The lessons of preservation are evident in new work—lessons that touch on appropriateness, awareness of locale, and respect for the past. The long unacknowledged influence of the Arts & Crafts movement can’t be denied: Arts & Crafts has always been modern. It brings the environment indoors. It is sensitive to local materials and vernacular building traditions. These themes are paramount again today as architects embrace new technology and more environmentally responsible building practices.
A recent trend is toward smaller, more naturalistic, more site-specific designs. In many cases, Arts & Crafts-era sensibilities, materials, and construction details play a part in the pleasing appearance of these homes. On the outside, some are near-replica bungalows—not a bad approach when the house is meant to fit into an existing prewar neighborhood.
Still, an Arts & Crafts “style” is notoriously hard to describe. What the houses have in common is the designer’s approach, which responds to the site and also interprets favorite details from a long tradition. A majority of excellent revival houses are the result of a guild-like collaboration among educated client, the designers, the builder and carpenter, and tradespeople. Certain elements recur, among them enveloping rooflines, exaggerated structural elements (battered columns, stone piers, knee braces), porches and open-roofed pergolas, grouped windows and strong horizontals.