Arts & Crafts: The Movement & The Design Styles for Architecture & Interior Decorating
The Arts & Crafts Movement: More than an Architectural and Interior Design Style
This page provides a review of the Arts and Crafts movement and its main variations written by a specialist in historic interior design (me). The information on this page will help you create the right look for c.1900 period home decor.
You will find decorator tips, information about colors, fabrics, furnishings and accessories as well as photos and resources to help you decorate in any of the variations of Arts and Crafts period decorating styles.
The Arts & Crafts Movement
Philosophy and Origins
The Arts and Crafts Movement was a philosophy as well as a design movement in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (c. 1890-1915). Developed in reaction to the transformations in craftsmanship caused by the industrial revolution, it emphasized individual design and craftsmanship while also being a social and environmental cause.
Many of the leading proponents of the movement were active in socialist causes as well as artistic endeavors. In the United States, the Arts & Crafts/Craftsman movement was the aesthetic counterpart of Progressivism, also a social reform movement.
For now, it is important to know that the Arts & Crafts movement was just that. It was more than a style but embraced a well-articulated popular philosophy and aesthetic.
Arts & Crafts Style
The Arts and Crafts movement overlapped with and grew out of the late Victorian (Eastlake/ Aesthetic, Gothic Revival) period. In response to the excesses of the Victorian era and the increasing reliance on manufactured mass-produced furnishings and other items, the Arts & Crafts movement focused on a return to simplicity and craftsmanship.
This style of home decor is based on heavy, rectilinear forms visually lightened by details and/or construction techniques. The use of parallel slats with equal spaces between them and stained glass inserts in doors and walls are two examples of this.
The Joinery and support (e.g. corbels) are visible and incorporated into the design of the building or funiture. The contrast of air and light, the stability of wood and open space created an overall effect that was warm and both solid and graceful. Ornamentation is minimal and used to subtly enhance the lines, function and construction of the piece.
The Morris chair shown here (above right) exemplifies the Arts & Crafts style's design dictum.
300+ gorgeous color photos of 24 exemplary Bungalows with detailed, easy-to-read text. If you haven't yet fallen in love with this style you will after reading this book.
For Your Arts & Crafts Library - American Bungalow Style
The American Bungalow Arts & Crafts style home had many regional variations, but common features generally included low-pitch roof lines on a gabled or hipped roof, deep overhanging eave that extended to cover a front porch with exposed rafters or corbel brackets under the eaves. They were built using local materials and were very popular from 1910 to 1925. Bungalow style houses were built in some areas of the country until 1940.
The Arts & Crafts Movement in America
American Craftsman Style
Craftsman style is rooted in the Arts & Crafts movement and frequently the two are neither distinguished nor distinguishable from each other. It takes its name from a popular publication that featured the Arts and Crafts influenced designs introduced by Gustav Stickley.
There were regional variations in Craftsman styles of architecture and interior design across the United States. Bungalows, for example, which were more modest versions of Arts & Crafts houses, were extremely popular. Bungalows were generally built in planned neighborhoods of the early 1900s and the style was embraced by the burgeoning middle class.
The Prairie style of the midwest and the Mission style that was inspired by the early American Colonial missions of the southwest are two other regional variations of the style. We will discuss these variations in more detail later on.
For more about Gustav Stickley, William Morris and other names associated with the Arts and Crafts Movement, see Part 2 of Arts and Crafts Period Interior Design and Home Decorating: Names to Know.
What to Look For in Arts & Crafts Style Interior Decor
You can still find a wide range of period antiques including pottery, metal work, furniture, and more from the Arts & Crafts/Craftsman/Mission period. Names to look for include Roseville, Rookwood, Roycroft, Weller, William Morris, Gustav Stickley, Walter Crane, John Ruskin, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and others. There are also many fine reproductions available as the style is currently popular again (or still, depending on your perspective).
Look for abstracted art-nouveau influenced flat or shallow incised designs, hammered metals, gothic-influenced iron strap hinges, construction joinery as part of the design, an emphasis on linearity as opposed to curves and on functionality.
Popular motifs included stylized depictions of flora and fauna. Birds, Roses, Tulips, Sunflowers, Rabbits, Dragonflies, Pinecones, Peacocks, and Deer were some of the most frequently used. The Arts & Crafts style was a bridge between the former Art Nouveau style and the Art Deco period that followed it. Both of these traditions are also evident in the Craftsman era.
Arts & Crafts Colors Are Taken from Nature
Arts and Crafts colors are a harmonious palette taken from nature. Earthtones including Ochre, Madder red, Hunter and Olive greens and blue, gray, and beige shades of Stone predominate. They are dusty, muted, and soft tones that generally avoid pastels and primary colors. Please note that because computer monitors do not accurately and consistently depict color so the photo should be considered an approximation.
Arts & Crafts / Craftsman / Mission Style Furnishings
For Period Home Decor
Great deals can still be found on authentic antique Arts and Crafts furniture and new furniture in the style is also popular. New pieces range from top quality pieces still being produced by the Stickley company and hand-crafted copies made from original patterns to assemble-it-yourself "Mission" furniture scaled smaller for apartment living and tighter budgets.
