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

"The art of building a home": by Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin,   pp. 6-8 ff.


Page 7

              THE ART OF BUILDING A HOME
we do is to make our home take just that form which will, in the most straight-
forward manner, meet our requirements.      * *     * *
   ³The planning having been dictated by convention, all the details
are worked
out under the same influence.     To each house is applied a certain amount
of
meaningless mechanical and superficial ornamentation according to some recog-
nized standard.  No use whatever is made of the decorative properties inherent
in the construction and in the details necessary to the building.  These
are put
as far as possible out of sight.  For example, latches and locks are all
let into
the doors leaving visible the knobs only.   The hinges are hidden in the
rebate
of the door frame, while the real door frame, that which does the work, is
covered
up with a strip of flimsy molded board styled the architrave.  All constructional
features, wherever possible, are smeared over with a coat of plaster to bring
them up to the same dead level of flat monotony, leaving a clear field for
the
erection of the customary abominations in the form of cornices, imitation
beams
where no beams are wanted, and plaster brackets which could support, and
do
support, nothing.   Even with the fire the chief aim seems to be to acknowledge
as few of its properties and characteristics as possible; it is buried as
deep in
the wall and as far out of sight and out of the way as may be; it is smothered
up with as much uncongenial and inappropriate ³enrichment² a~ can~be
crowded
round it; and, to add the final touch of senseless incongruity, some form
of that
massive and apparently very constructional and essential thing we call a
man-
telpiece is erected, in wood, stone or marble, towering it may be even to
the
ceiling.   If we were not so accustomed to it , great would be our astonishment
to find that this most prominent feature has really no function whatever,
beyond
giving cause for a lot of other things as useful and beautiful as itself,
which exist
only that they may be put upon it, Œto decorate it.¹ *  * *  
 *
   ³The essence and life of design lies in finding that form for anything
which
will, with the maximum of convenience and beauty, fit it for the particular
func-
tions it has to perform, and adapt it to the special circumstances in which
it
must be placed.     Perhaps the most fruitful source whence charm of design
arises in anything, is the grace with which it serves its purpose and conforms
to its surroundings.  How many of the beautiful features of the work of past
ages, which we now arbitrarily reproduce and copy, arose out of the skilful
and
graceful way in which some old artist-craftsman, or chief mason, got over
a
difficulty! If, instead of copying these features when and where the cause
for
them does not exist, we would rather emulate the spirit in which they were
pro-
duced, there would be more hope of again seeing life and vigor in our architecture
and design.
³1717 HEN the architect leaves the house, the subservience to convention
           is not over. After him follow the decorator and the furnisher,
who
           try toj overcome the lifelessness and vapidity by covering all
surfaces
with fugitive decorations and incongruous patterns, and filling the rooms
with
flimsy stereotyped furniture and nick-nacks. To these the mistress of the
house
will be incessantly adding, from an instinctive feeling of the incompleteness
and
unsatisfactoriness of the whole.  Incidentally we see here one reason why
the
influence of the architect should not stop at the completion of the four~walls,
but
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