Arts & Crafts

by Erika Woelfel

Well known for its harmonious use of natural materials and simple structures, Arts & Crafts is one of the most enduring historic décor styles in America today.

The international style originated in Victorian England during the Industrial Revolution. At greatly reduced costs, machines and the assembly line could create everything that had once been made by skilled laborers, artisans and craftspeople. William Morris, a designer at the time, desired a return of quality materials and honest craftsmanship. Simple rectilinear forms, natural materials and minimal surface treatment were the tenants of his design philosophy.

The Arts & Crafts style made its way to America and flourished here until the 1930s. It was often called Mission or craftsman and spread through communities on the East Coast, Midwest and California. Furniture, interior woodwork, textiles, metalwork, pottery and jewelry were all made in the Arts & Crafts style for decorative accessories at home.

Gustav Stickley, the most famous American Arts & Crafts designer, eschewed the British ideals for the manufacture of his products. Disagreeing with the technique to mass-produce furniture, his mission was to improve the American taste for furniture through simple, honest, well-made design. “Craftsman” is a word used to describe the furnishings, accessories and architecture built on these design principles. His publication The Craftsman educated people on the plain and unadorned products he created. In addition to decorative arts pieces, he created architectural building plans for subscribers in the farmhouse, cottage and bungalow style. The Stickley brand of furniture still exists today (although under new ownership).

From the early turn of the century until the mid 1920s, Craftsman styled homes were built all across the U.S. Some are smaller, others are larger. All are wonderfully charming and with lots of inner and outer character. Very often a craftsman house is referred to as a bungalow, which is the word used to describe tropical houses in India. Suited for hot weather, the homes in India had deep verandas and long overhanging roofs. Floor plans were open to circulate the air. This style of home was very popular in California, where temperatures are warm year round. If you’re ever in Pasadena, CA take a tour through the old town neighborhood for some of the most spectacular examples of craftsman homes!

A few characteristics of a craftsman bungalow:

  • low-pitched roof
  • 1 or 1-1/2 stories
  • large front porch
  • broad eves with exposed rafters
  • fireplace
  • built-in cabinets such as china cabinets, book cases.
  • double hung casement windows

Because of mainstream popularity, Sears Roebuck sold kit bungalow houses from 1908 to 1940. They can be identified by stamped wood and going through architectural surveys to find records.

Because it is familiar, casual and approachable, the Arts & Crafts movement continues on in building and design today. The color palette is muted and natural, focusing on burnished gold, russet, light olive and forest green. As a color story, they embody the essence of what it means to come home and relax!

Further description of the style includes interior woodwork found in medium or dark stained oak. Metal details in lighting and bathroom fixtures are often also represented in dark tones like oiled bronze.

Mission furniture is also an American classic. Chairs, side tables, bookshelves, coffee tables, dining room and bedroom sets can all be found in the classic wood-slat style. Peruse the gallery below for examples of fine craftsmanship and detail.





Natural colors are a hallmark of the exterior style. Lighter colors will make a house appear larger.

Green is a favorite exterior color for Arts & Crafts styled homes. Darker tones will make the house feel recessed and further away from view.

Light gold trim creates a soft mood.  Patterns are often geometric, native-craft inspired.

Dark brown paint replicates an “oak” look on trim.

A red wall brings energy to an Arts & Crafts inspired room.

Soft gold creates a warm atmosphere in a bedroom.

A modern spin on Arts & Crafts for the bath.

Colorfully Yours,


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