"Mission" furniture is very versatile. It mixes well with Gothic Revival and Eastlake styles as they share the same roots -- and often the same artists and designers. It also works nicely when combined with country primitives and Asian influenced styles as well as some modern pieces.
140 exquisite photographs demonstrate how the Craftsman style has brought warmth, comfort, and utilitarian ease to homes past and present.
Note: Despite the common usage, Mission Style is not the same as Craftsman/Stickley Style. See section below on Regional Variations for additional information.
Arts & Crafts Fabrics - For Period Interior Decorating
The Arts and Crafts era saw a resurgence of the "Renaissance Man" in many ways. William Morris, for example, was a prolific author in multiple genres, a designer and artist equally comfortable designing typography, illustrations, books, rugs, embroidery, wallpaper, stained glass, tapestries, curtains, furniture and textiles, as well as a philosopher, social activist, and businessman.
Period fabrics feature patterns, colours and textures that combine intricacy and simplicity and range from subtle to dramatic. Interweaving both sinuous nouveau-influenced and angular abstracted shapes, these fabrics often beg to be touched, examined more closely, and admired tirelessly. Whether woven, block printed, screen printed, stenciled or embroidered, you're sure to find a fabric that is the perfect complement to your Arts and Crafts interior decor.
New & Vintage Arts & Crafts Style Fabrics
You can still find authentic William Morris, Charles Voysey, and other period designs in vintage & new reproduction fabrics for drapery, upholstery, bedding, and other interior decorating projects. The ones shown above are from Restoration Fabrics & Trims.
Arts & Crafts Area Rugs
Area rugs were used to add warmth and create accented areas in the Arts & Crafts home. Rugs, like furmiture, were sometimes included in an architect's designs for upscale homes and were custom made-to-order.
In order to create an authentic historic style interior decor, hand-made area rugs are a necessity but wall-to-wall carpet should be avoided.
Area rugs do not have to be custom designed, but should be chosen with care to complement your space, furnishings, color scheme, and purpose.
Your choice of rugs is also a great way to personalize your home decor. Whether flat-woven, hand-knotted, tapestry or another type, Arts & Crafts rugs featured geometric and abstracted art nouveau style designs and sometimes a combination of both.
In addition to the nature-based and other motifs described above, gingko leaves, trees, solid areas with a decorative border, and imported persian and oriental rugs with strong design elements were popular.
Rugs in the Craftsman, Bungalow, Prairie, or Mission style home should preferably be made from a soft wool.
Use of an appropriate rug pad is highly recommended as it provides safety from slippage, more cushioning, protects your floors, and extends the life of the rug.
Select New Reproduction Rugs to Complement Your Arts & Crafts Home Decor
We've personally chosen these because of the appropriateness of the designs and colors and the quality and value. All of these ship free and are available in different sizes. Most are also available in other colors.
Not sure what size area rug to get? Click Here.
Arts & Crafts Pottery & Metalware
The Quintessential Craftsman Home Accessories
Skill, craftsmanship and the use of local natural materials were the hallmarks of the Arts and Crafts Movement. In addition to woods, clay and metal were frequently used materials. Hand-crafted pottery and metal items were popular household items during the Craftsman era.
By the late 1890s there were hundreds of small pottery studios and metal manufacturers, each focused on blurring the distinction between art and utility. It was also a productive time for experimentation and many new glazes, techniques, and discoveries revolutionized the industry.
From ashtrays and bookends to cutlery, desk accessories, fireplace tools, hardware, pitchers, jardinieres, and vases, utilitarian art objects exemplified the Arts & Crafts philosophy and helped define the Craftsman style home.
The majority of metal items were made from copper but silver, brass and pewter were also used. In addition to fashioning items from various metals, metal was also used for lighting. Metal in Arts & Crafts period lighting can be structural, decorative (as in overlays on slag glass) or both.
Some pieces were cast in bronze, others were forged, such as ironwork, but most items were created by intense heating and stretching or bending and hammering create the design, which is usually drawn from nature. Glazing and hand burnishing complement the design and protect the finish. Although frequently more work intensive and expensive to make than pottery, Art metal is usually more affordable than art pottery.
Due to its emphasis on individual craftsmanship, most pieces produced during the Arts and Crafts era were signed. Some names to look for in metals include Heintz, Roycroft, Dirk Van Erp, Gustav Stickley, Buffalo Art Crafts and the Forest Craft Guild. However, don't be surprised if you come across a piece with a name that is not listed in any of the relevant references.
Working in copper was somewhat of a craft fad at the time and quite a few pieces made by amateurs can be found. These vary considerably in quality as one might expect but the prices are usually much lower than "name" pieces.
Potteries included Newcomb, Dedham, Grueby, Pewabic, Marblehead, Rookwood, Roycroft, Weller, Roseville and many others. Arts and Crafts pottery is highly collectible and prized so it also can be very highly priced. Although some pieces can still be found at garage sales and thrift shops on occasion, and one can still be lucky enough to get a great buy at auctions, it often seems that most affordable pieces have already been snatched up. Fortunately there are many high quality reproductions being produced by independent potters and small firms. Many of these not only feature typical Arts & Crafts shapes and motifs but also use the same glazing techniques from a hundred years ago.
