Craftsman Bungalow and French Country
By Rob Foster



I’ve thrown out terms like Charlopean and five, four and a door that depict a wide variety of styles in the Charlotte area. For this issue, I’d like to dissect a few of the architectural styles that are so prominent.


The Craftsman Bungalow

Ahhh…This is definitely one of my favorite styles. From simplicity to flow, it just makes sense.

Different combinations of “earrings” are found on the Craftsman Bungalow but the dominant feature is typically a large front porch.  The porches are big enough to have outdoor seating with room to spare – Norman Rockwell would be so proud.

Often wrapping down one side of the house, the porch makes the house appear larger than it really is, thus giving you more “bang for the buck”. A constant element found within the Craftsman Bungalow, the porch will always be supported by columns.  Many times, half walls are used between the columns – this is an ideal place to set a plant or to just sit on. Often these columns are two pieces; the column itself and the base it sits on. The base is usually either stone or brick and the columns are tapered wood, wood with panels, simple round or the same material as the base. The ceilings of the porch are either painted or a stained beadboard wood paneling.

Since the garage is often found in the rear of the home, the steps off the porch can come out the front or the side. The facades of the Craftsman Bungalow are usually lapped siding, cedar siding, cedar shakes, or brick and even brick or stone accents. The massing of these homes is typically gables, both front to back and left to right. The gables will have an assortment of vents or windows in many shapes and sizes. The overhangs typically are larger than normal with brackets in the rakes.

As we discussed in the last issue, the Craftsman Bungalow style makes great use of the space under the roof since you will often find clipped or sloped ceilings. Not to worry, as this is a part of the bungalow charm.

The windows are typically popped out with dormers or on gable ends. Sound flow with the floor plan is created with openness on the lower level and minimal halls upstairs.

You won’t find a stair turret, but a well defined staircase is usually very visible.  Oversize stair newel posts and wood railing tend to make the space feel warm and inviting.

Vertical beadboard up to a chair rail is common, while openings from space to space are squared off. Again, the style is very simple inside and out.

The best way to sum up the feeling of the Craftsman Bungalow style is by noticing the details that make the style, look away, and then look back. You will find that not one “earring” jumped out, but the whole house reads as one. Now all you need is the big ferns hanging on the porch, a couple of outdoor chairs and the Sunday paper. This is the way it was eighty years ago and will be for eighty years to come.




French Country

From All-Americana, we now go back to the Old Country. French Country is the style at hand and it’s a very popular style in Charlotte and surrounding areas. I ask clients, “What style are you looking for?” When new home builders and homeowners mention “timeless”, they’re typically going in that direction.

There are many variations of French Country. (In my book, the more authentic the better.) Attention to fine detail is a must. Budget may be a concern when building this style of home, but the results of a well built classic will be well worth it.

One of the most dominant features of a French Country home is the use of multiple materials and colors. Of course, the colors need to work well with each other. Staying with earth tones creates an aesthetic balance. Grays and browns are often the colors of choice. The exterior façade is usually brick and/or stone and possibly stucco in areas. Both techniques of scraping the mortar across the stone façade and weeping mortar are quite common.

Metal is often used over bayed areas or dormers or perhaps a side entry porch. This along with iron or copper light fixtures becomes the “bling bling” of the home.

The front door is one of the showpieces on the home.  Designed not only to let light in but also to dictate the caliber of home you are entering…as do the stone piers or  posts typically found flanking the cobblestone or decorative concrete driveway and often accommodated by gas lanterns.  These elements set the ambiance as you approach the home and emulate the age old look embodied by the French Country styling.

Another showpiece is the hallmark turret.   Here’s where you’ll find an impressive staircase. With the volume ceiling, it becomes the true focal point as you enter the home.

In authentic French Country, arched windows or openings in a stone façade have an arched brick header above, sometimes multiple headers. The rakes of these stone facades may have a row of bricks running up the wall to the roof.  This is called a brick frieze. The brick is used to transition from the rough stone to a smooth wood frieze board. The windows on this style are typically thinner than normal, usually casement (or crank out) in style.

Next to these windows you should find one or two wood plank shutters with shutter dogs. (A shutter dog is a metal arm that holds the shutter in place.) In the authentic style, one shutter was used with a string attached to the sill so it could be closed. The vents and high accent windows are thin and tall in design.

The roof lines in general incorporate gables. Hipped roofs are also used on occasion. The floor plans, like many styles, are usually open. Stone chimneys and exposed beams in vaulted ceilings bring the outdoor architecture indoors. You will have arched openings as opposed to squared cased openings. The look should be very clean –less is more. The use of brick on interior walls is also common with this style. Open balconies with juliets is a way to showcase the ironwork inside.

The French country style, like so many European styles, tends to be called the “timeless” look. The intent is for it to look old and authentic from day one. There are communities in the Charlotte area where builders and homeowners are held to this look. Longview Country Club is a great example.

I’ve been asked many times why there is only one shutter next to a window and not two. My answer is “This is the way it is supposed to be. It all goes back to the practical authenticity within the style.” Once the client is informed, he begins to look at homes differently. We live in a relatively traditional market, but as diversified as we have become, true architectural detail will become more and more important.

Written By Rob Foster

Robert T. Foster
Design Studio

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