The designer and socialist William Morris spearheaded the English Arts and Crafts movement in the 1860s as a reaction to the industrial revolution and the ornate and mass-produced Victorian design ethos. Through his writings and art Morris celebrated simple, elegant objects handmade by individual artisans with quality, natural materials. These ideas slowly seeped into American culture, particularly via furniture maker Gustave Stickley’s magazine, The Craftsman. The American Craftsman style was also greatly influenced by both Japanese art and architecture (the World’s Fairs and Expositions of the time pushed that along) and the simple furniture of the Shakers. The Greene and Greene architecture firm was established in Pasadena in 1894, and the brothers, along with other innovative firms and master contractors like the Hall brothers, quickly began adapting this sensibility to the laid-back California lifestyle.
The California bungalow was born. Built for busy folks in the rapidly growing middle class, these small homes were constructed of local, usually darkly painted wood and were one or one-and-a-half stories. Form followed function and the common rooms often featured built-in breakfast nooks, cabinets, and alcoves surrounding fireplaces built with California river rock. In a nod to both California’s home grown Mission architecture and medieval heraldry decorative clay tiles were also utilized in new functional ways, especially by the SoCal artist Ernest Batchelder, whose custom made home at 626 South Arroyo Boulevard still stands as a lovely testament to the Arts and Crafts movement.
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