Friday, July 31, 2009

Gustav Stickley Craftsman Bungalow

n the May 1903 issue of Gustav Stickley's The Craftsman magazine, the plans and perspective views of the first Craftsman house were published. This was to become a regular feature during the life of the magazine and became an important facet of the whole Craftsman experience.

It was Stickleys idea to integrate all aspects of domestic life, from the external architecture and planned gardens, to the internal furnishings and accessories. All would be as a unified and harmonious whole. This all encompassing lifestyle would be reflected in his monthly magazine, which in turn was to be a reflection of both his own philosophy and that of his company.

All aspects of domestic living were to be seen as facets of a work of art. The placing of the building within its environment was crucial and much of the internal design of the house could depend on its exterior positioning, and although it was not expected that every home would be able to chose its vistas and panoramic views, it was expected that as far as possible, attention should be placed on the building and its immediate environment.

Many of Stickley's more desirable house plans called for homes to be nestled within a naturally rural or semi-rural setting, although there were many plans published in the magazine for both suburban and urban dwellings. The fact that the idea of 'natural' was sometimes more artificially achieved than was comfortable for the average Arts & Crafts sensibility, was more a matter of practicality than desire. More importance was placed on the artistic sensibility of the buildings harmony with its immediate and more distant environment, rather than a literal placing within a truly natural and often harsh environment. That this environment sometimes needed to be softened with a semi-landscaped exterior, was considered acceptable.

It would be harsh to call a Craftsman house an aesthetic exercise and nothing more. These houses were meant to be more than just picturesque summer homes. Stickley took the idea that was central to the philosophy of the English Arts & Crafts movement, that of harmony with nature, and applied it to the great American outdoors. The Craftsman house had much more room literally, to reach its full potential as a home, both derived from and existing in its own natural environment. Something that the English Arts & Crafts movement, within their crowded island, had largely only been able to imagine as a theoretical possibility.

The monthly Craftsman house plans became a popular regular feature of The Craftsman, and although not many were commissioned to be built, the idea of living within a harmonious relationship with nature became an important aspect in the education of both the readers of the magazine and the general American experience.

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