Movements in furniture construction and designed evolve through artistic interpretations and reflect the conditions of the periods in which they were conceived. Arts and Crafts style furniture, accordingly, arose in history from the immediately tangible effects of industrialization on construction.
The style developed in mid-19th century Britain in answer to what a school of furniture designers and builders thought to be a reduction in the quality of furniture. Industrialization created problems as well as opportunities. Factory mass-production, for the anti-industrialists, was seen as a problem that spilled over into furniture making.
The Effect of Industrialization on the Art of Furniture Building
Though countless nations now rely on industrial production and manufacturing to help maintain their places in the global economy, artists were quick to find fault in the results of rapid and efficient industrial processes. In particular, critics of The Great Exhibition found that products manufactured under post-industrial standards lacked an appreciation for the qualities of the materials, how they function together, how they look together, and how best to use them.
Efficient processes allowed product manufacturers to over-ornament their pieces while construction foundations and fundamental artistic principles. But critics demanded that decoration be secondary to construction that bears an appreciation for materials and technique. From the need to simplify and focus on pattern creation and object integrity, the Arts and Crafts movement was born.
In furniture, it manifested as a return to brilliantly uncomplicated construction. Designers looked deep into the materials to harness the power of nature in construction. Aesthetic subtleties such as grain direction and natural arches helped the Arts and Crafts school build furniture that was solid by nature, conscious of symmetry, and conjured the nostalgic feeling of home. Frank Lloyd Wright is classic example of this aesthetic.
How to Recognize Arts and Crafts Furniture Styles
Pieces focus on robust construction and long-term use, but you can still identify those that belong to the Arts and Crafts furniture style by these characteristics.
- Linear patterns – Along with symmetry, observers may notice the repetition of horizontal, vertical, or arching lines either as a matter of function or as a form of simple pattern creation.
- Hardy materials – Strong and heavy materials, including woods such as oak, make up the bulk of furniture that belongs to this movement.
- Limited ornamentation – Though you may notice an occasional inlay or flourish, post-industrial over-ornamentation turned designers off of decoration.
- Natural coverings – Upholstery with highly natural materials such as leather and simple hand applied wood finishes compliment the hand-made construction of Arts and Crafts furniture styles
Though the movement began in Britain, pieces of the arts and crafts furniture style bear a distinctly homestyle American look. Though some companies still produce high-quality furniture in this way, original pieces are of much more reliable construction and carry with them the passion of the original designers of the movement.
The furniture refinishing and restoration teams at Aaron’s Touch Up have experience bringing Arts and Crafts style furniture to its original integrity. Let us know if you have one of these highly valuable pieces in your collection and would like to revive it!