up on the styles and philosophies of William Morris and Charles
Renie Macintosh, the American Arts & Crafts movement offered a
total way of life-grounded first and foremost in the design of the
home and its furnishings.
Arts & Crafts ideal stressed simplicity, natural
materials like wood and brass, and a return to
individual craftsmanship-as opposed
to the newly dominant methods of mass production. Ornament in
Arts & Crafts pieces is limited, and when present, it is meant to echo the
function and construction techniques of the piece.
& Crafts pieces were made between about 1895 to 1915 in the U.S.
They are based on heavy, rectilinear forms balanced by exquisite
details that serve to visually lighten their lines. Visible tenons
connect parts of a chair, and Corbel brackets reinforce joints to
create graceful profiles. Open parallel slats abound, and stained
glass is a staple of Arts & Crafts lamps and home design,
contrasting the stability of wood with the soothing presence of air
A classic Arts & Crafts lamp.
Wooden base with mica lamp shade.
& Crafts house plans emphasize integration of the house and its
environment, using indigenous materials and open visual and physical
passage between interior and exterior. Porches, terraces, and porte-cocheres
are key to this merging of house and nature. Floor plans
are asymmetrical and open, often blending living rooms,
dining rooms and reception areas into a flow of spaces.
A blend of natural textures; wood, ceramic and
Arts & Crafts was dominated by Gustav Stickley of Upstate New
York, Greene & Greene of California, and of course, Frank Lloyd
Wright. While Greene & Greene and Wright were heavily influenced
by Japanese design, and worked mostly in the high-end market,
Stickley and his counterpart Elbert Hubbard tried to bring the
earnest 'Craftsman Ideal' to the mass production process. They each
designed and manufactured the heavy, slatted oak and leather
furniture that now fetches top dollar at auctions. They also
published magazines-Hubbard's The Roycrofter and Stickley's The
Craftsman: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine in the Interest of Better
Art, Better Work, and a Better and More Reasonable Way of
Living-featuring bungalow blueprints and other craftwork guides that
are still used by devotees of the Craftsman Ideal.
of Arts & Crafts Style:
and scale, along with the interplay between linear movement and the
spacious qualities of light play an integral role in creating
balance and harmony within the room.
As the entrance, and welcoming space of the house, doors and porches
played an important role in the Arts & Crafts movement.
& Crafts doors were often of plain plank construction, fitted with
elaborate hinges and latches, rather than knobs, inspired by
medieval forms. Later in the movement, painted motifs became
popular--either freehand or stenciled--and were supported visually
by the use of stained glass.
The importance placed on light and air is reflected in the large
window areas of later Arts & Crafts houses. Sash windows were commonly
used, often incorporating leaded glass as a key detail. Elongated
window proportions exemplified this style and one would commonly see
the pairing of an upper sash bearing small rectangular panes with a
tall, single-paned lower sash.
Arts & Crafts
Color played an important role in the decorator's approach, and a 3
part division of the wall into dado, field and frieze was almost
always employed. Full paneling on walls was used on occasion, and
stenciled friezes were also favored. With the design of fine
wallpapers, lead by Morris and Company of London and Warren, Fuller
and Co. of NY, wallpaper was also an accepted wall covering. Early
papers boasted floral and medieval designs while the later period
would take on Japanese influences. Tapestry hangings were widely
used in late interiors.
In the early period, remaining true to medieval designs was
preeminent. Treatments included chamfered beams, designed plaster
ceilings, with occasional painting and gilding. Decoration that
incorporated painted stenciling was desirable, but as the cost might
be prohibitive, ceiling papers, often embossed, became much more
common. In the later periods, intricate, prefabricated plaster work
was frequently used.
Being true to this movement, it was generally considered that only
wood or stone was acceptable for floors. Indigenous woods in America
were used, oak or maple, most commonly.
Carpets were regularly used,
and though authentic Indian, Turkish and Persian carpets were
favored, often machine-manufactured carpets were the norm.
A strong design element of the Arts & Crafts movement was the regular
use of built-in furniture. It was practical and minimized the
clutter that was common in the Victorian era. A window seat beneath
a bay window or a bench and sideboard against a wall in the dining
room might be incorporated into the house design, for example.
The desire for openness and light stimulated the use of
stained-glass in the Arts & Crafts environment. Doors, windows, wall
partitions to lamp shades were all treated with this colorful
material. With the development of the electric bulb, lighting took
on a new meaning within this period. Glass in combination with fine
ironwork resulted in innovative ways to accent - as well as provide
functional light for - the indoor environment.
Stenciled mosaic patterns and hand
painted scrolls embellish
this Arts & Crafts powder room.