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Return of the Hearth

by Patricia Poore on January 25, 2011

in Floors, Walls and Ceilings

In the philosophy of Arts & Crafts, the fireplace is idealized as the centerpiece of family life: hearth and home.

ABOVE: This fireplace surround in a ca. 1915 house was recently faced with matte-glazed tile. All photographs by Linda Svendsen

At Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman Farms, his own family’s abode, multiple fireplaces are famously clad in iridescent Grueby tiles, or feature hand-hammered copper hoods inscribed with uplifting mottoes. Although not every builders’ bungalow got a fireplace—or at least not a fancy one—plenty of period examples survive to inspire us. The seven examples shown here are, however, in newer homes. As in most revivals, the best work of an era is reproduced more widely.

Curved corbels and mantel are made of American gumwood.

Curved corbels and mantel are made of American gumwood.

Arts & Crafts fireplaces come in many variants: Rustic, Mission, Asian, English or Art Nouveau . . . and in wood, brick, stucco, or art tile. Today’s revival fireplaces are deliberate and artful, showcasing the talent of the mason, the woodcarver, or the pottery. Fireplaces are the focus of cozy inglenooks, they warm bathers, and they showcase vases and metalwork.

New fireplace in English Historical Revival mode, to match a ca. 1920s house.

New fireplace in English Historical Revival mode, to match a ca. 1920s house.

The “bungalow era” of the early 20th century was the first to assure comfortable central heating as a matter of course. Then as now, these recreational fireplaces were symbolic. But they sure are a showcase for beautiful work, and a defining element of the Arts & Crafts interior.

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