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Do You Remember When?

A Note from the Editor:

Do you remember when? The first time I encountered a full-blown Arts & Crafts room, I had no name for it. I was touring the opulent Queen Victoria bed-and-breakfast inn in Cape May, New Jersey, which had been restored and decorated by Joan and Dane Wells. Joan was executive director of the Victorian Society in America, but harbored a fondness for Arts & Crafts design long before it was popular.

We came upon the den after touring highly decorated rooms: different wallpaper patterns in dado, fill, and frieze; a walnut sideboard groaning with cut crystal and Victorian china; fancy sofas dripping with bullion fringe. Then through a secondary doorway and into a room—also papered, though with a tone-on-tone Morris pattern—furnished with rectilinear Stickley pieces and plain green pottery. Wow, the younger me thought, it’s so plain (and what a relief!). But the room did not seem anachronistic. It felt like a family-style evolution of what we’d seen in other rooms.

American Arts & Crafts blends nicely with the late-Victorian English A&C of William Morris, and even with Aesthetic-movement pieces. Similarly, A&C is a bridge to the Modern design that followed. I have seen Modern furniture looking quite at home in a bungalow, as well as a few proto-modern Arts & Crafts furnishings sitting comfortably amidst leather and chrome in a 1950s house. (Imagine, on the other hand, a Breuer tubular-steel chair in a Victorian parlor—like a penguin on the Serengeti.)

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Now I’m remembering the time I brought home two unsigned, rather severe American A&C chairs, fumed oak dingy with grime. I found them at a secondhand shop operating from an abandoned mill building, ten bucks each. “Huh,” said a visiting friend of the family who’d grown up on an Iowa farm. He was amused at my choice of the plain, masculine furniture. “Back before the War, we called that ‘firewood furniture’ and stored it in the barn.”

“You’re kidding!” I said. “It might have been Limbert or even Stickley—what happened to it?!”

“Burned it,” he drawled.

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

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