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A Series on Design Styles: Arts & Crafts and its Influences


Arts & Crafts: Craftsman, Mission, Prairie


Previous Mentions

If you look back through the blog, you'll see a few references to Frank Lloyd Wright, and maybe even to Craftsman style. One of the first projects I had here in Arizona, coincidentally one of the first posts for the blog, was to develop plans for an addition to a home in a Historic District of Phoenix. Why mention such an early post? The Historic House is a little brick Arts & Crafts; it has built-ins, a key feature of the style that allowed for every day clutter to be tucked away when visitors came, while not over-filling the house with furniture. Though it was built outside the style's key time period, the home is an example of Arts & Crafts. It was also during that project when I mentioned Frank Lloyd Wright for the first time.

How about some design history before I continue that chain of thought.

Design Styles History

Arts and Crafts came at the end of the Industrial Revolution in England, and it was a revival of craftsmanship. The goal was to improve the worker's pleasure at his job. Soon after the artists became craftsmen and craftsmen became artists,  a style developed visually. The furniture pieces were natural and unpretentious- meant for a country estate and not an urban mansion (during that time period). Finishes included the ever popular wood, some decorative tile, and even linoleum (which is a material often misunderstood); colors were earthy: tan, brown, rust, and green (as well as their various tints, shades and hues).

Here in the United States, one architect (Gustav Stickley) traveled to England just before 1900 and brought back his take on the movement: Craftsman. Though the name eventually changed to Mission, the style has much in common with Arts and Crafts, due to the nature of Americans to prefer plainness and might. While there can be examples in the eastern half of the U.S., the movement was taken up with vigor in the southwest and western states.

Greene Brothers

Brothers Charles and Henry Greene built perhaps one of the most iconic Arts and Crafts homes in the United States, specifically on West Coast. The Gamble House of Pasadena, CA is an Arts and Crafts home that incorporates both Japanese and Hispanic influences. Such influences came from California's historic structures of the time and the World Expo in Chicago during 1893 where the brothers were impressed by a Japanese pavilion. Chicago is an amazing melting pot for the U.S. where design is concerned, most notable of the Chicago-influenced fellows is Frank Lloyd Wright.

Frank Lloyd Wright

Mr Wright, in his day, built 400 buildings of the 1000+ he designed. Frank was the pioneer of open-plan (or open concept for you Property Brothers fans), and Prairie Style. Locally, his home Taliesin West is now a school for Architecture, as well as a museum. He also built the Arizona Biltmore Hotel,a facility I have personally seen "copied" throughout parts of Scottsdale and Phoenix. Prairie Style, despite the name can be quite at home in the Sonoran Desert; long, low roof lines with vast overhangs and casement windows, combined with a sand-finished exterior plaster Prairie Style can be at home in vast open farm land of the Midwest or the great open desert of the Southwest.

Open Plan
Frank Lloyd Wright's open plan meant one large central collection of fireplaces, and space flowing around it with no doorways to impede on movement. Examples of this can be seen in the plan of Taliesin in Wisconsin and Fallingwater in Pennsylvania. To think it is all the rage now to have a vast great open area for entertaining, when Wright thought it up over 100 years ago..

Next Time...

I haven't yet narrowed down where I want to go with the series, perhaps back in time and across the pond to France, or forward in time over to Germany - those crazy Modernists. Or further ahead in time to the dawn of commercial air travel and Eero Saarinen's JFK. Perhaps back to feudal Japan, I haven't made up my mind. Japanese architecture has always been intriguing to me....