house design

A little love nest beside a stream, where red,

Red roses grow, our bungalow of dreams.

Far from the city somehow it seems,

We’re sitting pretty in our bungalow of dreams.

Thus went the chorus of “Our Bungalow of Dreams,” a song written in 1927 that reflects widespread affection for a building style that swept across America as the 20th century was born. Today these distinctive Arts and Crafts homes still grace cities from California to Cape Cod, retaining the elegance and grace of an aesthetic, social and industrial movement.

The story began in England and was largely authored by William Morris whose home decorating themes stood in almost stark contrast to the guilded and ornate households of the Victorian Age. He, and others, wanted a return to organic simplicity and designs that blended with the natural environment. His decorative arts became integral to a new architectural style that simultaneously developed, sailed swiftly across the Atlantic and was adapted by American builders and designers.

Birth of a Movement

The appeal of Arts and Crafts homes, with their open interior design, low profile and simplicity of line was about much more than style. It was a reflection of social change brought about by the Industrial Revolution. In England, Morris and his mentors bemoaned the effects of mass production and the loss of personal connection to one’s work. They urged return to the craftsmanship of the past, when individuals were invested in the quality – not the quantity – of their work. Morris’s home decorations fully expressed this ideal and used patterns from nature, natural dyes and wall papers made from wood block prints.

At the same time, the Industrial Revolution was slowly changing daily family life in England and America. People were moving to cities for work in factories and families were earning a living – one that allowed an increasing number of people to own a home. Their homes would be simple – no need for servant quarters and grand entryways. Exteriors would be simple and easily maintained. Gingerbread carvings were replaced by natural stone, brick and timber that distinguished several variations of Craftsman homes in America.

America’s Craft Masters and Marketers

The nation gave birth to many accomplished architects whose work exemplifies the Movement – Greene and Greene, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Julia Morgan among others. Wisconsin offered up Gustav Stickley whose woodwork and furniture fully embraced and expressed Arts and Crafts principles. He also published the first of many magazines and catalogs that helped to popularize craftsman homes and décor.

While the work of these noted architects and designers captured attention in the early 1900s – and continues to do so today, it was a more popular medium that made the Craftsman house, the beloved Bungalow, an everyday American dream. Sears and Roebuck Company, Montgomery Ward and other national retailers began selling Craftsman home plans in catalogs, along with materials, blueprints and do-it-yourself kit homes. Sears and Roebuck even included house paint in its kits. Michigan alone had three major companies selling Bungalow and Craftsman kits across America. The costs of the kits ranged from a little over $1,000 to about $2,500.

This mass marketing mirrored other changes in American cities. Roads were being built, streetcars and trolleys were carrying people to an increasing number of white collar jobs and the demand for home ownership soared. Building materials were relatively cheap and the American dream of home ownership was thriving.

American Craftsman Styles

Arts and Crafts homes come in a number of styles. The Bungalow was among the most popular and still prized today. It characteristically has one story, a brick or rock fireplace, a small porch supported by brick or simple wooden columns, and a gently sloped roof. Some Bungalows have a small half-story perched atop the traditional design. Within this broad class are several styles that reflect the use of gables and extended rafters.

The Craftsman home has a more grand scale than the Bungalow. Its two-story design features fine detail work around windows and on eves. Roof rafters are exposed and cut in simple, yet elegant geometric patterns. The Craftsman home was generally larger than the more modest bungalow, with additional bedrooms upstairs and larger common living spaces. Front porches with characteristic columns might span the width of the house.

Yet another popular style in the Craftsman genre was the Foursquare or Box House that was often built on narrow urban lots. The two stories of the Foursquare were separated by a piece of simple trim board and a porch graced the entire front of the home. As with other Craftsman styles, brick, rock and wood used in simple lines embellished the Box House which was one of the most popular kit homes for Sears and Roebuck between 1900 and 1920. Many of these Foursquare homes have become the two-up, two-down apartments of modern American cities.

So popular is the Craftsman home, there was a resurgence of new building in this style at the end of the 20th century. The organic feel of the family friendly homes continues to appeal to people who are building in the 21st century. And, as testimony to the fundamental principle of the movement expressed by William Morris, Craftsmen homes built 100 years ago remain standing and strong. Built with care, attention to detail and dedication to craft, they elegantly stand the test of time.


The elements of beam design is a topic of great interest for structural engineers and contractors. Beam design is integral in the design and construction of a structure. Most structural beams are comprised of wood, steel or concrete. Each of these construction materials reacts differently under the stress of a load. Each also has its own unique advantages.

Elements and Examples of Beam Design: Concrete Beams

Concrete beams are most often seen in commercial construction, such as in the erection of multi-level parking decks, hospitals, and large hotels. Concrete beams are also commonly used as bridge and highway supports. Some concrete beams are used in conjunction with steel beams to provide added strength. Newer concrete beams may also contain a hybrid material of traditional concrete mixed with Glass Fiber Reinforced Polymer (GFRP) or Carbon FRP.

Concrete is a strong building material, but it is susceptible to water damage and cracking. Iron bars are often included in the beams to add strength and stability over areas prone to greater stress. Concrete beams area also desirable for their ability to absorb sound and vibration.

Elements and Examples of Beam Design: Steel Beams

One very common type of steel beam is the I-beam. These I shaped beam are strong and moderately affordable. Steel beams are capable of supporting heavy loads without experiencing great amounts of deflection by distributing the load of the structure over the flange of the beam. Steel beams may be treated to prohibit corrosion and oxidation, especially when used near or under water, such as in bridge construction.

Elements and Examples of Beam Design: Wood Beams

Wood beams are common in residential structures. Wood beams may be notched or jointed together for added strength. Wood beams are inexpensive and easy to alter to a builder’s specifications. However, they are also susceptible to rot and insect infestation. Specially treated wood beams are now available that resist decomposition, moisture and insects, making them an attractive choice in beam materials for most homeowners.

Elements and Examples of Beam Design: Flitch Beams

Flitch beams are specially constructed beams that join a steel plate with adjacent wood panels to form one composite structural beam. These flitch beams are strong, yet less expensive and lighter than solid steel beams. The construction of a flitch beam results in a reduction of the overall size of the beam, and the wooden exterior also allows the builder to nail the beam to other existing wooden structures in the home.

Elements and examples of beam designs are plentiful. Beam design and selection are an important part of the construction process and the wide variety of beams to choose from allow a builder to meet the needs of each project more easily.