Not long ago, the Wall Street Journal real estate section said that “Home Buyers Embrace the ‘Contemporary Craftsman’ Look”. This opens the conversation on the Contemporary Craftsman style as seen by the American homeowner. Historically, American Craftsman, such as the Gamble House in Pasadena shown above, is generally considered to be the logical extension of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Much can be said about the origins and intentions of this design philosophy, but the Metropolitan Museum of Art tells us,“The Arts and Crafts movement emerged during the late Victorian period in England, the most industrialized country in the world at that time. Anxieties about industrial life fueled a positive revaluation of hand craftsmanship and pre-capitalist forms of culture and society. Arts and Crafts designers sought to improve standards of decorative design, believed to have been debased by mechanization, and to create environments in which beautiful and fine workmanship governed”.
At the forefront of the Movement in England was the artist and writer William Morris shown in portrait above left. Mr. Morris became a cultural icon of Victorian England as he persistently extolled the virtues of craftsmanship over mechanized and industrialized interpretations of the arts and trades. The influence of this British style began to take hold originally in Boston; then elsewhere in the States at the very end of the 19th Century. The great point of emphasis was placed on locally handcrafted wood, tile, glass, stone and metal work. From there, in Biblical parlance, Arts and Crafts begat Craftsman especially as practiced by architects such as Greene and Greene in Pasadena, California, above middle and right. Which leads us to Contemporary Craftsman!
Returning to the WSJ article, a point being made in the piece was that “buyers and builders are mixing and matching craftsman elements, such as exposed rafters and natural stone, with contemporary floor plans and high ceilings”. Students of architecture and design will most commonly associate Craftsman with the American west coast, as noted above with the Pasadena connection. Now the WSJ quotes Tim Gehman, of Toll Architecture, a part of luxury home builder Toll Brothers as saying, “in the last five years, I’ve seen this style explode on the East Coast”. That said, the pan-continental aspects of any style are obviously more easily seeded now by both the preponderance of internet driven information and by its sheer pace.
There may be an oxymoronic aspect to the pairing of “contemporary” and “craftsman” but not an enigmatic one. The search for quality and truth in design and craftsmanship that propelled Arts and Crafts thought fits perfectly well alongside today’s aspirations for open and clean design themes.
Thanks for reading and enjoy your journey into Contemporary Craftsman!