Craftsman Style Fireplaces

Craftsman Style is also known by the terms Mission Style, Prairie Style or Arts and Crafts Style, and predominantly spans the period between 1910 and 1925.


A homeowner DIY featured on This Old House

Craftsman style evolved as a rejection of ostentatious Victorian design. Where the Industrial Revolution created many factories that churned out cheaply made products in great mass, Americans in particular embraced the concept of furniture and homes built by skilled craftsmen that took pride in the work they did. Skilled craftsmen are paid a better wage and while factories put many people to work at low paying jobs, a true craftsman earns a better wage and enjoys a bit more affluent lifestyle. They created simpler products by hand; objects and homes built for the people, by the people and endowing a source of pleasure in both the maker and the user.

Richmond's Fan neighborhood and Museum District boast a huge population of Craftsman style row houses in addition to the Four Squares found in Ginter Park and the bungalows throughout numerous other areas. Cottage, Mission and Tudor homes are further architectural styles based on Craftsman home design. These are homes artistically built by hand using natural materials to create homes with open floor plans, stained wood floors and wide angular trim. Built-in cabinetry is common. There is an abundance of windows to bring in natural light, and often these windows are stained glass. Tile is quite common for the fireplace, kitchen and bath, with a focus on elements from nature, and always in a tranquil matte finish. Paint and tile colors focus on those from nature: soft greens and yellows are comon as well as a true sky blue. Craftsman style, above all else, features angles and straight lines that create symmetry.

At left is shown the fireplace design from a Sears kit home from the 1920's, and epitomizes the Craftsman style fireplace. Although built on an exterior wall, the fireplace bumps into the room and therefore drafts better. Flanking the fireplace to each side a space is created for built-in shelves, cabinetry or seating and windows are nearly always positioned above the cabinets.

Because of the era in which Craftman homes were popular, the fireplace may either be a small and shallow coal burning fireplace (under 24" wide and 4" to 12" deep) as most popularly seen in urban areas where coal could efficiently be delivered, and these fireplace provided the main source of heat in some homes of the era. Alternatively, homes built toward the latter time period (and often further out of the city where coal delivery wasn't common)  the fireplace will often be wider - closer to 30" wide and 12" to 18" deep - to accommodate wood burning.

I'm sensing a theme here. This is called Squirrel, right facing ... love the fluidity of the design. Carreaux du Nord, Two Rivers, WI.
Squirrel tile from

Interestingly, the angular architecture of Crafstman designs did incorporate some of the natural elements of the earlier Art Nouveau era which featured curving, fluid lines based on items found in nature such as vines and flowers, often combined with leaves, birds and animals into ceramic tiles surrounding fireplaces and a good deal of leaded and stained glass was used in sun-filled colorful windows. If you're looking for ideas to refurbish your Craftsman era fireplace, updating it with colorful tiles will provide a whimsical transformation while paying homage to the home's original style. This traditional iron screen, shown left, is a simple style that's well suited to a Craftsman fireplace.

The very dark interiors of many Craftsman homes really needed those windows! As the decades have marched on and light, bright interiors have become highly sought-after, much of the original wood trim and cabinets have been painted. White or other neutral colors can help modernize the interior and even help create a contemporary style.  
Gas logs offer the
convenience of gas
for an open, decor-
ative fire
A gas coal basket fits smaller fireplaces like those find in city homes  

If you're looking to convert your Craftsman era fireplace to gas, you have 2 basic options. For a decorative, open fire you can install gas logs if the fireplace is at least 24" wide and 15" deep. If the fireplace is smaller than that, it indicates the fireplace originally burned coal and a gas coal basket in a simple style will not only fit it properly, it will look most true to the period of your home. A fireplace screen will help keep kids and pets out of the fire, or install glass doors which also helps stop heat loss when the fire is not in use. Just make sure and have the chimney checked first to make sure it's lined and in good operating condition before converting to an open gas fire.

If you'd like to convert your fireplace to an energy-efficient heat source, consider installing a gas fireplace insert. The Senator and President models shown at right fit the smaller coal-burning fireplaces and offer a choice of a log fire or coal effect fire. Their smaller, more angular designs will look great in your Arts & Crafts era fireplace. Featuring a glass window, they don't pull air from your house while creating clean and efficient heating performance while heating as much as 800 to 1000 sq. ft or so. The installation includes the use of dual 3" diameter chimney liners (one liner brings combustion air down the chimney while the other serves to exhaust the fumes). Coincidentally, this installation will provide safe operation that addresses chimney issues where the chimney is unlined or has poor drafting performance. If your fireplace is larger, consider a Legend gas insert, shown left, available in 3 sizes to fit assorted fireplace sizes. The gas inserts include a thermostatic remote control, allowing you to set the desired room temperature. A little extra heat is often well appreciated in an older home!

When adding a new fireplace, consider the practicality and clean aesthetics of Arts & Crafts style fireplace designs. Stained wood is not necessary, but the ability to create a dedicated wall in the room that incorporates shelving, built-in seating and even perhaps installing your TV above the fireplace provides an ideal focal point in the room. The fireplaces below were designed as part of home makeovers featured on some HGTV home renovation projects using Craftsman style design ideas, updated for today's more contemporary style.







Want some great design ideas? Check out our Craftsman Fireplace Design board on Pinterest