Big Ideas/Small House 

A Craftsman cottage on South Willett.

Memphis has an abundance of fine Craftsman houses, but not all of them are the bungalows and four-squares that are emblematic of the style. The Craftsman cottage was also important. In his influential book, Craftsman Homes, published in 1909, Gustav Stickley showed many cottage designs, including "A Small Cottage that is Comfortable, Attractive and Inexpensive" and "A Pleasant and Homelike Cottage Designed for a Small Family." Until the 1930s, most popular magazines and home-design books regularly featured plans such as "The Perfect Little Maidless House."

This cottage in the Central Gardens Historic District has elements typical of the Craftsman style -- simple linear detailing of the architecture, a low-pitched gable roof with a deep overhang, robust brackets supporting a gabled entrance canopy -- but its nearly symmetrical facade and center chimney give the house some strong Colonial Revival overtones made even stronger by its white exterior. The blend of styles is not surprising on this house built in 1927, since by the mid-1920s the Colonial Revival had eclipsed the Craftsman in popularity. New exterior colors in an earthy palette of sage greens, autumnal golds, or terra cotta would accentuate the Craftsman heritage of the house.

The house originally had only four rooms, but it has been modified and expanded over the years. The living and dining rooms are on the front, separated by a fireplace. The chimney breast has been stripped of its mantel and plaster, revealing rough brickwork which has been painted. Restoring the wall finish and mantel and adding a cabinet or bookcase next to the fireplace could provide the sum of details usually found in Craftsman interiors. The surprisingly large bedroom also has a fireplace. An enclosed side porch and a large back addition enlarged the bedroom, giving it a full bath and a seating or home-office area. With a door added for privacy, the dining room could be a second bedroom or study. The original full bath is at the end of the hall between the dining room and kitchen.

The rear addition more than doubled the original size of the kitchen. The bright, airy space is twice as long as it is wide and has a cathedral ceiling with exposed beams and a clerestory window in its gable end. Storage, food preparation, and laundry areas are concentrated on one end along with a breakfast bar that could also be a handy place for folding laundry. The other end of the kitchen could be a cozy den or dining area.

The Arts and Crafts movement popularized the concept of the house and garden as a unified whole, and outdoor living spaces were a major component of Craftsman design. Rather than having a yard or lawn, a Craftsman house had a garden that was treated as an outside room or a series of rooms, each with a different character and plantings. Stickley's Craftsman Homes includes a chapter titled, "Porches, Pergolas, and Terraces: The Charm of Living Out of Doors." True to the Craftsman ideal, a brick-paved garden terrace fills the entire south side of this lot. French doors from the dining room and a single door from the kitchen open to the garden, which is enclosed by brick wall. A wrought-iron archway leads to the front yard; adding a garden gate would make this a truly private enclave. A driveway and detached garage fill the north side of the lot. In its own small way, this cottage is a stellar example of Stickley's ideal "pleasant and homelike cottage."

204 South Willett Street

1,300 square feet

1-2 bedrooms, 2 baths


FSBO, 351-5588

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment



Hungry Memphis

Rizzo's Closing (temporarily) for Repairs

Intermission Impossible

Addicted to Capote? Cloud9 and Mark Chambers tell Tru Stories

News Blog

U of M to Open Tech Research Facilities

News Blog

Explore Bike Share Looking to Expand Staff

News Blog

UPDATE: Water Rights Hearing Postponed Until May

Beyond the Arc

Is It Time To Crank Up The Tank?

News Blog

Commercial Appeal Moving to Peabody Place

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Music Video Monday: Bleu Levees

News Blog

Media Group Proposes to Buy Gannett Co.


More by Marsha Oates

© 1996-2019

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation