Clean lines and balanced proportions are the key ingredients for this classic trim treatment.
Synopsis: The simple elegance of the Craftsman style has fueled its popularity for more than 100 years. Boston-area finish carpenter Tucker Windover outlines his method for installing Craftsman-style window casing, starting with a discussion (and illustrations) of how he develops an appropriate design; Craftsman style has no specific rules for window casing, only the need to keep the dimensions proportional to the room they’re in. Windover provides advice on the best way to choose and prepare lumber for stain-grade Craftsman-style casings, and how to solve construction problems that frequently become the trim carpenter’s headache.
Any cook will tell you that the fewer ingredients there are, the more important each one becomes. That’s especially true with Craftsman-style trim treatments. This style has its roots in England’s Arts and Crafts movement, which emphasized folk art and the workmanship of the individual craftsman. However, what developed in America as a residential Craftsman style was in many ways a reaction to overadorned Victorian homes built during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Gustav Stickley, who founded the periodical The Craftsman in 1901, became the purveyor of a style that strove to strip away excessive ornamentation and instead celebrate functionality and pleasing proportions. In the best examples of the period, the look was both simple and elegant.
That was then. Most of the time nowadays, my crew and I trim out windows and doors with off-the-shelf primed finger-jointed moldings. Sometimes, however, a client hires me to create a specific look. This requires me to shift gears and dig into my bag of tricks, which is the most enjoyable part of being a trim carpenter. Recently, I was asked to install Craftsman-style window and door casing.
Good examples spawn better designs
To help me settle on a design for this project, I did four different drawings of a window to try variations of Craftsman-style casing. This allowed me to experiment with the size and the proportions of the elements before I did any cutting.
Ancient Greek and Roman temples established a proportional system that relates the horizontal entablature to the height and diameter of the columns that support it. Similar proportions can be brought to bear on Craftsman-style trim for windows and doors. While this is a good starting point, keep in mind that modern homes generally aren’t designed with classical proportions.
Lacking a ready-made template, I looked not only at Stickley’s work but also at casing treatments created by the Greene brothers, who were famous for the Craftsman-style homes they designed in California during the early 1900s. What I learned is that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all casing for the Craftsman style. A room’s ceiling height and its window size affect decisions about casing dimensions. Formal areas such as a front entry door traditionally call for wider casing. In closets and small rooms, bold trim can be overdone. The challenge is to let the casing add strength, mass, and mood without becoming overbearing.
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