Styles are a funny thing. Just when you think you have them figured out you learn something new and you find yourself having to change your mind or at least your understanding of them.
Take Arts and Crafts.
There was a time when you told people your house was in the Arts and Crafts style and they would have had visions of a house full of quilting, lace doilies, and toilet paper covers with ruffles. Now there are very few people who have not heard of Arts and Crafts. This is not a new style but the way it has been interpreted today leaves a lot to be desired. Entire residential subdivisions in some cities proudly proclain that they are built in the Arts and Crafts style. The problem is that, as nice as some of the houses are, they look phoney.
First of all many of these homes today are built with front porches. I love front porches – I wish we had a big, wide open porch but the reality is that few people actually spend time on them, especially in the north. Front porches were popular in the late 1800’s and early 20th century. They were seen as a buffer zone between the privacy of the home and the public street. The residents of the house sat on rocking chairs or wicker settees while they sipped on lemonade and visited with their neighbours across their tiny front yards.
Automobiles changed all that. Today suburban homes have garages that swallow up the residents before they have a chance to interact with their neighbours. Once the garage door has sealed them in the house from the public street the family then moves to the back yard. This space is often hidden behind a high wooden fence that appears to be built to protect the family from Attila the Hun. There is no neighbourliness. Front porches on these new houses sit unused for the most part – and they look artificial because they suggest a connection to the community that does not exist.
Another thing that is artificial is the way some people decorate their homes with Arts and Crafts. This is not to dissuade anyone from collecting antique Arts and Crafts furniture and accessories. I love these pieces myself. But what is contrived is when someone says that their house is all original arts and crafts. They have replaced existing light fixtures with “period” pieces. All their furniture is in the same style. Only historic Arts and Crafts colours are used. Only accessories made of hammered metals and appropriate pottery pieces are collected.
This is not authentic. It is a collection of Arts and Crafts items all in one place – that’s all. Why is this not authentic?
It is because the Arts and Crafts period did not exist in a vacume. Homeowners, even if they were influenced by this style, did not throw every thing else away. There were other styles that existed at the same time that would have appeared new and exciting to buyers which were not necessarily in the pure A&C style. And they decorated with bits and pieces of all of the above. Pure styles did not exist then any more than they do now. The important thing was to have a home that was comfortable as well as attractive. That is something that hasn’t changed.