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Arts & Crafts Homes - Icons of Architecture

In the mid-1970s, a revivalism of sorts began among American collectors and preservationists. Pottery, glassworks, furniture, lighting, and houses from the turn of the 20th century were rediscovered and being celebrated for their simplicity of design and traditional beauty. These artistic remnants of the Arts and Crafts movement, which thrived from 1876-1915 continue to be celebrated today.

Reflecting a philosophy of simplicity in both design and life, the Arts and Crafts movement advocated a back to basics philosophy that desired to bring about a sense of pride in workmanship as well as a return to quality in design, which many felt was abandoned during the Victorian era. While the expression of the Arts and Crafts movement took many forms — from fine arts to social reform — one of the most recognizable and lasting icons of the era was its architecture. Even today, many new homes are built in styles that reflect the homes of the Arts and Crafts era.

Over the years we have had many requests for Arts and Crafts-style houses, both from our custom design and stock plan businesses. Much like the philosophy that drove the original Arts and Crafts movement, you’ll discover that each of these designs honors the philosophy of design and building that make Arts and Crafts-style houses so beloved today. Our reputation precedes us, as we are known for our Arts and Crafts-style houses. “I think clients know that we do a good job with the design of [Arts and Crafts houses],” says Eric Schnell, Design Director for Alan Mascord Design Associates, Inc. “We have quite a number of Craftsman-style plans available. So, they do look to our detailing. Even builders who don’t use our plans copy our details.”

European philosopher, art critic, and Arts and Crafts proponent John Ruskin believed that architecture reflected and influenced the moral fiber of the persons who used the structures. In other words, if a home’s design was out-of-sync, he believed that more than just one’s lifestyle would suffer. Our designers recognize this truth, which is why with each of our house plans you’ll discover a holistic approach to design. For example, we take into account traffic flow and modern lifestyles, blending them with historic details that often have been methodically researched through personal tours and in-depth study of Arts and Crafts houses. This approach, while appearing to deviate from authentic Arts and Crafts architecture, actually aligns us more fully with the underlying philosophy of the movement: quality of life, and quality of design — a belief that our work of designing homes will profoundly affect individuals and society.

The Arts and Crafts movement began in England as early as 1833, expressing itself first as a call to social reform. Educated philosophers and activists deplored the effects of the Industrial Revolution’s assembly-line production system, which they believed degraded workers’ skill and intelligence, undermining their dignity. The advocates wished to restore better conditions for factory workers and to help them regain a sense of pride in their workmanship.

What the Industrial Revolution destroyed for the sake of profitability and production, social reform advocates sought to reunite for the sake of worker well-being. English artists, philosophers, and social reformers sought to bring together designers and builders—fine artists such as painters, sculptors, and architects with artisans such as furniture builders and book binders — thus marrying the “arts” and “crafts” trades as was the structure of the ancient Medieval guild system. The Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society soon was formed to showcase their work in exhibitions across Europe. As the movement spread, workers guilds began popping up in countries all across Europe. The artists and artisans focused on creating handcrafted items of quality, avoiding machine-made items which they believed to be of lesser quality. The artists desired that these simply-made works be made available to the middle class.

The movement spread to the United States around 1850 as American artists visited Europe and saw the work of the Europeans. By 1876, the movement was in full swing thanks to a centennial exhibition held in Philadelphia, showcasing the works of many Arts and Crafts artists. In addition, many publications of the day, including Ladies Home Journal and House Beautiful educated the public about the philosophy.

As the Arts and Crafts movement gained popularity in America, there was one notable characteristic which distinguished it from the European movement. Unlike the European Arts and Crafts movement, the American movement did not shun modern conveniences and advances in technology. New houses embraced advances such as electricity and indoor plumbing. Furniture was often made with the help of wood cutting machines. American designers and architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright, saw that many of these technological advances did not detract from the quality of workmanship, and, in fact, made many items more affordable for the masses. As a result, one could argue that the movement was much more productive in America, because the middle-class could readily afford Arts and Crafts houses, artwork, and furniture. By contrast, most European Arts and Crafts products were only affordable by the wealthy — even though this was contrary to the intentions of the reformers.

Arts and Crafts architecture had many stylistic variations in the United States. While many may picture a quaint bungalow or Prairie-style house as quintessential Arts and Crafts, the style actually had many regional differences. Arts and Crafts houses are not characterized so much by style as by philosophy of design. True Arts and Crafts houses were built with a holistic approach using locally available materials and avoiding an intimidating or pretentious style. As a result, ornamentation was limited, and when used, was integrated into the whole of the design rather than “applied.”

This holistic approach rejected the formality of Victorian rituals, which advocates believed stifled communication and the intimacy of family life. Layouts were to encourage family unity, and so floor plans opened up, emphasizing fewer, larger rooms that were more functional. For example, parlor doors and formal rooms fell by the wayside, and separate bedrooms gave way to the master suite. Schnell sees this particular openness readily expressed in the design of Arts and Crafts bungalows, which were celebrated in The Craftsman magazine, published by Gustav Stickley and marketed nationwide through house plans sold by the magazine. During the same time, bungalow house plan kits were widely marketed by retailers Sears and Montgomery Ward. “The floor plans have easy indoor-outdoor access. Many rooms have French door access to the porches,” Schnell says.

The openness of the bungalow floor plan demanded a continuity of theme and a consistency to the design. Ceiling beams and half-walls offered gateways into adjoining spaces. Built-ins were functional tools, as well as anchoring devices that emphasized the connection of furnishings to the house. Kitchens were outfitted with the latest labor-saving devices and were typically small in order to save steps while cooking and cleaning. Dining rooms were considered extremely important for their role in bringing a family together. Many structures included custom-built furnishings — large tables with high-backed chairs accompanied by sideboard — which often were the focal point of the room.

Nature was a source of inspiration for the artwork of the era, as well as for the houses. Color schemes included mossy greens, terra cottas, dark golds, and other earthy hues. Buildings by architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene showcased low horizontal rooflines with deep overhanging eaves reflecting the horizontal landscapes of the Midwest and Southern California. Interiors showcased the use of natural materials, such as wood and stone. Windows were instruments of light and often lightly decorated to facilitate a connection with the outdoors. The landscapes and the houses were intimately connected through the use of porches, pergolas, and gardens. Decorative motifs in furniture, lighting and accessories also reflected unadorned, natural themes.

Schnell believes these natural themes still resonate with today’s home buyers, which is why Arts and Crafts-style houses are still so popular. “People are really attracted to the natural materials such as stone and wood. The brackets, the wider eaves, and the big beams add a lot of texture to the exterior. Being based in the Pacific Northwest with the woods and the stone, [Arts and Crafts houses] seem to be meant for our area — more indigenous to our area than other styles.”

Though Arts and Crafts-style houses have a rich history, the floor plans in this collection are far from historic replicas. In recognition of changes in technology and family life, the floor plans and details are designed to be compatible with modern lifestyles. You’ll discover higher ceilings, numerous windows, and strategic placement of porches, designed to help counterbalance some of the undesirably dark effects of low rooflines, deep eaves, porches, and wall-to-wall woodwork.

In the spirit of the original Arts and Crafts movement, Alan Mascord Design Associates bring to you designs of quality, simplicity, and integrity. We’re confident you’ll discover in this collection a design that will renew your appreciation of home’s importance as the foundation of your future.