Plain or snazzy, all good

Arts and Crafts Homes - - ARTS & CRAFTS HOMES -

NEVER A DULL MO­MENT (nor ex­pres­sion) when it comes to Arts & Crafts eras and their re­vivals. One af­ter the other, I edited two of the up­front fea­tures in this is­sue, and had to chuckle at their ap­par­ent con­tra­dic­tion. We ex­toll the virtues of sim­plic­ity when ad­vis­ing on cur­tains and drap­ery: gone were the lam­bre­quins and vel­vets of Vic­to­ri­ana, re­placed by roller shades and muslin. The bath­room, now, that’s an­other story! San­i­tary white bath­rooms and ex­posed plumb­ing, the re­sult of a late 19th-cen­tury pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with germs and ver­min, were swept aside in fa­vor of a riot of af­ford­able color in tile and fix­tures, es­pe­cially in Cal­i­for­nia and the South­west. I com­pared photos of orig­i­nal color-tile bath­rooms to more re­cent re­vival ex­am­ples. Sur­pris­ingly, it is the orig­i­nals that go over the top, strain­ing our post­mod­ern lim­its on taste­ful­ness. Pat­terns were ex­otic, pal­ettes eye-pop­ping: teal and char­treuse, candy pink with mint green, cobalt with or­ange. When they rely on color and pat­tern at all, to­day’s bath de­signs are more deco­rous. Sub­way tile may have an or­na­men­tal border; a wain­scot or floor is tiled in a strong earthy color. Very po­lite.

Col­or­ful bath­rooms ca. 1920–40 were not, of course, specif­i­cally “Arts & Crafts,” though they could be found in bun­ga­lows. The trend had two sparks: a re­vival of His­pano–Moresque tile­mak­ing dur­ing an on­go­ing Span­ish Colo­nial Re­vival, and the in­flu­ence of Art Deco on home de­sign, es­pe­cially in kitchens and bath­rooms. A sim­i­lar kind of cross-pol­li­na­tion is hap­pen­ing to­day, as the re­vival of Arts & Crafts quite nat­u­rally in­ter­sects with sus­tain­able prac­tices and univer­sal de­sign in ar­chi­tec­ture.

Change and re­fine­ment: they are what make any re­vival in­ter­est­ing. Hav­ing cho­sen a bun­ga­low or foursquare to re­store, we al­most al­ways make it “purer” and un­doubt­edly pret­tier than it was when it was built. That’s one kind of re­fine­ment. An­other hap­pens when we cre­ate some­thing en­tirely new—a house or a tech­nol­ogy—with un­der­stand­ing and re­spect for the past. I rel­ish the new in­ter­pre­ta­tions. Pa­tri­cia Poore, Editor

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