Arts and Crafts Styles and Design Elements

Updated on January 14, 2019
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Linda is a seasoned writer and home-decorating authority. She loves sharing design trends, decor ideas, and useful tips with her readers.

Arts and Crafts is not only a distinctive style it is a general design movement which began in England in the 1860s. It is mainly attributed to the textile designer, novelist, poet and activist William Morris. At the turn of the 20th century the Arts and Crafts movement made its way across the Atlantic.

The well-known furniture maker and design principal Gustav Stickley adopted the style from British Arts and Crafts, which helped create American Craftsman style. Stickley’s furniture remained popular into the 1940s thanks to architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s design contributions.

The American Arts and Crafts movement encompassed a wide range of art, interior design, architecture and values that espoused a simpler time. Each architectural style highlighted handcrafted pieces, utilitarian items and affordable decor. The homes featured warm colors and were made from locally-sourced materials. Its simplicity blurred the lines between the structures and surrounding nature.

California Craftsman

The California craftsman style was developed by brothers and architects Charles and Henry Greene who set up their architectural firm in Pasadena. Their progressive shift from classic residential architecture to an innovative style known as Western Stick was promoted in Gustav Stickley’s magazine, The Craftsman.

Craftsman design was the antithesis of mass production and ornate decoration. These unconventional homeowners championed the principles of simplicity and craftsmanship. The modest style took hold and quickly spread across the country. Craftsman bungalow plans and furnishings flourished in the years between World War I and World War II.

The main design elements featured warm oak chair-rail paneling, doors, trim, built-in storage units and furniture. Nature-inspired stenciling and frieze designs adorned the walls. Earth tones plus deep reds and greens were preferred over vivid hues. American pottery, hand painted ceramic tiles, stained glass windows, hammered metal bowls and bronze lamps topped with mica lamp shades were extremely popular but used with great restraint.

The California Craftsman bungalow Gamble House designed by Greene and Greene.
The California Craftsman bungalow Gamble House designed by Greene and Greene. | Source
Earthy colors work very well with warm oak woodwork.
Earthy colors work very well with warm oak woodwork. | Source

Mission Revival

Mission was an byproduct of Craftsman style that included several different versions. The style was referred to Spanish Mission with colonial and Native American influences. Mission style originated in the West and lasted from the turn of the 20th century until 1940. It was predominately popular in California and the desert Southwest.

Arched doorways and window openings, smooth stucco walls and flat or low sloping tiled roofs exemplified historical Spanish missions. Turrets, towers, parapets and arched porticos were often included as optional architectural features. Mission revival homes featured beamed ceilings, handmade iron hardware for doors and light fixtures. Low roofs and clay tile floors kept the interiors cool year-round.

Mission style decor typically employed colors such as terracotta, slate blue, sage green, gray, taupe and amber to evoke the desert landscape. Crimson, turquoise, bright green, yellow and deep blue were used in accessories and hand painted tiles sprinkled throughout the house. These vivid hues captured the feel of the southern border.

The style is characterized as casual and welcoming. As with Craftsman furnishings, natural woodwork was always seen throughout the house. Weathered pine furniture pieces and large-scale cabinetry showcased the beauty of the wood. Leather upholstery and hand woven textiles contrast the hard surfaces.

The main characteristics included roof parapets and smooth stucco and arches.
The main characteristics included roof parapets and smooth stucco and arches. | Source
Southwestern furnishings featured weathered pine furniture, native textiles and leather upholstery.
Southwestern furnishings featured weathered pine furniture, native textiles and leather upholstery. | Source

Midwest Prairie

Frank Lloyd Wright was at the forefront of the Prairie School in the early years of the 20th century. Prairie homes and furnishings echoed the geography of the Midwest plains--flat and expansive. The style featured horizontal planes, ribbon-like windows, low-pitched rooflines, overhangs, geometric forms and organic materials. The architects had a unified vision that consisted of the structure itself, landscape, furniture and accessories.

Wright’s interpretation of Arts and Crafts architecture was comprised of many built-in furnishings such as storage units and inglenooks to keep the interiors minimal and free of clutter. The furniture was designed with prairie architecture in mind. Clean lines, low tables and long benches resembled the free flowing design of the prairie style architecture. Oak, slate, decorative tile and art glass were typically incorporated in Prairie School design.

Wright also drew heavily from the clean geometry of Japanese design and decorative arts including Shoji-type screens, pocket doors, lacquerware accessories and Asian-inspired light fixtures. A subtle color palette in Prairie style homes might have included terracotta, cream, butter yellow and taupe. Handmade textiles and folk art with a southwestern flair played to Wright’s deep appreciation of the American West, which in later years became associated with Prairie School design.

Prairie school design was radical, organic and a new aesthetic form
Prairie school design was radical, organic and a new aesthetic form | Source
Prairie School interiors had a wealth of built-in cabinetry for storage.
Prairie School interiors had a wealth of built-in cabinetry for storage. | Source

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Linda Chechar

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      • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Chechar 

        7 months ago from Arizona

        Mary, the Spanish colonial style has great architectural elements. There are still many of the mission homes being renovated throughout the southwest.

      • Blond Logic profile image

        Mary Wickison 

        7 months ago from Brazil

        This was an education, I've never heard the phrase, 'Prairie School', before.

        It's interesting to see the mission style as well.

      • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Chechar 

        7 months ago from Arizona

        Thanks, Liz. I'm glad you enjoyed it! I've always wanted a craftsman or Spanish mission home.

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        7 months ago from UK

        I had no idea that William Morris was so influential. This is a very well-illustrated article.

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