Historic Arts & Crafts Homes of Great Britain by Brian D. Coleman
(Gibbs Smith Publisher, 2005, 192 pages)
The Arts and Crafts movement encompassed home design, decoration, print making, painting, ceramics and more as an artistic response to European industrialization. The movement and its founder William Morris (1834-1896) emphasized the importance of traditional craftsmanship that used materials and patterns which made use of local materials and evoked a particular location’s natural surroundings. It drew largely upon medieval influences and was also tied closely to issues of social reform. Though the movement spread throughout Europe and America, it began in England with Morris and his friends. This book depicts some of the historic homes in the British Isles that serve as important landmarks for the development of this design movement.
Brain D. Coleman put together an absolutely beautiful book that provides extensive photographs and chapters which document the history and unique features of these homes. In the foreword, Stephen Calloway describes Morris’ Red House at Bexley, perhaps the most ideal embodiment this kind of house, as “a complete work of art” that “is a vision at once highly romantic and curiously down-to-earth” (xi). This is one of the essential features of Arts and Crafts homes, a kind of beautiful practicality that celebrates the integration of form and function. This principle is displayed wonderfully by the photographs in the book, depicting the huge recessed fireplaces or “inglenooks,” of Cragside House in northeast England and Wightwick Manor in central England, the grey Cotswold stone that make up the many gables of Rodmarton Manor in Gloucestershire, and the intricate floral wallpapers and tapestries of Kelmscott Manor in Gloucestershire.
The range of influence exerted by the Arts and Crafts movement can also be seen as the medieval inspired tapestries and woodwork of Red House contrast with the more modern design of Hill House near Glasgow, which anticipates the art nouveau style. Though vastly different in style, theses homes are linked by the geometric designs which adorn the vaulted ceilings of Red House and are worked all through the wallpaper and glasswork of Hill House. These, and the rest of the homes in this volume, are all extremely large homes. And yet, they embody a kind of simplicity of design which shuns ornamentation for its own sake and emphasizes the unique aesthetic qualities and functionality that come with skilled and attentive craftsmanship. This book provides both a visual and verbal history of a widely influential movement, one which should have plenty of appeal in an era where many architects and builders are once again turning toward older building methods and philosophies in order to address both environmental and aesthetic concerns.