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Is A&C the new Colonial?

by Arts and Crafts Editor on March 9, 2015

in Editor's Letter


If you’re someone who looks at lots of architecture magazines, or regularly tours newly built houses, you may have noticed that the motifs of the Arts & Crafts era have become a kind of design default. Porch columns? Posts on piers. Lamps? Mission and mica. Kitchens? Subway tile, oak, and soapstone. Such things have become standards, whether the house is brand-new or a remodeled mid-century ranch.

All my life, the default style has been so-called Colonial: center hall and window shutters, with Early American furniture and brass lamps. Yes, other styles intruded—in the early Sixties, I remember selling Girl Scout cookies to a neighbor whose living room had a sleek hi-fi cabinet and a starburst clock. (I was wide-eyed at her artsy modernity, coming from my parents’ living room with its braid rug and stenciled Boston rocker.) But Colonial always won out, in furniture stores and sit-coms and our collective sense of what’s familiar. That’s been true for nearly twice as long as I’ve been on earth.

I remember, too, the working-class homes of friends—small houses that were tired outside. Under deep eaves, rooms were dark with unpainted woodwork and old-fashioned nooks. Those houses weren’t called bungalows then—bungalows were what you rented down the shore. We just called them, with a hint of pity, “old houses.”

Well, you know what happened a generation or two later! All fixed up, better appointed than they were when new, those old houses have provided the vocabulary for the latest American go-to style. The Arts & Crafts revival has officially passed the half-century mark, so we shouldn’t be surprised.

Even though real-estate listings are more sophisticated than in the past, “colonial” is still the word most over-used. How long before we see the label “Craftsman bungalow” applied to some sided-over split-level that happens to have Prairie-style house numbers?

Patricia Poore
Patricia Poore, Editor
10 Harbor Rd., Gloucester, MA 01930

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Ken - the OldHouseGuy April 22, 2015 at 5:01 pm

Wow – you are so right – I never realized this. A&C is the new Colonial. At one time almost all furniture had an Early American “flavor” even if it wasn’t that style but now we see Arts & Crafts flavors in everything.

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