A friend living in an 18th-century house responds to bungalow interiors with recognition: it’s so cozy! The immediate embrace, by so many different people, of Arts & Crafts interiors makes me wonder if it is instinctual. I think it is wholly American. It has something to do with the woods and the frontier, even Daniel Boone. (My boys wore out the Fess Parker movie, polyester-coonskin caps on their little heads.) Didn’t Abe Lincoln grow up in a log cabin and learn to read in the dark?
For me, it started in the Adirondacks. (Aaa-da-RON-dack, I love that word.) On family vacations when I was very small, we stayed in the mountains, in a cluster of little cottages, and we called ours The Bungalow. It was a whitewashed cottage with dark green shutters—the typical summer rental, with a color scheme popular from about 1840 through the 1960s. Inside, it was dark and woody, its old pine floorboards sponge-painted over black. The stone fireplace was central. Its rooms were of the period, Fifties knotty pine meeting a leftover Arts & Crafts Rustic. This is, I’m sure, why I yearn for dark interiors, unpainted wood, small low-ceilinged rooms, fireplaces, and cold nights.
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Is Arts & Crafts a smell? Misty mornings with the scent of a damp wool sweater, thrown off at mid-day for an orange life-jacket laced up in the aluminum canoe, Coppertone at the ice-cold lake, the sudden aroma of frying smelts in the cabin’s galley kitchen? And the dust and smoke in the woody rooms, last night’s carbonized sugar from marshmallows burnt on green twigs. Cool balsam and slimy mushrooms and a fine layer of humus.
Is Arts & Crafts a sound? The scr e e e k–THWACK of a wooden screen door, the hollow incompetent clunk of oars, kids yelling around the tether ball?
American Arts & Crafts houses, with their fireplaces, their wood and stone, ginkgos and acorns, pine boughs and clay pots, reminds us of all this. It’s primal . . . don’t you think?
10 Harbor Rd., Gloucester, MA 01930