Arts and crafts style remains popular


June 26, 1994|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Few designs for domestic interiors have been more influential during the past 100 years than those associated with the arts and crafts movement. Since its beginning in England in the latter part of the 19th century, this movement has never lacked followers, and seldom has it been so widely admired as in present-day America.

The arts and crafts movement started as a rebellion against industrial design and mass production. Mainly geometric in its form, the English version of the style is also noted for its metal ornamentation and stylized floral designs in textiles and wall coverings.

The movement arrived in the United States early in the 20th century, attracting such notable exponents as Frank Lloyd Wright. On this side of the Atlantic, the style took on a somewhat Japanese flavor. Oak was a favored material for both arts and crafts architecture and furniture, which exhibited scant embellishments in their American variant.

Such styling proved particularly popular in the Midwest, where the comparative absence of a European classical design legacy made it intellectually acceptable. The scale of arts and crafts design also fits perfectly with the Midwestern landscape itself and with the so-called prairie houses built by Wright and his many disciples. The interiors of these homes were designed in accordance with the American arts and crafts aesthetic: simple, strong and heavily timbered.

It's not difficult to understand why this look is so popular today. With its natural materials and fibers as well as its hand-crafted appearance, the contemporary version of arts and crafts styling has been embraced by environmentally conscious sophisticates who do not want to live amid prefab surroundings.

Not everyone, however, will take to the chunky and austere lines of arts and crafts furniture. In addition, the prices of originals or even good reproductions have put this style beyond the reach of most people.

There are, of course, alternate ways of furnishing contemporary American homes. But many of them incorporate certain features of the arts and crafts movement, which is one of the most influential interior design developments of the 20th century.

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