The American Arts and Crafts Movement began toward the very end of the 19th century. It was in many ways a lifestyle philosophy as much as it was an artistic movement and an architectural movement that encompassed both, interior and exterior design, landscape design as well as the decorative arts. It remained quite popular throughout the United States through the 1930’s. Several revivals of this style have arisen down through the years and continue even through recent times.
Born out of the British Arts and Crafts movement that was started by English socialist, artist, writer and textile designer William Morris, the American Craftsman style movement placed more value on things that were hand-made versus things that were mass-produced. Ironically, the movement was in a very real sense a product of the Industrial Revolution, which inflicted mass indignities on workers and devalued the value of human labor. The movement sought to ennoble the craftsman and hand labor.
Proponents of the Arts and Crafts movement saw the aesthetic of the Victorian-era architecture as excessively opulent. The arrival of the Arts and Crafts movement in the United States coincided with what was essentially the conclusion of the Victorian era.
“The Craftsman” (1901 to 1916) was a magazine founded by furniture maker, philosopher, designer and editor-in-chief Gustav Stickley. It was an American magazine that featured a variety of Architectural designs and home plans. Gustav Stickley published designs that were done in the Arts and Crafts “Craftsman” style. Many of these designs were bungalows done in the Arts & Crafts style, and designed by such prominent architects as Wright and Greene & Greene. Also, the Craftsman style reflected a growing shift in focus from the upper class to the middle class.
- The Arts and Crafts Movement favored simplicity and handcrafted elements made of locally acquired materials like glass, metals and woods. There was a certain elegance in simplicity of these designs. The homes featured low-pitched roof lines, with gabled or hipped roofs and large, projecting eaves supported by decorative brackets or even exposed rafters.
- Under the main roof was the front porch, which often extended along the entire front side of the house. The roof was supported by squared columns that had a tapered appearance.
- The windows were double-hung in 6-over-1 or 4-over-1 fashion.
- Consistent with the philosophy of the American Arts and Crafts Movement all woodwork, stonework and masonry was done by hand and made of local materials. It was not uncommon for a variety of materials to be mixed throughout the home instead of just a single material.
- American Frank Lloyd Wright was one of the leading architects behind the Prairie School style, which was itself an extension of the American Craftsman style and its emphasis on the middle-class and quality, hand-made home design. The Robie House on the University of Chicago campus is a good example of his American Craftsman inspired Prairie School work. Designed for a business client the Robie House, completed in 1910, is widely considered a masterpiece of the Prairie style as well as a precursor to architectural modernism.
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