If you love the charm and character of a traditional country cottage but on a more substantial scale, the architectural style of the Arts and Crafts movement may appeal to you. Originating in the British Isles in the late 19th and early 20th century, it is forever associated with its main proponent, William Morris who believed that everyone has the right to a beautiful house.
I spoke to Artichoke, experts in home restoration for period interiors and architectural joinery, who explained that the private house was at the heart of the Arts and Crafts movement. Construction was all about simple, traditional building forms and the use of vernacular, natural materials as a reaction against the perceived threat of mass production and industrialisation.
Celebrating individualism and honest craftsmanship, Arts and Crafts houses were designed by inspired architects including Philip Webb, Richard Lethaby and Charles Voysey, using local artisans to produce homes that were functional as well as beautiful, many of which have stood the test of time.
Whether you’re lucky enough to own an Arts and Craft property or you’re looking for design inspiration for a modern country home, here are 5 historic houses you should visit.
1. Kelmscott Manor, near Lechlade, Gloucestershire
William Morris’ wonderfully unspoilt Cotswold country retreat encapsulates all that he held dear. Leased jointly with his friend and fellow Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and home to Morris’ family beyond his death, this 17th century Grade I listed manor house on the Thames houses an outstanding collection of Morris’ works and possessions along with those of his associates including Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones and Philip Webb.
Kelmscott Manor is open to the public between April to October on Wednesdays and Saturdays and a video preview of what you can expect to see can be viewed here.
2. Red House, Bexleyheath, South East London
The only house that William Morris commissioned, created and live in himself, Red House was designed by the architect and Morris’ friend Philip Webb. Built in 1860, the Arts and Crafts house affords an extraordinary glimpse into the life of Morris and his family.
Morris and his wife Janey Burden lived at Red House for 5 years and both their daughters were born there. Original features include fixed furniture designed by Morris and Webb. The house became a centre for Morris’ circle of friends and acquaintances, many of whom contributed to the colourful décor of the walls and ceilings.
The entrance hall, dining room, drawing room and a bedroom are all open to the public. Admission to the house is by guided tour only which must be booked in advance by calling 0208 304 9878.
3. Standen, East Grinstead, West Sussex
An imposing family home designed by Philip Webb and furnished by William Morris, Standen was built in 1894 for the wealthy solicitor James Beale and his family. The house and gardens are a real showpiece of the Arts and Crafts movement and a true inspiration for any modern day home maker with a penchant for the era.
From the overall architecture of the building to decorative details such as fireplaces, staircases and furniture, Standen has a charm all its own. The country house is filled with Morris wallpapers, ceramics by William de Morgan and Arts and Crafts furniture.
You can visit Standen seven days a week, with many rooms both upstairs and downstairs being open to public viewing.
4. 7 Hammersmith Terrace, West London
This building was the home of one of Morris’ friends and collaborators, the printer Emery Walker. It is now believed to be the most authentic Arts and Crafts home in Britain. The late 19th century interior features many textiles, wallpaper and furnishings designed by Morris and Webb. However, there are also Chinese and Moroccan and Middle Eastern influences along with classic English furniture from previous eras – a melange that Arts and Crafts proponents would have wholeheartedly approved of.
Explore the dining room, drawing room, bedroom and conservatory by booking a tour on Thursdays and Saturdays between March and November. Details can be found on the Emery Walker House website.
5. Blackwell, Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria
One of the UK’s finest Arts and Crafts houses, Blackwell was built by the architect MH Baillie Scott around the turn of the century as a holiday home for a wealthy Manchester businessman. Inside, the house retains many original decorative features including stained glass and carved wooden panelling, spectacular plasterwork, a rare hessian wall hanging and ornate door and window furniture.
Furniture and objects by leading Arts and Crafts designers can be found in many of the rooms that you can visit throughout the year. See the website for detailed visitor information.