironic that Wright adopted the simplicity and modesty of the craftsman movement but still embraced size. Some of his prairie style homes are exceptionally large yet are still very basic in presentation and adornment.

Wright homes were known for their clean lines and open spaces. Wright himself, though not a disciple of the German modernism movement, did combine elements of modernism with his prairie design concept. That is why you’ll see that a lot of his homes have function built-in to them.

The Mountain Modern Movement

Mountain modern architecture borrows from both the craftsman and prairie designs philosophies. Once again, modesty and simplicity are core principles. However, mountain modern architects – like Sparano + Mooney Architects out of Salt Lake City, Utah – are not afraid to embrace size. They are not afraid to build a much larger craftsman style home that pays homage to the mountain environment in which it sits.

A core principle of mountain modern is the focus on local building materials. Builders source their materials locally whenever possible, ensuring that a home matches up with the surrounding environment. Enhancing those local materials is a concerted effort to preserve as much of the land and its surroundings as possible.

Sparano + Mooney says that a genuine mountain modern design looks to blur the lines between indoors and out. For example, floor to ceiling windows completely open the view of a home to the outside world. Often times, mountain modern homes have outdoor living spaces purposely designed into them as well.

Craftsman, prairie, and mountain modern are all distinct and separate architectural styles. But they do share some common elements. If you are familiar with all three, do you prefer one over the rest?

Narek Harpo
the authorNarek Harpo