Skip to main content

Coloring Outside the Lines

When you were a little kid, in the inward years before arithmetic class, did you feel in your heart that there were good numbers and bad ones? For me the even numbers were good, but 3 and 7 gave me the creeps. I think I have that kind of unexamined prejudice about architectural styles. Ironically, I favor the “odd” ones—that long asymmetrical evolution running from Gothic to chalet to Queen Anne and Shingle Style to Art Deco. The nice, even ones—Georgian, neoclassical—leave me slightly unnerved. Do I think they demand obedience?


(I also harbor the conviction that just living in a Modern house—say, a Richard Neutra as photographed by Julius Shulman—would cause the inhabitants to be thin and attractive.)

Arts & Crafts is, in my private mind, the antithesis of compliance. Architects and owners are always pushing the boundaries. An owner building a new Craftsman house decides to incorporate salvaged beveled glass, rich with baroque curves. (Or are they Art Nouveau?) Rather than tossing the burnt clinkers, celebrated architects mix the ugly bricks with arroyo stone and we call it peanut brittle. (Doesn’t sound like a course at the École, now, does it?)

I encountered Arts & Crafts free spirit in trying to write about interior paint-color schemes. The advice, always good if trite, is to use earthy colors. So why do I remember fondly the San Mateo bungalow with walls in tints of apricot and teal, pulled from paintings hung on the walls? Dedicated restorers, the homeowners certainly had heard the drill.

I once wrote that Arts & Crafts is the preference of wild boys and back-to-the-landers, cuddlers and artists. Add to that naughty people who never met a color they didn’t like. Another reminder that you can find precedent for anything you really want to do, and that Arts & Crafts is for creativity foremost. Do great work, color outside the lines, so generations to follow will have something to copy.

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

Image placeholder title

Art + Craft - this week's picks