The Arts and Crafts Styled Kitchen

Kitchens today are more than form and function. A properly designed kitchen can add great style to your whole home. But what style to go with may be your question. While there are a handful of styles to choose from, one that has remained popular through the decades is the Arts and Crafts styled kitchen.

What would you expect to see in an Arts and Crafts kitchen? The Arts and Crafts movement was based on form and function, therefore such kitchens emphasize natural colors, rich woods, clean strong lines and light. For a kitchen to appear Arts and Crafts it may have recessed panel doors with thick frames, contrast in finishes of wood, stained glass windows and lighting fixtures, and mullioned glass doors.

Arts and Crafts kitchens look similar to Shaker, Prairie or Mission style kitchens. Woods used for both include maple, birch, beech or oak. Most important is the use of wood. Rich dark woods, distinctive styles utilized from wood along with styled cabinets is important.

To understand the Arts and Crafts look is to understand the style. Arts and Crafts has also been called Mission, Stickley, Prairie or even Frank Lloyd Wright. The design started around 1900 as a backlash against the ornate style prior to 1900. People wanted a design that was more functional and furnishings that were better built. An emphasis on quality craftsmanship was important. Cabinetry was constructed with mortise and tenon, dovetail joinery, and of solid hardwoods.

The movement of Arts and Crafts was not limited to the United States, matter-of-fact it was quite international and is said to have started in England. Artists and craftsmen such as William Morris and Gustav Stickley became notorious with the movement. The Arts and Crafts style spread from England to Europe and then North America. The writings of John Ruskin influenced the movement. Ruskin emphasized the belief that art communicated an understanding of nature and rejected mechanization and standardization. He advocated the value of an organic relationship between worker and his natural environment. At this time, industrialization was destroying the world of craft labor.

With this, style became more simple and straightforward. Decoration was limited, especially if it was superfluous. Patterns imitated British flora and fauna. Architects drew on the vernacular of an area for design. Many architects were influenced by traditions of the British countryside. Designers stepped up to meet the demand and began hosting workshops reviving old craftsmanship techniques.

The Arts and Crafts style also stemmed from a reaction of style against things shown in the Great Exhibition of 1851. This exhibition took place in The Crystal Palace in England and was to display examples of the latest technology developed in the Industrial Revolution. The Great Exhibition of 1851 had more than 14,000 exhibitors from around the world. Artists, philosophers and writers alike critiqued the styles shown stating it was too ornamental. Art historian Nikolaus Pevsner even stated, the Great Exhibition showed ‘vulgarity in detail.’

With all of this combined, it wasn’t long before the Arts and Crafts ideals were influencing architecture, sculpture, paintings, illustration, book making, photography, domestic design and decorative arts Decorative arts included furniture, woodwork, stained glass, leatherwork, lacemaking, embroidery, rug making, jewelry and metalwork, enameling and ceramics.

The Arts and Crafts kitchen, even of today, still reflects these ideals. If you are somebody who enjoys the practicality of craftsmanship and the look of straight-lines, this style of kitchen may be for you.