The arts and crafts movement was a reaction to the industrialisation of England during the mid to late 19th century. The country was moving towards the use of metals and mechanics. Things were being made in bulk and while this made it easier for the middle classes to buy items for the home, it also meant that the work of traditional craftsmen was being sidelined.
By the early 20th century the movement had taken hold and the use of furniture and decorative items made in a traditional way was more popular than ever. While it was an important way to keep traditional methods alive, the craftsmen of that time did turn to bulk methods to create their furniture, simply to meet demand. Even so, the look was one which was popular with the middle to upper classes as only they could afford the bespoke pieces which were created.
The look was simple and not ornamental. The use of wood, stained glass, hand painted tiles, printed fabrics and wallpapers was part of the charm of the look. Thankfully this is something which can be recreated in our modern homes just as easily.
Due to the recent nature of this movement and the numbers of well crafted items which were made, many pieces still survive. Wooden furniture is particular is easy to find, but its popularity means that it is still very expensive. But the use of today's craftsmen can result in a modern arts and crafts look which will fit in any home.
Natural colours which represent nature were favoured by the arts and crafts movement. Deep browns, blues and greens set off the dark wooden furniture. Highlights of colour could be added by the use of a stained glass window or lampshade.
The wooden pieces of the arts and crafts movement tend not to be ornamental. They were functional while being beautifully made. The furniture was expected to be long lasting with clean lines and a timeless quality. The craftsmanship should be on display, with handmade joints and clear signs of the time taken to create the piece.
This was kept to minimum as the emphasis was always on the furniture and the room. Walls may be covered in wooden panelling which was hand-crafted and naturally coloured. Anything which was brought into the home from cushions and curtains, to tiles and rugs needed to be made by an expert in their field and usually a one off piece.
The clear aim of this movement was to celebrate the creativity and craftsmanship which comes from the UK. Imports were not used and it was important that local materials were used where possible.
In our modern times there is certainly something to be said for keeping our furnishings close to home and avoiding the generic furniture items which come from around the world. While it may cost much more, a hand-crafted piece of furniture could be a lifetime heirloom.