Design Styles : : Arts and Crafts

The main appeal of Arts and Crafts style draws from its simple design and straightforward values. This style movement was a reaction to the ornate and mass produced excesses of the Victorian Era. In contrasts, Arts and Crafts employs natural materials, handmade craftsmanship with a minimalistic air.

Arts and Crafts not only defines a specific architectural style but also refers to the overarching artistic movement which began in England during the 1860s and is attributed to William Morris. Arts and Crafts crossed the Atlantic around the turn of the 20th century with American furniture maker Gustav Stickley at the helm and remained popular well into the 1940s—thanks to the design contributions of renowned architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright.

The movement encompassed art, interior design, architecture and a general philosophy that embraced simpler times. While the Arts and Crafts aesthetic highlighted slight regional differences, each showcased handmade objects, functional and affordable decor, warm, earthy colors, locally sourced materials and homes that blurred the line between architecture and nature.


Craftsman style was the American offshoot of the British Arts and Crafts movement. The style was adopted and honed by California brothers and architects Charles and Henry Greene. This radical shift in design, referred to as Western Stick style, was publicized in magazines such as Gustav Stickley’s, The Craftsman.

This down-to-earth style took hold quickly and spread from coast-to-coast. Craftsman house plans and furnishings flourished between the world wars. Craftsman style was the antithesis of fussy Victorian decoration. Craftsman homeowners subscribed to the ideals of straightforward design and  basic construction techniques.

Beautiful woodwork was the hallmark of Craftsman style—from its dark oak wainscoting, doors, trim, built-in storage and functional furniture pieces. Nature inspired stenciling and friezes adorned walls. Earth tones and muted colors were chosen in favor of bright hues. Domestic pottery, hammered metal detail, bronze lighting and organic accessories created the perfect pairing for Craftsman homes.


Mission was an offshoot of Craftsman style with a variety of interpretations. In southwestern states it was referred to as Spanish Mission with Latin elements and Native American influences. In other parts of the country, Mission stayed close to the earthy color palette and angular lines of the original Arts and Crafts movement.

When choosing a Mission style decorating scheme, choose colors that evoke a natural feel with hints of the desert such as deep green, umber, dark gray, slate blue, soft rose and gold. Add pops of saturated colors that inject southwestern flavor like turquoise, deep red and goldenrod—especially in accessories or hand-painted tiles.

Mission style is characterized as casual and welcoming. As with Craftsman furnishings, natural oak woodwork is the star of the show. Painting wood is a no-no—a warm stain is all that’s required. Furniture pieces, cabinetry and paneling are simple and play off of geometric lines and uninterrupted surfaces that display the beauty of wood. Leather upholstery and hand woven textiles add a touch of softness to hard surfaces.


Frank Lloyd Wright was at the forefront of Prairie School style in the early years of the 20th century. Prairie homes and furnishings echoed the geography of the Midwest plains—flat and expansive. The style featured horizontal planes, low roof lines, geometric forms and organic materials.

Wright’s interpretation of Arts and Crafts included many built-in furnishings such as seating, shelving and inglenooks to keep interiors free of clutter. Furniture was also designed with Prairie architecture in mind. Minimal lines, low coffee tables and long benches mimicked the low ceilings and long lines of Prairie style homes. Oak, slate, decorative tile and art glass were materials common to Prairie School design.

Wright also drew heavily from the clean geometry of Japanese design and decorative arts, including Shoji-type screens, pocket doors, lacquerware accessories and Asian-inspired light fixtures. A subtle color palette in a Prairie style home might include terra cotta, cream, butter yellow and taupe. Handmade textiles and folk art with a southwestern flair played to Wright’s deep appreciation of the American West.

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