William Morris founded the of the Arts and Crafts Movement in 1861 with friends Marshall, Faulkner and Co. An interior design business which championed well crafted furniture, textiles and wallpaper. He wanted to revive a sense of beauty in home life, to restore the dignity of art into ordinary households. He thought:
“. . . that every home, however modest, could benefit from such practical beginnings as choosing items that were beautiful and useful. The great difficulty was not starting with nothing, but by having too much. By the accumulation of useless things not only were beautiful things kept out, but the very sense of beauty perpetually dulled and ground away”.
He once lectured against “the acquisitiveness of fortunate classes” (which he called digesting machines). Perhaps we’ve come full circle; The human race has become a digesting machine, with our relentless quest for ‘stuff’- beautiful, useful or otherwise. The Arts and Crafts Movement wanted to move away from cheap mass produced items in factories.
Before the Industrial Revolution and machines, people worked with nature, the land and their hands, but then moved to cities and factories to work making cheap mass produced items, destined for landfill. There was little self worth, job satisfaction or pride in their work. Morris and Co clients were reassured that “good decoration, involving the luxury of taste rather than the luxury of costliness” and set up their own work spaces for traditional crafts and skills in weaving and dyeing and offered apprenticeships, and tried to ensure his employees were looked after by paying them a wage which merited their skills.
True craftsmanship, up-cycling, re-purposed, pre-loved, vintage, antique, restored and responsibly sourced are slowly becoming mainstream, thank goodness. The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust funds the education of talented and aspiring craftspeople. They have published a book ‘A Celebration of British Craftsmanship’ which features portraits and and stories of some of the craftsmen and women from across the United Kingdom that the Trust has supported since 1990. Many craftspeople are also self taught, either from library books or YouTube tutorials. Making the most of what we have already and including them into our homes. This requires careful editing, giving things space, thus avoiding a cluttered appearance. Sound familiar?
Avoid ‘stage’ sets or showrooms, mix items up a bit. Old and new, vintage, inherited pieces and those items that you love. Ensure you know where it will go, how it will fit into the designated space and how well it will sit with your existing furnishings. Also make sure they are practical and fit for purpose. This is what will make your home, adding depth and character and preventing your home from feeling void of your personality. Pair an assortment of items from different periods and styles, which prevents your home looking too of the ‘period’. Good design and craftsmanship have an enduring quality and will stand test of time.
Inspired by nature, William Morris bought nature inside. He believed that “love of nature in all it’s forms must be the ruling spirit”. He also wanted houses to sit well in their plot and their exteriors to blend and compliment the garden. By surrounding ourselves with anything which engages our senses is a key to positive thinking, our mood and well being.
What can we learn from these lessons? As an advocate of restorations, be they homes, furniture or gardens, it is with love and care bestowed into these projects giving character, depth and above all soul. HRH Prince of Wales said when planning his garden at Highgrove, (but is a true statement for our homes too, our need to connect to, and endlessly inspired by nature). “We need to feed the soul, warm our heart and delight the eye”.