Get the Look: Arts and Crafts Style

Famously started in the 1800s by William Morris, and inspired by a love of Medieval craftsmanship and a desire to ensure that mass production did not overtake traditional craft, the Arts and Crafts decorating style is a classic, traditional look that has stood the test of time and is still a very popular style in homes to this day. The arts and crafts styles’ focus on craftsmanship, functionality, simplicity and beautiful aesthetics means it remains relevant and though it has been in and out of fashion, it has never gone out of favour.

The arts and crafts movement takes inspiration from nature – as you can see from William Morris’s organic wallpaper designs, so iconic that many contemporary wallpaper designs are still heavily influenced by his work. Arts and crafts spaces use as many natural materials as possible, from hardwood floors to oak furniture to woollen rugs and natural cottons and linens and combine many textures to create an organic, natural feel.

Here are our tips on how to adapt the arts and crafts style for your home:

Walls

Because of its focus on nature, natural textures take a large part in arts and crafts decorating. Textured paint or wallpaper featuring organic, flowing designs will make a perfect base for an arts and crafts inspired space. William Morris style wallpaper with ornate nature designs can be found in many home stores, some vintage styles or even reproductions and some a more modern update of the classic style. A popular method is to cover one feature wall with this busy yet beautiful wallpaper and keep the rest of the room neutral, yet real enthusiasts will often adhere to the style by covering all of the walls in a room, cocooning themselves in the space created by the pattern. In terms of colour, rich colours inspired by nature, such as olive greens and soft browns and reds will create a rich yet calming effect.

Stencilling of design on walls and ceilings was also extremely popular and harked back to medieval designs, which were considered the height of good taste by the leading lights of the movement. Many such stencils featured sayings that reflect the importance of man finding himself through using his hands to craft something of quality.

Accessories

Colourful accessories such as Tiffany lamps (the craftsmanship of stained glass is a huge part of the movement) are a very popular and beautiful touch for arts and crafts style rooms. But equally simple shades featuring paper, fabric and copper are often seen in the style and in particular feature in the U.S. arts and crafts movement, known more commonly as the Mission style.

Objects made from hammered metals such as copper, brass or pewter can make beautiful highlights in an arts and crafts home. Many such objects featured stylised designs from nature, such as flowers or leaves and hearts were also very popular. Natural forms also featured in the design of pottery used in arts and crafts houses, much of which was fired with glazes and finishes that reflected nature in both colour and texture.

Tapestry was also a hugely popular feature of the style, sometimes wall hung or perhaps used to make a cushion, handcrafted goods were critical in achieving the style and adhering to the principals of the wider movement. Hand woven rugs and kilims in particular are also combined with other patterns to create intimacy in a space and to add a sensory comfort to inhabiting it.

Furniture

Alongside nature, the other key word when describing arts and crafts is ‘craftsmanship’. High quality build and design is extremely important, and comes above fashion. Beauty is found in simplicity, and furniture that is simple, solid, natural and long lasting trumps anything ornate or fussy. Most of the furniture of this era was made of oak and was left either natural in appearance or more often stained a mid-brown to highlight the grain of the wood. Much furniture was also hand painted or embellished with copper strapping or simple inlaid design.

The Arts and Crafts style works best in a home built in the Victorian or Edwardian era, which will usually have features like parquet floors and fireplaces already in place. However, many elements of the style are still featured in contemporary homes and inform any house plan where character is sought in the design. Such elements include the use of stone in chimney breasts, alcove or window seating, the use of tongue and groove on walls and ceilings and built in furniture designed specifically for a space.