Design simplicity needn't be austere


October 16, 1994|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Q: As an admirer of the arts-and-crafts style, I'm gradually putting together a room based on this type of design. I could also use some information on the historical background of arts-and-crafts furniture. I've collected a few reproductions, but I'm only partly familiar with the antiques.

A: As you probably know, there were two major arts-and-crafts movements -- one in Britain in the late 19th century; the other in the United States a decade or so later. The two streams intersected at many points. Both drew inspiration from a diversity of sources, including Gothic shapes, Persian floral motifs and Japanese interiors.

In historical terms, the arts-and-crafts style can be seen as a reaction against the heavily ornamented and cluttered look associated with the Victorian era.

There's a certain flatness and simplicity to the room in this photograph, but it's certainly austere. The overall design may seem sharply geometric. Look more closely, and you'll see the nature-derived patterns on the fabrics and carpets.

These flowing and entwining forms are complemented by a pale floral palette consisting of violets, dusty blues, celadon green, peach, apricot and rose. But in keeping with the setting's geometrical quality, the colors were applied in a flat, stencil-like manner reminiscent of the Japanese wood cut. Most of the textile patterns are also small and two-dimensional, often resembling monochromatic cut-outs placed against the fabric background. This room actually exhibits a great deal of fidelity to the aims of the arts-and-crafts pioneers.

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