By Jaima Brown
(ARA) - The emergence of the Arts and Crafts movement at the dawn of the
20th century represented a truly revolutionary shift in home d?cor, and this
"revolution" is having a renaissance today. It was revolutionary,
not only because it emphasized the sheer beauty of design that is created around
function and utility rather than mere ornamentation, but because it was steeped
in a shift in ethics.
England's William Morris, a founding father of this movement, said, "A
work of utility might also be a work of art, if we cared to make it so."
Morris set about doing just that. While the Morris chair bears his name, he
is most noted for 144 distinctive textile designs encompassing upholstery fabric,
wall coverings and carpet. These components played a pivotal role in a Morris
interior in which printed and woven patterns, based primarily on images from
nature, complement each other in an eye-pleasing symmetry of color and design.
Arts and Crafts proponents around the world rejected both what they considered
the excessive behavior as well as the profusely decorated objects of the Victorian
era. In short, they believed the world was on the wrong track -- slipping into
debauchery, worshipping false idols, and selecting objects of status over items
This, along with the marking of its 100th anniversary, accounts for the current
revival of Arts and Crafts style. Furniture by America's best-known Arts and
Crafts practitioners is in high demand. Anything made by Gustav Stickley, California's
Greene & Greene, or Frank Lloyd Wright, for example -- all of whom took
their design cues from the movement Morris spawned -- has multiplied in worth.
Objects are officially designated "antique" when they pass the 100-year
mark. This, too, has raised Arts and Crafts' stature.
Furthermore, people around the world, and Americans in particular, are sobered
by the opening events of this century. It has led many of us to revisit the
values initially expressed in the Arts and Crafts movement.
The Frank Lloyd Wright home and studio where Wright inaugurated Prairie-style
furniture, his own manifestation of Arts and Crafts design, is in Oak Park,
Illinois, very near the original mid-1800s home of S.A. Maxwell Co. Maxwell's
Oak Park collection pays homage to the design integrity fostered by Wright,
Morris and Arts and Crafts practitioners, offering proof that good design can
be "a work of art, if we care to make it so."
Patterns in Oak Park derive primarily from nature and feature the symmetry
Morris used to create design unity. In designing rooms to photograph for the
Oak Park book, we incorporated many signature features of Arts and Crafts style:
Unpainted wood moldings and door and window frames, linear furnishings, stainedglass
lampshades, and, most of all, a mix of patterns.
The photography for this collection, like room-set photos in all S.A. Maxwell
Co. books, provides ideas for decorating. In the Oak Park book, however, many
of the rooms not only offer ideas, but also reflect the exquisite simplicity
of Arts and Crafts design in which the details of craftsmanship are highlighted.
At the same time, the rooms show the versatility of Arts and Crafts style and
how beautifully it adapts to our lives today.
A pattern of winding tree branches, for instance, brings harmony to a living
room in which -- in honor of Wright's Prairie School -- we hung vintage photographs
of American Indian Chiefs. A hallmark of Arts and Crafts is exposure of handcrafted
construction details, so these photos are held in wood frames with mitered corners.
The branch border from Oak Park underlines a wood chair rail and also frames
a series of perfectly proportioned rectangles below it. Each contains a woven-textured
wallpaper from the same collection.
Pomegranates, often featured in Morris designs, also appear in an Oak Park
pattern, where the luscious fruit weaves among lemons and leafy vines over a
background of tiny willow leaves. To show that Arts and Crafts design motifs
are suitable for virtually any decorating style, we installed it in the entryway
of a modern home. A coordinating pomegranate border separates it, at chair rail
height, from a plaid pattern in the same collection that fills the lower wall
from the baseboard to the border. White painted shelves against the pomegranate
pattern can contain any treasures, but we used them to hold Arts and Crafts
Also among the Arts and Crafts pattern references in Oak Park are borders
featuring multiples of rectangles -- designs that were popular with Wright,
Louis Comfort Tiffany and Scotland's renowned Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
All at once, browsing S.A. Maxwell's Oak Park book takes you back to interior
design's most revolutionary period while also bringing you up to the minute
on today's design trends.
To locate a retailer in your area that carries Oak Park and other collections
by S. A. Maxwell Co., call (847) 932-3700 or visit www.samaxwell.com on the
Courtesy of ARA Content