Arts and Crafts Movement: The Beauty of Quality Craftsmanship

A Return to Quality Craftsmanship

Adherents to the Arts and Crafts movement wanted to emphasize the beauty and quality of things constructed by traditional workmen. During the late 1850s, markets across Europe were flooded with poor quality manufactured goods, and the founders of the movement felt that it encouraged people to mindlessly buy useless things they did not need. Rather than decorating a chair with fancy-looking but poorly executed metal working and printed fabrics, an Arts and Crafts adherent would make a chair with fine hardwoods, each piece carefully cut, sanded, and stained, and upholstered with simple but durable and beautiful leather.

Arts and Crafts in Architecture

Arts and Crafts architectural style can be described as country, quaint, natural, and asymmetrical. It emphasizes the local, natural materials and techniques used to construct buildings for hundreds of years. The movement does not lend itself well to large public structures and civic buildings. The Arts and Crafts movement can be seen most prominently in private homes and estates across the English-speaking world.

Red House, London

The most famous early Arts and Crafts home is Red House, located south of London. It was designed by William Morris, one of the original founders of the movement, as a country home for himself and his family. It is made of red brick with steeply-pitched roof of matching red tile. The exterior does not have any superfluous ornamentation, all the beauty and decoration of the building is also functional: windows are arched, doorways and windows may have separate gables to give the shape of the house visual interest.

Stoneywell House, Leicestershire

In the late 1800s an Arts and Crafts architect designed a group of cottages near the town of Ulverscroft in north-central England. The largest house is called Stoneywell, and it is located on an outcrop of exposed bedrock. Made with locally found stones, the house follows the exposed bedrock so that the ground floor is actually at three different levels. It is meant to look and feel like a natural part of the landscape. Like the Red House, it also has a steeply-pitched roof, and the doorways and windows are embellished with beautiful slate lintels.