For those who don’t know, William Morris is the father of the Arts and Crafts movement. For those who don’t know me, I’m OBSESSED with all things Arts and Crafts. No, not the activity that children do with scissors, glue, and macaroni, but the architecture and design movement from the early 20th century.
It all started when I was a recent transplant from NYC to LA in a soul-crushing advertising job, and I went to visit the Gamble House in Pasadena by architects Greene & Greene. These guys were bringing their interpretation of William Morris’s Arts & Crafts philosophy to California.
How can you not be inspired to ultimately quit your well-paid, highly secure job and begin your quest to become an interior designer and historic architecture enthusiast?
Arts & Crafts is all about reintroducing hand-made craft after the Industrial Revolution in England led to a conversion to machine manufacturing. This may sound a lot like today where we have your Etsys and your Renegade Craft Fairs as a response to the standardization of all things design by places like IKEA, Pottery Barn, and the like. Not that those stores don't have their place, but it's undeniable that the proliferation of semi-affordable, mass-produced design has seen a counter-movement seeking unique, authentic, and imperfect design.
Getting back to England, though, the Industrial Revolution had changed things rapidly. Furniture and other able to be made by machine for the first time, and conditions in England became rough. Unhealthy, cramped, sooty, dirty. Just icky. Think sad child chimney sweeps. William Morris believed that betterment could be achieved through nature and also wanted to reinvigorate the importance of hand crafted furniture and design. He set up a workshop in his home, the Red House, and he and other artists began producing amazing, nature-inspired textiles, wall coverings, and stained glass, that are still classic today.
Some of the color combinations are a bit on the…uh…Victorian side. So if that’s not your thing, try a modern interpretation of William Morris, look for modern interpretations, like the fabulous the wallpaper print that is actually an ode to William Morris by Timorous Beasties.