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Stickley, Gustav, 1858-1942. / Craftsman homes
(1909)

Our native woods and the craftsman method of finishing them,   pp. 185-193


Page 185

OUR NATIVE WOODS AND THE CRAFTSMAN
METHOD OF FINISHING THEM
So much of the success of the whole
    Craftsman scheme of building and deco-
    ration depends upon the right selection
    and treatment of the woodwork, which
forms such an important part of the structural
and also of the decorative scheme, that we
have considered it worth while to devote an
entire chapter to such information and instruc-
tion as we are able to give concerning some of
our native woods that we consider most desir-
able for this purpose. We are taking up only
the woods that are native to this country, for
the reason that they are nearest at hand and
because, when finished by our method, they
reveal the beauty of color and grain that forms
the basis of the whole Craftsman idea of
interior decoration.   These vary widely, as
each wood possesses strongly marked charac-
teristics as to color, texture and grain; but all
the woods we mention here are desirable for
interior trim and the use of them is much more
in accordance with the Craftsman scheme of
decoration than are the elaborate and more or
less exotic effects obtained by the use of
expensive foreign woods.   This does not mean
that we claim greater beauty for the native
woods, but merely that, when properly treated,
they are quite as interesting as any of the more
costly woods imported from other countries
and have the great advantage of being easily
obtainable at moderate cost.
 We need not dwell upon the importance of
using a generous amount of woodwork to give
an effect of permanence, homelikeness and
rich warm color in a room.  Anyone who has
ever entered a house in which the friendly
natural wood is used in the form of wainscot-
ing, beams and structural features of all kinds,
has only to contrast the impression given by
such an interior with that which we receive
when we go into the average house, where the
plain walls are covered with plaster and paper
and the conventional door and window frames
are of painted or varnished wood, in order to
realize the difference made by giving to the
woodwork its full     value in the decorative
scheme. No care bestowed on decoration, or
expense lavished on draperies or furniture,
can make up for the absence of wood in the
interior of a house.   This is a truth that has
long been understood and applied in the older
countries, especially in England, whose mellow
friendly old houses are the delight and despair
of Americans; but it is only a few years since
we began to apply it to the building and fur-
nishing of our own homes.     With us the reali-
zation of the possibilities of natural wood
when used as a basis for interior decoration
first took root in the West, particularly on the
Pacific Coast, where the delightful atmosphere
of rooms that were wainscoted, ceiled and
beamed with California redwood gave rise to
a new departure in the finishing and decora-
tion of our homes, and stirred the East to
follow suit.
  In recommending the generous use of wood-
work,    however,  we would have    it clearly
understood that we mean the use of wood so
finished that its individual qualities of grain,
texture and color are preserved so far as pos-
sible, and such treatment of wall spaces and
structural features that they are not made
unduly prominent, but rather sink quietly into
the background and become a part of the room
itself, forming a friendly unobtrusive setting
for the furniture, draperies and ornaments,
instead of coming into competition with them.
To  this   end the woodwork      should be so
finished that its inherent color quality is deep-
ened and mellowed as if by time and its sur-
face made pleasantly smooth without sacri-
ficing the woody quality that comes      from
frankly revealing its natural texture.  When
this is done, the little sparkling irregularity of
the grain allows a play of light over the sur-
face that seems to give it almost a soft radi-
ance,<a quality that we lose entirely in wood-
work that is filled, stained to a solid color,
varnished and polished so that the light is
reflected from a hard unsympathetic surface.
  It is interesting also to note how much the
character of a room depends upon the kind of
wood we use in it.   For example, the impres-
sion given by oak is strong, austere and dig-
nified,  suggesting  stability and permanence
such as would naturally belong to a house
built to last for generations.   It is a robust,
manly sort of wood and is most at home in
large rooms which are meant for constant use,
such as the living room, reception hall, library
or dining room.      Chestnut, ash and elm,<
although each one has an individual quality
of color and grain that differentiates it from
all the others,<all come into the same class
as oak, in that they are strong-fibered, open-
textured woods that find their best use in the
rooms in which the general life of the house-
hold is carried on.  The finer-textured woods,
185


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