Craftsman, Arts and Crafts, Mission--essentially they're all the same style, an aesthetic that emerged in the late 1800s partly as a reaction to impersonal, machine-made furniture. And now, deja vu. High-tech lighting and Italian black-leather sofas don't exactly warm up our cocoons. In a recent backlash against 1980s minimalism, East Coast interior designers are touting English and French antiques. Here, we need only step inside the shingled bungalows on nearby streets to see furniture as sophisticated as Europe's Biedermeier, Chippendale or Louis Quatorze.
Stately Craftsman furniture is "simple and dignified and frank," as famed furniture maker Gustav Stickley described his sternly designed, utilitarian wares. It's also expensive. Even in 1905, when the average worker earned $12.50 a week, a bookcase cost $25. Today, signed pieces can be pricey (Barbra Streisand recently paid a record $365,000 for a Stickley sideboard). But there are unsigned chairs available for as little as $275, and the manufacture of authentic-looking reproductions is a growing business.
Though Craftsman furniture was out of fashion for years, Craftsman architecture has never left us (a "ranch house" is only a modern Craftsman bungalow). With heavy roofs, deep eaves and low, horizontal profiles, Southern California's original Craftsman houses range from the carefully renovated, historic homes of Pasadena's Greene brothers to modest cottages--they're on nearly every street--built from mail-order plans. Whatever their original cost, however, these bungalows all share the Craftsman concept: materials left as close as possible to their natural state.
Almost a textbook example of period style, this modest Altadena bungalow was built in 1911. A glance around the living room is a lesson in Craftsman design: Ceiling beams and extensive wood surfaces of quarter-sawn oak are finished in a natural stain. Anticipating modern architects who leave steel beams uncovered, Craftsman builders showed off their exquisite joinery by exposing it. The massive fireplace, originally the room's only source of heat, was built from local arroyo stone. Craftsman wall sconces and hanging lights usually were made of brass or copper that took on a greenish patina with age, but many of the reproductions--the fixtures here are new--come in faux verdigris. As the Craftsman style flourished, small art potteries--many of the most famous potters were women--sprang up around the country. As shown here, a mantel was not complete unless several vases flanked a painting of the period.
Not everyone wants to live in a museum. These modern classics work well with Craftsman style.
Not everyone wants to live in a house that looks like a museum. At least, not the owner of this Hermosa Beach bungalow. Although she's enamored of the Craftsman philosophy, she doesn't find furniture of the period particularly comfortable. Instead, she has furnished some of her rooms with modern classics. In the dining room, an antique Craftsman chandelier hangs over a contemporary Paul D'Urso wood table surrounded by Mies van der Rohe chrome chairs. The rug is an antique kilim; floors are Douglas fir. In the kitchenette, contemporary Robert Venturi chairs sit beside an Eero Saarinen table. Cupboards are filled with Fiesta and Bauer ware plates and pitchers. ("I like the scale of the house. I like the nooks and crannies," the owner says.) A wall of windows allows cross- ventilation, a typical Craftsman feature in the days before air conditioning. One complaint often voiced by owners of Craftsman houses is that they are too dark. To bring more light into the kitchenette, the owner left the wainscot as she found it--painted white by a previous owner. It makes for an airy room that has become her favorite.
New Craftsman furnishings range from "historic reproductions" to "adaptations." Reproductions are more expensive because they are usually precise duplicates of the originals--Sanderson's William Morris wallpapers, for example. A 30-roll order takes eight days to produce, because the design is created with eight different hand blocks. Some Craftsman techniques must be "re-invented": It took Scalamandre two years to analyze the weave of a William Morris wool damask fabric. Adaptations, however, are less exacting and often borrow original patterns for other wares. F. Schumacher & Co. took Frank Lloyd Wright's drawings of concrete blocks and adapted them to wallpaper. Adaptations usually employ modern technology and chemical dyes, so they take less time and money to produce.
3 Modern-Day Craftsmen
Not many stained-glass windows from the Craftsman era survive today, so Lukan fills the gap with Craftsman-style windows of his own. At his Age of Elegance workshop in Pasadena, he uses copper foil rather than lead came (the lead strips that fasten together panes of glass) to give his works an irregular, more authentic appearance.
"Greene and Greene never designed to be mass-produced," says Ipekjian, who spends more than 200 hours reproducing an inlaid Greene and Greene Pratt House library table. A former model maker, Ipekjian builds copies of Greene and Greene pieces for James-Randell, a line that he developed with Randell Makinson, director of the Gamble House in Pasadena.
Formerly of Buffalo Studios, where he reproduced Tiffany lamps, Tatosian started Arroyo Craftsman in 1987. At his Duarte workshop, he creates custom lighting as well as verdigris indoor-outdoor light fixtures that are mass-produced but hand-assembled. Says Tatosian: "People are tired of things that are thrown together and don't last."
Where to find the best of both old and new Craftsman furnishings. A * means that items are available only through architects and interior designers.
POTTERY BARN / various locations. Some Pottery Barn stores carry Craftsman-style textured-brass candlesticks and vases (though they are not labeled as such) that are imported from Thailand.
NONESUCH GALLERY, 1211 Montana Ave., Santa Monica 90403; (213) 393-1245. Navajo rugs, often used in Craftsman interiors, range from $250 to $750.
