Sustainability may be a relatively new buzzword, but it’s an old concept.
It arrived early. The Industrial Revolution and all the change it entailed had barely settled in before some British artists and thinkers realized that, in a world that’s turned unbelievably volatile, it’s comforting to realize that some things are timeless. The resulting Arts and Crafts movement was, in many ways, a reaction to all things industrial: preferring hand crafts to mass production, pitting the skill of individual artisans against machines, and emphasizing the inherent beauty of natural materials.
The material trappings of the Arts and Crafts movement aren’t the only things that remain a hallmark of modern environmentalism, either. Most British and American Arts and Crafts proponents were politically progressive for their time. William Morris, for instance, founded Britain’s Socialist League. And their politics, like their designs, owed a curious debt to the past. Both Arts and Crafts aesthetics and the socialist and communist political models favored by Arts and Crafts advocates are rooted in the practices of medieval craft guilds.
Around the start of the 20th century, the Arts and Crafts movement arrived in America, albeit in a watered-down form. Rather than Morris’ socialism, the movement became associated with Progressivism and the populism of leaders like Theodore Roosevelt and William Jennings Bryant. Likewise, while American Craftsman-style architecture and interior design embraced the same materials, principles, and oftentimes-rustic patina of its British precedents, it was also mass-produced and marketed to the middle class. (Sears and Roebuck, for example, sold thousands of Arts and Crafts style homes in factory-made kit form.)
As a result, 100-year-old neighborhoods around the country are filled with Arts and Crafts style homes such as this charming bungalow in Island Home. Its bright, airy rooms filled with well-crafted details like coffered ceilings and lots of cunning built-ins, it’s a testament to the movement’s commitment to good design. And, with a wrap porch featuring river-rock columns and an interior chock full of hardwoods, it’s likewise an example of the emphasis Arts and Crafts designers placed on being in harmony with nature.
And the fact that this bungalow, like many of its brethren around the country, sits in a neighborhood that’s increasingly known for it’s own political progressivism? Well, lets just say that sustainability applies to ideas at least as much as its does design.