Arts and Crafts interior design is having a revival – here's how interior designers are embracing this vintage style in 2024

Classic style and quality craftsmanship are at the core of Arts and Crafts style

Arts and Crafts interior design
(Image credit: Cave Interiors/Helen Cathcart/Paul Massey)

Arts and Crafts interior design is having a moment, and while this style is nothing new, it seems people are finding a renewed appreciation for it. Whether the color palette has caught your eye or the ethos behind the designs, you're not alone in your intrigue.

Interior design styles are always ebbing in and out of trends, but Arts and Crafts decor has been around for decades. With a sense of history and a step back from the more modern spaces that have dominated recent trends, the Arts and Crafts resurgence is proving a breath of fresh air.

So what exactly is Arts and Crafts interior design, and how can it inspire your home's decor? We've turned to interior designers to find out why this historic style is making a comeback, and how they recommend embracing the aesthetic.

What is Arts and Crafts interior design?

Dining room with blinds and curtains in Balmoral fabric from Warner House

(Image credit: Warner House)

Arts and Crafts interior design champions quality-made, artisan products, rather than mass-produced pieces. 'Arts and Crafts interiors are simply designed using locally found natural materials that reflect customs and traditions rather than following fashion, with well-made furniture that is both useful as well as decorative,' explains Georgina Cave, of Cave Interiors.

The focus of Arts and Crafts design is on furniture and decor that blends function and style – it's about embracing the beauty of decor, and investing in well-made pieces. 'When I think of Arts and Crafts interiors, I think of a harmonious blend of functionality, materiality and craftsmanship. This era championed the virtues of handcrafted excellence and the beauty of natural materials,' says interior designer Matthew Williamson.

There is an eclecticism to Arts and Crafts interior design that resonates with today's trends, despite this style originating over 100 years ago. 'The Arts and Crafts movement lasted from around 1860 to 1920 and had many different strains. From the clean lines and Proto-Modernism of Charles Rennie Macintosh’s Hill House to the feudal nostalgia of Edwin Lutyen’s Castle Drogo, the interiors of the period can be riotously eclectic and conflicting,' explains Leo Kary, associate director of interior design at Ben Pentreath.

'Although there were different aesthetics within the movement, the interiors are characterized by their sense of integrity and humility. Materials and furniture celebrate the skill of the artisan over the machine and are often self-consciously hand-made. Metalwork is hammer beaten, glazed ceramics have the tonal variations of brushwork, and seats of chairs are woven in rush rather than neatly upholstered so that the hand of the maker is clearly visible,' he adds.

'The variety of materials and skills used in interiors of the period, including tiles, enamelwork, oversized engraved hinges, carved paneling, and stained glass, celebrate the individual craft of a maker. Many of the prominent names in the movement were simultaneously architects, furniture designers, and textile designers, which is indicative of the broad approach they took to interior decoration,' Leo suggests. 

What are the origins of Arts and Crafts interior design?

Arts and Crafts living room with original wooden wall paneling

(Image credit: Cave Interiors/Helen Cathcart)

Arts and Crafts interior design was born from the Arts and Crafts movement, an English aesthetic movement that championed quality craftsmanship over the mass-manufactured furniture and decor of the 19th century.

'The Arts and Crafts movement began in Britain during the late 19th Century as a reaction against industrialization, the excesses of Victorian design, and a desire to return to more traditional and artisanal production,' says Georgina. Furniture had lost not only its quality, but also its beauty – everything was becoming utilitarian, and the movement aimed to counter this.

'The style is informed by tradition in both design and manufacture whilst also trying to establish a new design for living. There is a fairly radical socio-political undertone to the movement actively pushed by William Morris and other prominent figures,' Leo explains. 

'There was a reaction to the increasing mechanization of production and reproduction in the Victorian era, hence the focus on the craft of the individual. Classical, Jacobean & Gothic motifs appear in many designs from the period but are not stymied by tradition and are repurposed in fresh and unusual ways,' he adds.

An Arts & rafts style seating area

(Image credit: Cave Interiors/Helen Cathcart)

Although the Arts and Crafts movement took place over a century ago, there is a common thread with how we approach consumption today. We are seeing shift from 'fast-furniture' to handcrafted designs and decorating with vintage and antique decor, which is perhaps why we are seeing the resurgence of Arts and Crafts interior design at the moment.

