Behind the Style: Arts & Crafts
Styles flow in and out of mainstream popularity depending on the feelings of the moment and one style seeing a resurgence in our home’s interiors in 2021 is Arts & Crafts. This article delves into the origins of the Arts and Crafts movement, its key features, and some contemporary examples of interiors in this timeless and sustainable style.
WHY ARTS & CRAFTS NOW?
In difficult times, society focusses on what is important and the home is no exception to the rule. Alongside addressing work and lifestyle balance, people are currently re-evaluating their buying habits with environmental issues front-of-mind. These changes are spilling into multiple industries, naturally filtering into home interiors and the luxury prime property sector. As consumers focus on sustainability, they are moving away from a culture focused on interior trends and mass-produced items. As a result, we see a revival of the Arts and Crafts movement which focuses on unique, hand-crafted, durable and timeless designs that reject a throw-away culture.
The arts and crafts movement originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a response to the excessive décor of Victorianism and the mass production of consumer goods created by the first industrial revolution. The Arts and Crafts movement was created to improve the quality of domestic interiors by reviving the applied arts.
In 1851, the first-ever international exhibition of manufactured products was held in Hyde Park, London. The exhibition was created to showcase British manufacturing whilst comparing goods to those of its international competitors.
The exhibition, although extremely successful, also created a movement of people who wished to preserve individual craftsmanship and design. Those artists and designers who criticised the manufactured items on display were unhappy with the decline in craftsmanship and the imitation of the ornaments, believing that the once hand-crafted items had additional meaning and nobility. These concerns were argued strongly by architect Augustus Pugin and famous art critic John Ruskin, a committed social reformer who believed in the value of labour and craftsmanship.
John Ruskin’s works would influence William Morris, a designer, artist, and poet that led the Arts and Crafts movement.
Morris started his career as a young apprentice for the Gothic-Revival architect George Edmund Street. Morris had a great interest in medieval architecture, art and nature, moving in the same circles as the painter Edward Burne-Jones and the Pre-Raphaelite artists, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Morris believed fervently in the importance of creating stunning, well-made objects that could be utilised in everyday life and produced in a way that celebrated the craftsman as the designer. Morris would often look to the past, particularly the medieval period, for simpler and better models for both living and production, arguing a return to manufacturing achieved small-scale workshops. William Morris founded the design firm Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co, dedicated in the hope of preserving manual craftsmanship and artistry in an era of mass production. The firm’s commercial success led to the reformation of art and design at all levels across multiple disciplines.
The core characteristics of the Arts and Crafts movement are:
- Raw, truthful materials with a focus on their natural qualities
- Simple forms that hero and celebrate the construction of the object
- Designs, motifs, and patterns inspired by nature
- Vernacular designs focused on traditional disciplines and techniques
ARTS & CRAFTS ARCHITECTURE
Arts and Crafts Architecture can be challenging to identify as the movement isn’t really a defined style but rather an intellectual approach to many styles.
Although not always obvious, Arts and Crafts properties tend to have a familiar mood and approach that encourages an informal but cultivated style. Although not mutually exclusive to Arts and Crafts architecture, the following characteristics are common:
- Arts & Crafts homes celebrate their construction method, from brickwork and stone masonry to large oak frames and timber beams.
- They are often generous in proportion featuring wide porches, pointed window arches and large, low roofs.
- Arts & Crafts homes follow traditional proportions with low eaves.
- Large chimneys are a standard design feature; they are often tall and wide with ornately decorated stacks with traditional brickwork or stonework.
- The windows often consist of multiple, small panes set in hung casements, usually timber or metal.
- The doors of Arts and Crafts properties are often broad, substantial, and sturdy and constructed from solid wood. Statement porches also feature, which may include a recessed area or arched opening.
- Arts and Crafts designs follow a simple and open floor plan.
- Arts and Crafts homes often follow Vernacular architectural principles, designed from locally available materials that reflect custom and tradition more than mainstream architectural fashions.
- The designs use natural raw materials and textures such as stone, brick, and wood.
- The rooms tend to be light and airy, designed to connect with the outdoors.
- Arts and Crafts architecture closely ties to the interior design of the property with hand-crafted and well-designed decorative finishes, textiles, and useful objects.
Red House is a significant Arts and Crafts building located in Bexleyheath in South East London, England. Co-designed in 1859 by the architect Philip Webb and the designer William Morris. It follows British Vernacular architecture featuring solid forms, a steep roof, pointed window arches, brick fireplaces and wooden fittings. The Red House is characteristic of the early Arts and Crafts style.
ARTS & CRAFTS INTERIORS
The interior and exterior of Arts and Crafts properties are equally important, with simple but sophisticated design and exquisite craftsmanship serving as hallmarks of the movement.
Nature is a consistent theme throughout Arts and Crafts style, especially in interior design and the decorative arts. Arts and Crafts textiles and wallpaper designs bring the natural world indoors. The countryside inspires the designs, which often feature motifs that honour traditional country hedgerows and flowers, fruits, and colourful birds.
Although the movement rejects the overly embellished Victorian style, it embraces ornament as long as it is secondary to utility. Arts and Crafts designs can still be highly detailed and decorative. More traditional designs use earthy tones, including reds, oranges, deep greens, and golden yellows. In homage to authentic practices, Arts and Crafts wallpapers and textiles favour natural dyes over synthetic equivalents, as these are kinder to the environment and people also embrace the natural aging of the material over time.
Simplicity and utilitarianism are core features of Arts and Crafts furniture, focusing on robust construction and form. Authentic designs are often rectilinear in shape and hand-crafted using traditional mortise-and-tenon joiner that removes the need to use nails or glue.
Following simplistic finishes rooted in nature, furniture is usually crafted from robust woods like oak and left natural rather than stained.
ARTS & CRAFTS IN 2021
The Arts and Crafts movement has become increasingly relevant as we take a renewed interest in how products are made and their overall impact on our environment. In 2021 we see a move towards simpler times, where the items we purchase have a meaning beyond just their practical usage.
Homes of all styles are combining high-end design pieces with hand-crafted objects that have meaning and substance.
Modern designers are reworking archival prints into new collections, creating contemporary Arts and Crafts textiles and papers.
People are opting for hand-finished furniture pieces that demonstrate traditional craftsmanship techniques while celebrating the craftsman as the designer.
Designers and artisans are being commissioned to create unique one-of-a-kind pieces for the home.
NATURAL & SUSTAINABLE MATERIALS
Consumers choose paints, textiles, materials, and furniture made from natural raw materials rather than human-made or synthetic.
People are buying more locally, supporting independent brands with a boutique approach that celebrates true craftsmanship and design techniques.
At Extreme, we have always celebrated craftsmanship and traditional artisan techniques so we are thrilled that the Arts and Crafts style is experiencing a resurgence.
Many of our clients look for fitted furniture that reinterprets historical designs, full of honesty and craftsmanship. An Extreme kitchen becomes part of a home’s everlasting life rather than a trend that will be replaced. This approach to design not only safeguards our client’s investment, it also creates a focus on designs that are sustainable, unique, and enduring.
To find out more about our design approach, contact our designers by calling 01344 627567 or request an appointment online.