Why the film-love for craftsman bungalows?

My wife and I happen to love Craftsman bungalows, and arts and crafts and mission design. I’ve long noticed how prevalent the influences of these styles are on film and TV. Far more so than I observe IRL.

A couple of examples off the top of my head:
Last night my kids were watching Must Love Dogs, and Diane Lane lived in a cute little bungalow.
In the TV show Numbers much of the action takes place in a BEAUTIFUL Craftsman home.
In Everybody Loves Raymond, Ray’s living and dining rooms had a bunch of pricey Stickley mission furniture.

Wondering if anyone had any explanation? What is Craftsman supposed to say about a character?

I’ve noticed that, too. A couple more examples off the top of my head:

Million Dollar Baby

I suspect that the artistic appeal of the design is the reason it shows up in film. In the latter film, the house is the setting for the whole movie, so it was especially important to have a visually interesting house.

Could it just be that there are a lot of bungalows near L.A. and it’s cheaper to film in a rented house than to build one for an exterior shot? I know *Buffy *filmed in an actual house in a neighboorhood near the studio (and I think that was a Craftsman, but I’m not really up on architectural themes: Buffy’s house). Well, until they pissed off the locals with a 4 AM explosion heavy scene and they had to build a duplicate for future seasons…

The indoor sitcom home is ubiquitous, and I think we’ve decided in previous threads that it’s just A. Easy to film with two cameras at once without catching the other camera in the shot and B. It’s a holdover from proscenium stages, with a stage right, stage left, upstage and downstage, stairs at the back for more interesting entrances and exits.

I have noticed a trend in Hollywood to fill every scence with ‘stuff’ and ‘details’. The Craftsman style and related styles do very well to fill in all the backgrounds and scenes with ‘stuff’. The millwork, furniture, bookcases and everything else keeps the scenes from looking ‘stark’.

Most of the homes that are occupied by middle class people on screen are actually very expensive homes. And the decorations and finish work are very expensive.

Look at movies from the 60’s to 80’s and the homes seem cheap and empty. I think the style works well to add details on screen.

Yeah, i might be a little sloppy with my terminology, but in my mind, Buffy’s house is a clear example of what I mean. I tell you, they are ubiquitous.

I have no idea how common that style is throughout LA, although there are a couple of famous neighborhoods and several noteworthy buildings there. IIRC, Greene and Greene were quite active/influential there. The style is also very common up in the Pacific NW, so it is just about guaranteed that any character who is supposed to live in Seattle or thereabouts will be filmed living in a bungalow.

I think Craftsman/AC/Mission is just insanely popular right now, and TV and films are reflecting this rather than driving the trend.

Why is it so popular? I have no idea but I think about it a lot. I think they are very versatile styles – they all overlap with each other, first of all, and you could do a house in Craftsman style and have a few pieces of other stuff (colonial, for example) and it would blend right in.

I think one of the things that might be driving it is that there is no shortage of Craftsman-era homes. They are all over the place, in various states of repair and in all different income levels of neighborhood. You could spend a TON of money for lovingly restored Craftsman style in a ritzy area, or pick one up dirt cheap in a so-so neighborhood, or your parents might still be living in their original one. In terms of time, it is a lot more likely that people have their grandmother’s mission style sideboard as opposed to their great great great grandmother’s (authentic) colonial sideboard. In terms of location, you could get a modern condo and decorate it AC style and it would seem okay, as opposed to going with high Victorian, which might seem demented. Plus, a person could realistically purchase all the AC looking stuff at Pottery Barn, and high Victorian is most likely going to out of budget range for most. In terms of authentic stuff, as opposed to simply retro-looking, it was mass produced at all price levels, so you can collect (even with inflated prices) on a reasonable budget, and it’s still entirely likely to find it at garage sales.

One of the things about the TV appearances is that it is like your stuff, but usually better. (Not you specifically, but the average public person.) The Numb3rs house (which is so awesome that it sometimes distracts me from following the plot) is supposed to be this house that the parents got long before it was trendy, but in reality, I can’t imagine you could have it restored and furnished to that level of perfection without seriously investing in your home decor. Still, it’s close enough that it seems like it could be like my stuff. So it’s that TV thing, where viewers like seeing average but better. It might not be realistic to aspire to the exact Numb3ers house, but it’s certainly possible to get something along those lines.

