Arts and Crafts principles
of simplicity, fine craftsmanship, and a
preindustrial aesthetic, the early twentieth century
furniture maker and architect Gustav Stickley
developed a peculiarly American style that
eventually came to be known after the popular design
magazine he published from 1901 to 1916, The
Once a month
starting in 1904, The Craftsman featured a
home plan based on the
Arts and Crafts
philosophy, usually featuring deep,
overhanging eaves, large groupings of casement
windows, open floor plans, and an abundance of
natural materials like wood and stone.
Craftsman style became widely popular during
the early twentieth century, giving Americans
of relatively modest means access to
high-quality architecture and design for the
A classic Craftsman Style lamp.
Wooden base with mica lamp shade.
Like the work of
Frank Lloyd Wright and the Pasadena architects
Greene & Greene (who catered to a more affluent
clientele), Craftsman homes were meant to be
built with local materials and sited with
sensitivity to the surrounding landscape so that
they appeared almost to have grown organically
out of it. Principles of Craftsman design were
widely popularized, even finding their way into
lower-income housing in the form of Sears “kit”
Craftsman home, form followed function, structural
elements and lighting were exploited for their
decorative value, and built-in cabinetry, benches,
and bookcases added both beauty and utility to the
living areas. Full, wide sleeping porches and
rustic fireplaces are central features of these
homes. The fireplace is often built of stone and
flanked by built-in bookcases to create an
furniture designs took their inspiration from
William Morris, but their honest, somewhat
utilitarian aesthetic is distinctly American.
Usually made of quarter sawn oak in rectilinear
shapes, Craftsman-style furniture ranges from
sturdy, slatted “Mission”-style desks to bed
frames with long, elegantly tapered bedposts.
Armchairs and rockers are upholstered in natural,
simple materials like canvas and leather. Like
Arts and Crafts furniture, Craftsman
pieces are often constructed with traditional
cabinetry techniques like mortise-and-tenon
joinery and hammered-metal hinges and handles.
interiors do not necessarily have to consist of de
rigeur early twentieth-century antiques. Any
wooden furniture with good craftsmanship and
clean, simple lines will work with this style --
particularly if the natural beauty of the wood is
the main attraction. Accessories are important,
both to evoke the period and to lighten up the
dark wood tones that predominate in Craftsman
homes. Against the background of simple white
walls, hardwood floors, oak-beamed plaster
ceilings and built-in cabinetry, use stained glass
accents, Tiffany lamps, and the glint of metal in
the form of pewter accents or brass candlesticks
to add sparkle. With accessories, the honesty and
warmth of the Craftsman basics can be customized
to your taste, whether that runs to more
contemporary elements like sisal floor mats,
period pieces like Lalique glass or pre-Raphaelite
art, or ethnic accents like
Mexican textiles and
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.
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. 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 Stained Glass
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 Craftsman 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.