Fine quality survives changes in taste and technology By Design: Aspects of the arts and crafts movement, such as a large scale and simple forms, reappear in contemporary settings.

October 01, 1995|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

Even though contemporary interior design may sometimes seem entirely free-form, closer examination reveals that it often does follow a certain logic, if not a firm set of rules.

For example, some of today's strongest trends are clearly derived from a century-old style: the American arts and crafts movement.

To some of the snobbier connoisseurs, the arts and crafts movement never qualified as "beautiful."

It lacks graceful lines, these critics complained, and its color combinations can be jarring.

Other tastemakers, however -- especially west of the Mississippi River -- embraced arts and crafts as a bold and distinctive expression of its era.

This style was itself much influenced by Japanese architecture and furnishings, which were much in vogue in late 19th-century America.

Arts and crafts was thus characterized by simple forms and by flat, silhouetted patterns, as opposed to three-dimensional decorative art.

But the objects and furniture that the movement produced also tended to be large in scale and emphatic in their styling -- a reflection, perhaps, of the style's American identity.

Many of the same directions can be discerned in contemporary design.

Shapes are becoming more straightforward, while the "bits and pieces" of interiors -- moldings and decorative items, for example -- can no longer be considered cutesy.

Indeed, the current tendency is toward over-scaling.

The setting shown in the photo strikes me as a characteristic application of arts and crafts styling.

What's immediately obvious is the sheer size of the fireplace surround, including that imposing mantel.

An abundance of wood moldings and ceramics makes the scene still more vivid.

Also in keeping with the style's spirit, the iron, bronze and steel pieces are all hand-forged, thus contrasting sharply in texture and design with the colorful ceramic tiles.

Still apparent in the setting's rich simplicity is the influence of Asian artisans.

Despite the relentlessly fast pace of change during the past 100 years, we find that some design philosophies remain just as appealing at the end of this century as at its beginning.

Technological advances, it turns out, haven't had much effect on certain aesthetic preferences.

High-quality design, in other words, always stands out -- even when it might seem that yesterday's rules no longer apply.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.