In the 1840's the Arts and Crafts Movement in England rebelled against the fussy, highly ornamented and often uncomfortable Victorian style of home design. Rejecting the Industrial Revolution, with its plethora of machine-turned items made from cheap materials, designers such as William Morris developed a philosophy of design stated as "honest craftsmanship, natural materials, simple and pure design, and harmonious family life".
Craftsman Lounge Chair.
This movement took some time to spread to America and only became popular in the last decade of the 19th century. At this time, American furniture designer Gustav Stickley was inspired by this movement to produce his own range that he referred to as "Craftsman Style Furniture", based on designs to be found in his magazine "The Craftsman". Craftsman furniture of this period was the first American furniture to have a strong impact on the history of furniture development worldwide.
Craftsman furniture was just one of the expressions of a lifestyle envisaged by the originators of the Arts and Crafts movement. The movement was a breakaway in all areas of the home from the cramped and complex Victorian lifestyle. Space, comfort, a return to nature, and a home that was easy to manage, leaving time for family life, were the principles behind this movement. The Craftsman home was designed to be a place where a family could relax and spend time together, as well as being suited to an era when servants were no longer the norm.
Craftsman Furniture Designs
Stickley's designs were plain and simple, using strong horizontal and vertical lines and almost no decoration. This furniture was extremely durable due to the use of mortise and tenon joinery. The beauty of Stickley's furniture lay mainly in the quality of the wood. He used only the best American hardwoods, mainly oak, and preferred to use quarter-sawn pieces that highlight the wood grain. He also used finishing techniques such as treating the wood with ammonia to bring out the grain. Stickley's Craftsman furniture is highly prized and has an important place in the heritage of American furniture.
Craftsman Styles & Decor
Wooden slats were much used, both for chair backs and for table and chair legs. Craftsman furniture knobs, pulls and hinges were usually of copper, brass or pewter. Upholstery, when used, was often of dark leather.
Stickley's furniture was good looking, practical and durable, but for the most part it was above the price range of the common people. However, many other manufacturers began to produce similar furniture more cheaply, and American craftsman furniture became extremely popular. Craftsman style decor is best suited to simply designed craftsman style homes, following the bungalow-style Arts and Crafts type of architecture.
Craftsman Outdoor Furniture
Craftsman outdoor furniture follows the same principles of design as that used for interiors, and also reflects the less formal, more natural style of garden layout advocated by the Arts and Crafts movement. Sturdy, good-quality wood is used, and slats are often seen in both tables and chairs.
Craftsman furniture regained its popularity in the 1980's and is much in use today. Several craftsman furniture makers of today such as the Royal Craftsman Furniture and Southern Craftsman brands produce beautifully finished, sturdy furniture in the tradition of Stickley. Craftsman furniture has also become popular amongst DIY enthusiasts and Craftsman furniture plans can be obtained for making authentic Craftsman furniture at home.
American Craftsman furniture is a practical choice for today's home, and an investment in the future.