Originally published in The Town Paper, Vol. 4, No. 3 - Fall 2002
Beauty, simplicity, utility and harmony were the cornerstones of the Arts & Crafts movement. Architectural leaders included Gustav Stickley in New York, the Greene & Greene brothers in Southern California, and Bernard Maybeck in Northern California. The movement in art and architecture began in England during the second half of the 19th century. It emphasized the importance of craftsmanship and high standards of design for everyday objects. Forty years later, the movement took hold in the United States. Arts & Crafts became prevalent during the time period of 1880 through 1930. Though houses of the style have continued to be built, the movement upon which these houses were based ended with World War I.
The principles of the Arts & Crafts movement include the simplification of life and a focus on the natural. Out of this comes an interest in forms and materials found in, and relating to, nature. Buildings often have a rustic focus on the earth and the hearth, and most Arts & Crafts buildings are single-family residences. They emphasize the horizontal over the vertical and utilize on-site or local materials, from river stone to brick to stucco to timber. Exposed structure provides decorative details, allowing for texture and visual interest. Voids, in the form of porches, recessed entryways and pergolas, balance the heavy solidity of the low mass of the building, as do the large sweeping rooflines. The extreme depth of the porches allows them to function as additional outdoor rooms sheltered by the characteristic sweeping roofs, broken by both grand stone chimneys and wide clerestory dormers.
Typical materials of the Arts & Crafts style rely on the importance of nature, local natural materials, local building techniques, and regional architectural details. As its name suggests, building and artistic "craft" are the focus of design. In this return to the vernacular, inspiration for design often came from colonial log cabins and their timber detailing, Spanish missions and their large static building masses, and Native American art and its simple geometric patterns.
The Arts & Crafts building gives a strong central structure, around which the grand porches wrap. And the simple beauty of the natural materials gives a visual connection to the site and the region.