BUDDY'S, 7208 Melrose Ave., Hollywood 90046; (213) 939-2419. Colorful American art pottery from 1880 to 1945. Prices range from less than $100 to several thousand dollars for signed works. Select pieces of furniture.
COUTURIER GALLERY, 166 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles 90036; (213) 933-5557. High-quality, sometimes high-priced furniture and art pottery. Figure $150 for a small Rookwood vase, about $7,000 for a large, signed piece. Will search out ceramics, furniture, lighting and metalwork for collectors.
JACK MOORE: AMERICAN ARTS & CRAFTS, 59 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena 91105; (818) 577-7746. A rambling, informal store that carries a range of well-priced furniture and pottery. A signed Gustav Stickley bookcase can be $9,000, but an unsigned ladderback rocker costs $495; other Craftsman-style chairs start at $175.
* BAKER KNAPP & TUBBS, Pacific Design Center, Space B525, 8687 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles 90069; (213) 652-7252. Distributes historic 30-piece collection currently re-issued by L. & J. G. Stickley Inc. Many bear original catalogue number; all are signed and dated by contemporary craftsman builder.
CONRAN'S HABITAT, 131 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles 90048; (213) 659-1444. A few simple, Craftsman-influenced designs in natural or black.
DESIGN EXPRESS, 3410 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles 90016; (213) 935-9451. A dining room set inspired by Scottish craftsman Charles Rennie Mackintosh and a few other Craftsman-inspired pieces.
DOMESTIC FURNITURE CO., 7385 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles 90036; (213) 936-8206. Furniture maker Roy McMakin's chairs, occasional tables and beds give more than a casual nod to the Craftsman / Stickley tradition. Superb workmanship at relatively modest prices ($250-$1,400).
JAMES-RANDELL, 768 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena 91103; (818) 792-5025. Six exquisitely crafted Greene and Greene pieces include a dining room chair ($2,850) and library table ($6,950). James Ipekjian also accepts custom commissions and creates interpretations of other Craftsman styles.
RITUALS, 765 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles 90069; (213) 854-0848. Owners Saundra Abbott and Marty Frenkel have added a 27-piece line of Crafts-man-inspired furniture to their Southwest inventory.
ARROYO CRAFTSMAN, by appointment; (818) 359-3298. Fixtures made of solid brass with a verdigris patina. Available in various designs and glasses. A workshop, not a showroom.
BUFFALO STUDIOS, 1925 E. Deere Ave., Santa Ana 92705; (714) 250-7333. Reproduction fixtures in the styles of Tiffany, Wright, Stickley and Greene and Greene. Also stained-glass windows, blown-glass shades and Stickley hardware.
PAUL CRIST STUDIOS, 13543 1/2 Alondra Blvd., Santa Fe Springs 90670; (213) 921-0101. Crist, renowned for his restoration of Tiffany glass, now makes Frank Lloyd Wright lamp reproductions for the Pentad Guild. Beautifully crafted, very expensive--single pedestal lamp is $5,500, double pedestal is $7,500. Other period lighting as well as a superb line of reproduction Stickley hardware.
STAINED-GLASS WINDOWS AND DOORS
AGE OF ELEGANCE, 1001 E. Green St., Pasadena 91106; (818) 795-7175. Mick Lukan makes custom doors and stained-glass windows; a 2x4-foot stained-glass window costs $1,000.
MALIBU CERAMIC WORKS, P.O. Box 1406, 1111 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga Canyon 90290; (213) 455-2485. Owner Bob Harris bought 8,000 pieces of abandoned Malibu Potteries tile and now reproduces these vibrant, multicolored tiles from the '20s. Harris will also custom make Craftsman styles and restore existing tile work. A 6-inch-square tile costs $15 to $20.
BRIAN FLYNN ASSOCIATES, Pacific Design Center, Space B447, 8687 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles 90069; (213) 659-2614. Specializing in custom architectural ceramics, Flynn represents about 30 ceramists. Reproductions of Batchelder and Grueby tiles, both well-known Craftsman potteries. Restoration as well.
WALLPAPER, FABRICS AND CARPETS
BRADBURY & BRADBURY, P.O. Box 155, Benicia, Calif. 94510; (707) 746-1900. Best known for rich Victorian wall coverings, the company produces a series of papers based on William Morris designs. Borders, friezes, wainscots, field papers and ceiling medallions are assembled like pieces in a puzzle to cover all areas of wall and ceiling. A unique mail decorating service for wallpaper designs. Catalogue available for $10.
* F. SCHUMACHER & CO., Pacific Design Center, Space B499, 8687 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles 90069; (213) 652-5353. Vast selection of wallpapers, fabrics and area rugs based on interpretations of Frank Lloyd Wright designs.
* J. ROBERT SCOTT AND ASSOCIATES, 8737 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles 90069; (213) 659-4910. Reproductions of hand-printed William Morris papers by Sanderson, an old English wallpaper firm that bought Morris & Co.'s original wood printing blocks.
* SCALAMANDRE, Pacific Design Center, Space G886, 8687 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles 90069; (213) 657-8154. Widely known for historic reproductions, Scalamandre is reproducing fabrics, wall coverings and a few carpets based on William Morris designs.