Nearly a century after the Arts and Crafts movement came to the United States, a renewed interest in Craftsman remodeling Minneapolis homes took hold. People were reawakened to their inherent character in the 1990s, often preferring to restore those homes rather than construct modern-style ones. The classic design and humane values built into Craftsman bungalows and their offshoots have proven to be critical elements of their timeless appeal.
In 1897, a group of influential Bostonian architects organized the first American Arts and Crafts Exhibition. The inspiration for the event lay in the British Arts and Crafts movement, but the exhibition was uniquely American: Not only were a huge variety of handiworks on display, diversity was occurring before its time, since about half the creations were made by women. Out of the success of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition was borne the Society of Arts and Crafts, a variation of which still exists.
Then, in 1901, designer and furniture company owner Gustav Stickley began publishing The Craftsman magazine, which espoused the principles of honesty and simplicity instituted by the British Arts and Crafts reformers. Publication of a parallel periodical, House Beautiful, also began in Minneapolis during the movement’s early days. It featured the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, craftsmen and manufacturers, as well as interior decoration and the domestic arts. (The magazine was relaunched in 1989 in England, coinciding with an Arts and Crafts revival that was springing up on both sides of the Atlantic.)
Stickley, for his part, was the probable father of America’s Arts and Crafts movement. He loved working with wood, and touted the virtues of using natural materials in his housing designs as well as in his furniture artistry. To Stickley, a chair could be both beautiful and functional without any decoration. His motto: “Make life better and truer by its perfect simplicity.”
This theme of avoiding ornamentation was true of the most common style of Craftsman homes, the economical California bungalows. But other styles, including Prairie, Mission and Foursquare, adopted certain Craftsman features.
Stickley designed homes to fit the furniture he made, rather than vice versa. The aforementioned chair was complemented, interiorly, by an open floor plan. The living room was large and informal, which was partly a reaction against the confining Victorian parlor. The dining room was visually pleasing with bright colors. The fireplace was of central importance; its purpose was to not only provide physical warmth, but also serve as a cozy hearth of intimacy. Ceilings revealed their support beams; wainscoting and molding were made of dark wood; and cabinets, shelves and seating were built into the walls.
The exterior walls of the Craftsman could be made of wood clapboard, stucco or brick. The chimney was stone; the roofs were composed of either cedar shake or asphalt shingles, and had a low pitch with visible rafter tails. In fact, exterior elements were sometimes left unfinished to emphasize a natural look. A rectangular, one- to one-and-a-half-story façade would likely be fronted by a porch having either square or round columns. The windows were double-hung, without shutters, to allow in an abundance of sunlight.
One American departure from the British Arts and Crafts movement was in its use of machines. Stickley, for example, thought machines were appropriate for the basic construction if it was labor-saving and allowed the worker to focus on the finer points of trimming, painting and finishing.
Also, a Craftsman house had to blend in harmoniously with its outdoor environment. Landscaping was considered a violation of a home’s natural setting.
Nearly a century after the Arts and Crafts movement came to the United States, a renewed interest in Craftsman homes took hold. People were reawakened to their inherent character in the 1990s, often preferring to restore those homes rather than construct modern-style ones. The classic design and humane values built into Craftsman bungalows and their offshoots have proven to be critical elements of their timeless appeal.