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Arts & Crafts Architecture

The Arts and Crafts movement was born as a rejection of the grim industrialisation characteristic of the mid-19th century. It promoted the revival of traditional building crafts and the use of locally sourced materials.

Inspiration came from vernacular architecture, as well as medieval, Tudor, Elizabethan, Jacobean and Georgian architecture: those periods perceived to have the greatest craftsmanship and quality. The most important exponent was Lutyens, who, with a few simple elements could achieve strikingly original effect. His early houses rely upon half timbering, but later in his career he turned to the classical vocabulary.

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
William Morris, 1834-1896

The major players

The main protagonist of the Arts and Crafts movement was the designer-cum-poet, William Morris who was inspired by writings of the art critic John Ruskin, notably his essay on The Nature of Gothic from his book The Stones of Venice, in which he combined praise of the Gothic architecture of northern Europe (including Venice) with a critique of 19th-century society, particularly the monotony of factory production and the deskilling of the individual worker, which destroyed any natural creativity. The solution lay in the medieval past and medieval architecture with its rich variety of ornament, embodying those individual craft skills being lost through the copying of standard forms. Morris sought to put Ruskin’s ideas into practice, by reviving medieval standards and methods of making artefacts, being true to materials, traditional constructional methods and function to the essence of design. In 1861 he set up his company Morris Marshall Faulkner & Co to promote these ideals and produce objects of beauty incorporating the craft skills that had begun to be lost.

Architecture was also to be reformed through traditional building crafts, the use of local materials, and be free of any imposed style. Function, need and simplicity (without spurious ornament) were to inform design, encapsulated in the work of Philip Webb, Richard Lethaby and Charles Voysey. Although Morris’s decorative work was rich, intricate and colourful, he preferred plain and unadorned buildings; his favourite was Great Coxwell Barn which he described as ‘beautiful as a cathedral’.

The movement declined in England after 1900 but was influential in Europe, mainly in Germany through the publication of Hermann Muthesius’s Das Englische Haus and the creation of the Deutscher Werkbund (1907). It is also seen in the United States with the work of Frank Lloyd Wright (a founder member of the Chicago Arts and Crafts Society) and Greene & Greene in California.

Examples of Atkey and Company’s Arts and Crafts period products can be seen by clicking on the links at the bottom of this page. Click here to see the full Arts and Crafts catalogue range.

William Morris, the influential designer-cum-poet of the Arts & Crafts movement.

Products in the Arts and Crafts joinery collection