Arts & Crafts Era Lighting - Adds A Warm Ambience to Your Home Decor
Beauty, harmony and utility exemplified the Arts & Crafts Movement philosophy. When these principles were applied to lighting the results ranged from primitive-like and boxy to Gothic inspired and intricate Art Nouveau designs. In addition to the usual types of Arts & Crafts motifs, designs also incorporated elements of classical and colonial revival styles.
Electric lighting was still new around the turn of the 20th century and most fixtures were attached to walls or ceilings and the designs incorporated metal "pipes" similar in appearance to the way gas fixtures were hung. Fixtures were not hung by chains until cloth-covered wiring became available. Styles ranged from simple single one-bulb pendants to more elaborate chandeliers with multiple arms and levels. Flush mounted fixtures might be used in kitchens, bathrooms and hallways but were not considered appropriate for more "public" areas of the house.
After 1910, due to the invention and availability of different bulbs, hanging bowl fixtures were also made, allowing for more indirect lighting. Some later Arts & Crafts or "Mission" light fixtures look garish with today's bulbs as they were designed for bulbs that gave a warmer, softer light.
Lighting for Arts & Crafts, Craftsman & Bungalow Interiors
Arts & Crafts interiors were often dark due to the paneled walls and darker muted colors used, so table and floor lamps were also frequently used and staircases might feature a lamp mounted on the newel post.
The idea was to have "pools" of light to highlight or accent certain areas of the room, not to brighten the entire space.
It is important to realize that, although considered bright after years of gas and oil lamp lighting, the bulbs available at the time gave off light approximately equivalent to today's 25 watt incandescent bulbs.
Bases were usually metals like copper and bronze, but wood and pottery bases were also used. Shades were leaded, slag, or painted glass and mica in addition to parchment, fabric, paper and sometimes alabaster or leather. (Mica shades were made by forming sheets from the translucent flakes of the mineral combined with shellac.)
Lamps could also be made partially or entirely of wicker, sometimes with the shades lined in fabric. Styles ranged from simple geometric shapes to the elaborate designs of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Although we might think of lamps other than "Tiffany" style as plain, it was not unusual to find those also hung with prisms or trimmed in fringe to further diffuse the light.
Some Arts & Crafts lighting was individually hand-crafted while others were mass-produced or a combination of both methods. Whichever you choose, Arts & Crafts lighting was not designed just to brighten the nights. It was designed to add warmth and coziness to your home and is an essential part of Arts and Crafts interior design to consider when planning your home decor.
The Craftsman style of furniture most often associated with Gustav Stickley is often wrongly referred to as Mission style. This is incorrect because Mission style, and the subsequent Spanish Colonial revival style, refer to the style of the Spanish Missions of the southwestern United States, especially in California. Mission style features arches and have a definite Andalusian (Moorish-influenced Spanish) flavor.
What is generally referred to as Mission style today, including the ubiquitous category of "Mission Oak" furniture is frequently an incorrect label. The Mission style of the Arts and Crafts movement should more accurately be called Mission Revival, which enjoyed its greatest popularity between 1890 and 1915, actually preceding the Craftsman/Stickley style.
Mission style conjures up the cultures of Morocco and North Africa, Spain, and Mexico.
It blends seamlessly with the artistic genius of southwestern, Native American, and a utopian Californian vision. In looking at these structures, it is difficult to remember that the Pueblo Indians first crafted expressions of Spanish Mission architecture under the supervision of Franciscan friars in the 1600s.
This book artfully puts the timeless beauty they created into perspective.
California Romantica features the most important, yet rarely seen, residential exemplars of the California Mission and Spanish Colonial styles. From whitewashed stucco walls and cloistered patios to tile roofs and sumptuous gardens, each house shown is a masterpiece, splendidly appointed with authentic Monterey furniture, California tile, and Navajo rugs. Among the seaside estates, canyon villas, and courtyard bungalows is Diane Keaton's former home in Beverly Hills, thoughtfully restored with noted designer Stephen Shadley, for which she has been recognized as a committed preservationist.
Mission Style Lighting
Exquisite, detailed photos of interiors and exteriors of over 40 houses created by Frank Lloyd Wright and his followers.
The Prairie School originated in Chicago and refers to a style of architecture and interior design originated by Frank Lloyd Wright, who was influenced by Louis Sullivan. In turn, the style is also applied to the generation that followed Wright. It is mostly associated with the midwestern United States, but did spread to other areas.
For more about the Prairie school, see Arts and Crafts Period Interior Design and Home Decorating Part II.
Prairie Style Lighting for Period Decor
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There's More in Part 2
For more about the Arts & Crafts Movement and the people who inspired and shaped it, be sure to see Part 2 of Arts and Crafts Period Interior Design and Home Decorating: Names to Know.
© 2011 Chazz