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Arts and crafts decor is perfect for those seeking to inject nature and heritage in into the home.
Dating back to the late 19th century, the Arts & Crafts Movement sought to celebrate craftsmanship, honest materials and the beauty of nature in an increasingly industrialised society of factory produced goods.
Influenced by the Medieval aesthetic and a deep appreciation for the natural world, the style is renowned for its intricate fabric and wallpaper prints, many of which were produced for Morris & Co, the design firm set up by William Morris, a pioneer of the Arts & Crafts Movement.
Still available today in their original colorways, these designs are an easy way to embrace the heritage look within interior design, particularly when paired with a liberal use of natural wood and simple, artisan crafted furniture which are also characteristic features of the style.
Arts and crafts decor – 12 ways to embrace heritage style
When it comes to arts and crafts decor there are so many ways to channel the look. To help get you started we've rounded up a host of beautiful decorating ideas inspired by the Arts and Crafts Movement along with some handy advice from the interiors experts.
‘The Arts and Crafts Movement was all about unique design that celebrated quality craftsmanship, natural textures and nature-inspired motifs, three elements that combine to create a beautifully layered and cozy style,' says Sue Jones, creative director of Oka.
'I think the key to achieving the arts and crafts look is to embrace pieces that exemplify the skill of their makers, whether that be handmade and glazed pots, hand-woven rattan furniture or hand-embroidered upholstery. I’d pair these with warm-colored rugs, pleated lampshades and plenty of pattern to add lots of lovely detail and make the space feel really inviting.’
1. Decorate with arts and crafts wallpapers
Stylised flora and fauna designs are a defining feature of arts & crafts decor, many of which were designed for the company Morris & Co and printed onto wallpapers and fabrics using traditional methods.
Today a host of the original designs are still available to buy in the authentic colorways, as well as an array of refreshed palettes perfect for modern living. Designed by J.H. Dearle in 1880 and printed by Morris & Co, this ornate Severne damask print has recently been revived in an array of fresh, delicate colorways for wallpapers and fabrics, perfect for decorating an uplifting living room.
2. Use arts and crafts prints to inspire an interior palette
Wallpaper is a brilliant way to breathe life into practical spaces like kitchens and can also be a great starting point for developing kitchen color ideas. Inspired by an embroidered panel by May Morris, the daughter of William Morris, this Seasons by May wallpaper features an ornate trellis design of parakeets, tulips and flowers –perfect for bringing joy to a kitchen. The print features lovely green and red tones which have been picked out for use over the cabinets and kitchen island.
3. Create wow-factor in a hallway
Hallways are a great place to be bold with print, plus, being transient, connecting spaces, you can afford to experiment with darker colors, too.
In this traditional hallway, interior designer Zoe Feldman has put a quirky twist on the arts and crafts decor by pairing Morris & Co's Pimpernell wallpaper, originally designed in 1876, with a playful animal-print stair runner.
4. Make a feature of your windows with arts and crafts fabrics
If wall-to-wall pattern is too much, why not make a feature of your windows with curtains and blinds in arts and crafts inspired fabrics? Featuring deer, birds and foliage, this Balmoral design from Warner House has a distinct arts and crafts feel.
Pictured in the green colorway it works particularly well in a country kitchen alongside natural materials of stone, wood and linen.
5. Embrace arts and crafts decor with wall art
Adding wall decor depicting an arts and crafts print is a quick and easy way to channel the heritage look. Bringing instant wow-factor to a dining room, this digitally printed wall hanging by Surface View features the famous Pimpernell design by William Morris.
6. Create a statement dining room with a dark intricate print
If you love entertaining then bold wallpapers are perfect for bringing wow-factor and a sense of occasion to dining rooms.
In this beautiful traditional dining room designed by Murphy Deesign, Morris & Co's classic Strawberry Thief wallpaper has been paired with woodwork in a co-ordinating dark blue to create a cozy and intimate atmosphere.
7. Decorate with wood
If you're looking to embrace arts and crafts decor then you can't go wrong by decorating with wood. Traditional wooden wall paneling was a common feature of the arts and crafts house style and wood was also the material of choice for arts and crafts furniture designers.