The next big thing is going to be that “googie” style (hate the name, I don’t understand why it all of a sudden popped up, I like the look but for years have been calling it atomic style, which I like much better). Is that anywhere on TV yet?

Glad to hear I’m not the only one!

The next big thing is going to be that “googie” style (hate the name, I don’t understand why it all of a sudden popped up, I like the look but for years have been calling it atomic style, which I like much better). Is that anywhere on TV yet?

You mean outside of Jetsons re-runs? :wink: I seem to recall having seen bits and pieces in some of the young-adult shows my kids watch. Atomic wall clocks seem to be an easy way to convey that a character is “hip”. Or perhaps a lamp or two.

Hey, the Jetsons never go out of style! :stuck_out_tongue:

You notice, though, that you never see a true period bungalow interior - ugly white kitchen, dark dark dark colors, kinda oppressive woodwork…

I had no idea what that style was called, so thanks for fighting my ignorance. I know the style when I see it and always just think of it as “space age.”

I dunno. Zathura had that. At least with the oppressively dark woodwork.

Joan of Arcadia had such a home for the main family.

Design shows occasionally use mid-century modern which looks to be synonymous with googie?? I thought they were just using a snooty phrase for “50s-style”. :smack: But it looked like it’s more specific than that.

Oh yeah, I’d say that’s pretty much it. Maybe mid-century modern is a little more applicable within the home, after all, not everyone jumped on the over-the-top googie bandwagon. And they’re probably both snooty terms. :slight_smile:

Zathura took place in the Gamble House, a very famous Arts & Crafts house in Pasadena. The house was also Doc Brown’s house in Back to the Future.

You seldom see anything but gray and brown interiors, with the occasional muted floral wallpaper, in movies set in the depression years.

From a cinematography standpoint, the Craftsman-style house is ideal. They’re wide and flat (usually a single story or a low-set second story, like this. Because these houses are older, they tend to have a lot of follage to fill in the background, framing the house so that you don’t have bits and pieces of other houses in the background. (One downside of this is they often have tall spreading oaks or other expansive trees in in the yard, restricting filming times in natural light due to shadow or requiring elaborate artificial lighting.) And, as others have pointed out, they’re very popular in more historic areas of Los Angeles like Pasadena and Glendale, so they’re very convenient for television directors and low-budget filmmakers to use.

Most interior filming is done on sets because of the significant difficulty in fitting a film crew, lighting and power, et cetera into a room and still leave enough room for the cast to actually move around. The only practical way to film on-location interiors is with handheld cameras and a minimalist lighting setup. I doubt many of the shows you see with interior shots are actually filmed inside the building they use for an exterior staging shot. However, Craftsman-style houses tend to be a little more open in floorplan, with a large living room opening to a dining room or kitchen, and small bedrooms, so a set-layout that looks appropriate in a Craftsman is also easier to work in, even for a built-up sound stage set.

And besides, they’re just beautiful, earthy houses that tend to have rounded corners, wood floors, and door jams. Filming in more modern ranch-style or box condo homes would be, I think, just esthetically displeasing; as blah and anonymous as they look in person, I think they look even worse on film.

I’m hoping Johnny L.A. comes by to offer his opinion on filming in different types of setups, as this is his metier.


As I live in an area where there are Craftsman homes all over the place (not that I can afford one, I live in an apartment), there are film crews all over the place.

A lot of the Craftsmen homes in the San Gabriel Valley also don’t have a lot of distinctively West Coast plants (like palm trees) near them so they appear to be in Anytown, USA.

They’re my favorite house and the type I hope to own one day. I think they’re in so many movies because they’re spacious and quirky but elegant, old enough to have real character and new enough to be easily modernized. They’re also the one reason to watch You, Me & Dupree (Matt Dillon & wife own one).

See also the Weirs’ house in Freaks & Geeks.

Well, my boyfriend sets a lot of his film work in my 1928 Southern-style bungalow, but that’s 'cause he can’t afford to shoot at anybody else’s house. Guess he’s stylish. :wink: Seriously, though, the open floorplan does help a ton when you can’t afford to shoot on some huge soundstage set.