Craftsman homes are on fire.

The vintage architectural style, characterized by natural surfaces meant to mimic their surroundings, is more popular today than it has been at any time since the Arts and Crafts movement swept the nation between 1900 and 1920.

And that's good news for L.A.'s real estate industry, considering that some of the largest Craftsman communities in the nation are found inside the county borders.

"A well-designed Craftsman gets the highest price and brings the rest of the market up," said David Raposa, owner of City Living Realty, which specializes in historical architecture. Raposa lives in a 1909 Craftsman-style home in the West Adams district, designed by Pasadena architect Alfred Heineman.

Steve Haussler, a salesman with Coldwell Banker in Pasadena, agrees. In the past three years, he says the bungalows have increased in value faster than vintage homes of other styles. For example, a three-bedroom, two-bath Craftsman in Pasadena, with river-rock porch trim, diamond-shaped window panes and a vaulted ceiling, recently fetched in the low $400,000 range a record for its size in the neighborhood.

"Houses in Bungalow Heaven don't stay on the market very long," said retired professor Kennon Miedema, who used to teach a course on the style and lives in the 12-square-block Bungalow Heaven historic district of Pasadena. "People want to get into the neighborhood."

Bounded by East Washington Boulevard, North Mentor Avenue, East Orange Grove Boulevard and North Chester Avenue, Bungalow Heaven contains more than 900 lots, and Craftsman houses sit on 58 percent of them. The city must approve any visible exterior changes to the historic structures. The same is true of five neighborhoods in the West Adams district near USC, which has special zoning overlays to prevent remodeling with such modern materials as stucco.

Rediscovery of the classics

Evidence is everywhere of the style's popularity from the 4,000 enthusiasts who flocked to Pasadena Heritage's annual Craftsman homes tour last fall, to the booming sales of the new lines of Mission-style furniture, to a raft of publications that include American Bungalow, a quarterly that claims a readership of 65,000.

In addition to Pasadena and West Adams, Craftsman bungalows are scattered throughout South Pasadena, Glendale, Eagle Rock, Monrovia, Leimert Park and the Westside. Pasadena has the country's largest concentration of restored Craftsman bungalows outside of Berkeley, where some were destroyed in recent quakes.

But the homes can be found anywhere that experienced a building boom between 1900 and 1920. That is, unless developers mowed them down to make way for more-modern structures which is what happened to many Craftsman homes located in the Wilshire district west of Western Avenue.

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