With simple shapes, strong lines and limited ornamentation, the Arts and Crafts style is as relevant today as it was a hundred years ago. It became popular in the early 1900s as a backlash to the ornate style of the Victorian Era that preceded it. The style also was a rejection of factory-produced furniture that was coming into place through the Industrial Revolution.
Pioneers of this era include Gustav Stickley, a furniture maker who coined the term ‘Craftsman,’ and architect Frank Lloyd Wright, whose Prairie Style was inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement. If you feel inspired by the purity and craftsmanship of the Arts and Crafts style, take a look at five of its signature characteristics:
1. An abundant use of wood. The natural, organic beauty of wood is at the center of the Arts and Crafts style. In fact, it’s probably the single most important element. While the Victorian Era made use of heavy, dark woods, Arts and Crafts style chose a lighter palette. Rarely painted, light stained oak is the iconic wood of this style, but you’ll find pine and maple as well. The Breckenridge Six-Drawer Dresser by Gascho is made with the same craftsmanship as the pieces created during this style’s original era. Handmade of oak, it’s a gorgeous piece and an instant heirloom.
2. Art-glass lighting. While the furniture was simple and functional, ornamentation came in the form of art-glass lighting. Shades were set in hammered copper or burnished brass, with lines that mirrored the architectural features. Mica, Tiffany or Tiffany-inspired lamps became very popular, with clean, angular designs. This Tiffany Style Floor Lamp has a dome shade made of hundreds of pieces art glass, each wrapped in copper foil and then soldered together in a unique pattern.
3. Functional furniture. In contrast to fussy Victorian Era pieces, Arts and Crafts furnishings went back to the basics with well-proportioned pieces with well-defined purpose. Sturdy yet comfortable, the simple furnishings were built to last, with furniture makers paying attention to detail and quality. The Saber Server, also by Gascho, is not only a beautiful piece; it provides plenty of function with ample storage that holds not only china and linens, but up to five 12-inch leaves, as well.
4. Exposed joinery. The Arts and Crafts movement celebrated workmanship, and handiwork was on display. Instead of being hidden behind trim, joinery was highlighted. In addition to finely crafted details, metal hardware as beautiful as the furnishing itself was a defining feature. This Post & Rail End Table is a good example of fine craftsmanship. Built with reclaimed pine, it uses internal dowels that are mortised and tenoned with supporting hardwood.
5. Colors from nature. Finally, fabrics and paints in an Arts and Crafts home were inspired by nature – considered to be the greatest designer of all time. Colors were chosen to provide an overall feel of warmth, in organic hues such as brown, forest green, dusty blue and rose. The metals used also have a rich patina and look like they came from nature, including bronze, brass and copper, complementing the signature wood tones. The Marisol II Accent Chair is a beautiful example of the Arts and Crafts style, with a wood frame that highlights the soothing stripes of its fabric upholstery.