This arts and crafts home has been beautifully restored by Cave Interiors and features the original wood paneling. To bring the look up-to-date the paneling has been paired with curtains in a beautiful fabric covered in hand-painted bird illustrations.
8. Update living room seating with arts and crafts fabrics
Upholstering living room seating in arts and crafts prints is a lovely way to inject pattern and heritage into a living room without dominating the space.
An armchair covered in the flamboyant acanthus leaf print is guaranteed to bring life to an empty living room corner – to create a cozy feel opt for the design in a sumptuous velvet.
9. Choose vibrant arts and crafts fabrics for a modern twist
Originally Morris & Co designs were printed in limited colorways, but today many of the prints have been reinvigorated in contemporary palettes perfect for 21st century living. The new Cornubia collection from Ben Pentreath and Morris & Co sees traditional Morris prints for fabrics and wallpapers revived in a vibrant colorways perfect bringing a color pop to upholstery, walls or window treatments.
'I began with a whole new palette – colors which are on my mind at the moment: tangerine, lemon yellow, primrose, soft pinks, blues and bright apple greens – the colors of spring and summer,' says interior designer Ben Pentreath. 'As we translated these new combinations into the historic patterns, there was a visible thrill in seeing how new and happy everything looked and felt! I was like a child in a candy store. Maybe intentional, maybe accidental, but these were the colors and patterns of my mid 70s childhood all over again.'
10. Create a romantic country bedroom
Bursting with sinuous stems and blooms, arts and crafts wallpapers are perfect for bringing the romance of nature into the bedroom, as demonstrated this beautiful scheme by Neptune. Designed by J.H. Dearle in 1892, Blackthorn is a classic arts and crafts wallpaper which is still available today in its original colorway.
When decorating with ornate bedroom wallpapers ‘scale and balance become imperative,' advises Simon Temprell, interior design manager at Neptune. ‘The heavily patterned William Morris wallpaper could easily dominate the room, but the balance is maintained with the addition of a large statement four poster bed in simple oak. The painted chest brings out the warmer tones from the wallpaper without fighting it,’ he adds.
11. Bring heritage style to the bathroom
Wallpaper can really bring wow-factor to practical spaces like bathrooms. If you love the spectrum of sea blue tones, from crisp turquoise through to subtle seaweed greens, but want to move away from classic coastal motifs, then Morris & Co’s Wilhelmina wallpaper in Indigo, could be the perfect solution.
Inspired by the work of May Morris, daughter of the arts and crafts pioneer William Morris, the design captures the soothing colors of the ocean but also injects heritage and history perfect for a period home.
12. Pair arts and crafts prints with paneling
Arts and crafts prints are renowned for being flamboyant and detailed and when used over all four walls they can risk overpowering a room. To temper the look why not pair the papers with paneling in a pastel shade as done in this beautiful cloakroom idea?
Being rooms in which we spend little time, but also spaces frequented by guests, cloakrooms make brilliant spaces to experiment with print and color.
What is arts and crafts decor?
Flourishing from around 1880, the Arts and Crafts Movement set to provide an antidote to the ugly, poorly designed and inferior quality machine-made products associated with the industrialism of the Victorian age. Instead, importance was placed on elevating the role of the artisan, the decorative arts, craftsmanship, honest materials and simplicity of form within domestic design.
Visually, this philosophy was expressed through a myriad of styles and mediums, from humble wooden furniture to ornate surface design. Taking inspiration from nature and a Medieval aesthetic, leading figures such as William Morris and C.F. Voysey, created stylised flora and fauna patterns for wallpapers and fabrics, many for the decorating firm Morris & Co founded by the father of the movement himself in 1861.
With enduring appeal these beautiful prints, whether archive originals or recolored designs, look just as effective today, bringing visual delight and British heritage into the home.
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Pippa is Content Editor on Homes & Gardens online contributing to Period Living and Country Homes & Interiors print issues. A graduate of Art History and formerly Style Editor at Period Living, she is passionate about architecture, creating decorating content, interior styling and writing about craft and historic homes. She enjoys searching out beautiful images and the latest trends to share with the Homes & Gardens audience. A keen gardener, when she’s not writing you’ll find her growing flowers on her village allotment for styling projects.
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