No Love for Craftsman Style?

By Dave Fratello | June 27th, 2017

craftsman-homeThe Craftsman style for homes is a western phenomenon, but an American classic nonetheless. If you love homes and/or art, you probably find it easy to love Craftsman homes. ("Craftsmen?")

In Manhattan Beach, homes styled with the Craftsman look are fairly rare. And getting rarer.

In a way, that rarity is too bad. We're running out of viable home styles in this market, with Mediterranean on life support, "Plantation" at risk of overexposure and variants of the shingled Cape Cod look being just about the only reliable crowd-pleasers besides moderns. (Spanish style has a chance for a bigger role, but you don't hear people demanding it.)

Instead of seeing more proud Craftsman style homes out there today, though, we see homes that are being restyled away from their original Craftsman character. 

Changes in color schemes and a lot of white paint over Douglas Fir can move a home built as a "Craftsman" into a more beachy direction. 

2909 Laurel Avenue Manhattan Beach CAConsider 2909 Laurel (5br/4ba, 3700 sqft.). It sold new in 2005 as an "elegant Craftsman home," with the expected Craftsman woodwork, fixtures, style and details prevalent.

In 2011, 2909 Laurel resold. Back then, 6 years ago, it was marketed as a "top quality... Craftsman." But they also referred to it as a home with "the charm and feel of a plantation home built in the South."

It's got to be the home's ample front porch (a nice feature) that drew in that reference to "plantation" homes - a few years before a new "beach plantation" style became all the rage in Manhattan Beach.

Now it's 2017, this former Craftsman home is 12 years old, and the home has been redone to much better reflect today's tastes.

It has earned this marketing plug: "best of the best plantation design."

2909 Laurel Avenue Manhattan Beach CAStrategic remodeling has, in large part, pushed Craftsman into the background and made this more of a bright, beachy, "contemporary" home.

Soft greens on the walls of the main living spaces gave way to bright grey. Doug Fir frames around doors and windows are now mostly painted white. A master bath that once featured a dark grey slate floor, dark tile in the shower and black stone counters now looks every bit the part of new, with white tile, marble and a sand-toned countertop.

So that's a transformation. It works.

Looking back at photos from 2011, we see a totally different home against what's on offer today. We brought clients through the restyled home recently, and it was one of the favorites of the day.

1031 Duncan Avenue Manhattan Beach CAYou can see something similar at 1031 Duncan (5br/4ba, 4200 sqft.) in the Hill Section.

This 2004 build was marketed not long ago, in 2013, with a bold proclamation of its heritage: "The Arts and Crafts movement rolls forward with this modern custom Craftsman home."

No more. The greens are, once again, gone. Both outside and inside.

A blue-shingled home is more beachy. Sleek slabs of white marble make for more modern counters than the old wood and granite.

By luck, the baths originally used a lot of white and subway tile, a nice choice you might make today in remodeling a bathroom - so the updates there were straightforward.

Once again, the whole package works well. The listing doesn't name the style for today's version of 1031 Duncan one way or the other, it just presents the home as "beautifully upgraded." Which it is, even if you can still play, "I spy the Craftsman in this house."

As you tour each of these homes, actually, you'll still notice the occasional Craftsman detail. The original oak cabinetry of a kitchen island, a recognizable style to other built-ins that are now painted white, maybe a touch of stained glass or a light fixture left over from the original, Craftsman-leaning design.

It's not so much that the styles clash. But you can see the old home under the new. 

Perhaps some day, when Manhattan Beach enters a Craftsman revival phase, some of the homes in town that began as such will be lovingly restored to their original style.

Or maybe they'll just keep getting restyled as the years go by, putting them more and more in line with mainstream tastes - just as we see today.

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