'As a society, we are becoming increasingly aware of what we are consuming and where it’s produced whether it’s food, clothing, or furniture. As in the late Victorian period, at the inception of the Arts and Crafts movement, people now are reacting against mass production and excessively manufactured materials in favor of local, ethical, high-quality products that last a lifetime and don’t damage the planet,' Leo points out.

'I think this is why there has been a resurgence in interest in the movement. On a more superficial level, I think that the furniture and the fabrics of the period are just incredibly cool and a bit different to the now ubiquitous mid-century furniture cliches. Contemporary brands such as Morris & Co. and The Marchmont Workshop are still faithfully championing the designs of the period whilst keeping them fresh and appropriate for 21st Century Living,' he adds.

How to decorate with Arts & Crafts style

1. Decorate with colors inspired by the natural landscape

An Arts & Crafts style living room with white walls and earthy colors introduced through decor and upholstery

(Image credit: Cave Interiors/Paul Massey)

While Arts and Crafts interiors are often thought of as being dark, they were actually the opposite in many cases. 'I think there is often a misconception that arts and crafts interiors are heavy, dark, and cluttered (sometimes true!). However, off-whites were a popular wall color in the period,' says Leo.

Alongside off-white hues, a selective palette of more colorful hues was also prevalent. 'Arts and Crafts interiors favor earthy colors such as warm greens, rich browns, deep reds, and muted yellows. These colors reflect the natural world and evoke a sense of tranquillity and warmth within the space,' says Matthew. Rusty oranges, ochre yellows, and slate blues were also used, according to Leo.

One area you should expect to see darker tones is in the woodwork, as Georgina adds that dark stained wood was particularly popular, particularly when it comes to wall paneling. Pairing this darker hue with the warmth of the earthy tones creates a welcoming interior with depth and interest.

2. Invest in quality furniture

An Arts & Crafts living room filled with high quality and antique furniture

(Image credit: Cave Interiors/Helen Cathcart)

This is probably an obvious point, but no Arts and Crafts interior design scheme is successful without the presence of high-quality craftsmanship – and furniture is the area to introduce it.

'Central to the aesthetic of Arts and Crafts interiors are key pieces characterized by their quality construction, such as Craftsman-style furniture with exposed joinery and decorative elements inspired by nature, such as floral motifs or geometric patterns. Pieces like Morris chairs are iconic examples that embody the essence of Arts and Crafts design,' says Matthew.

'The use of oak as a material is also important and speaks to the principles of the movement, a characterful, high quality, local material that could be used as both the structure and aesthetic element of a piece of furniture,' adds Leo.

While well-made contemporary furniture will work, nothing is more authentic than furniture from the era, so try to decorate with antiques where possible. 'Furniture was typically hand-crafted using solid local materials and often included colonial motifs inspired by nature. Windsor chairs and high-backed ladder-back chairs are perfect examples as is Morris’ rush seated Sussex chair design,' says Georgina.

3. Introduce decorative lighting

An Arts & Crafts style dining room with a decorative, ornate ceiling light

(Image credit: Cave Interiors/Paul Massey)

Lighting plays a big part in any interior, but in Arts and Crafts design, the style of fixtures is just as important as the ambiance. The lighting of the era was elegant, and the focus on design saw pieces with intricate details and eye-catching forms.

'The key innovation to me is lighting. It was the first time that lights were specifically designed for electricity in the home. The most successful designer in the period was W.A.S Benson. You can see in his designs a sense of innovation in how to best spread, reflect, and shade this new source of light appearing in people’s homes – the filament bulb,' adds Leo.

4. Add interest with William Morris-style wallpaper

Arts & Crafts bedroom with a William Morris-inspired wallpaper

(Image credit: Cave Interiors/Paul Massey)

A pioneer of the Arts and Crafts movement, no interior of this style would be complete without the inclusion of William Morris's world-renowned creations. The good news is, original William Morris fabric and wallpaper designs are still being made – both by Morris & Co as well as other reputable brands.

'For fabrics and wallpapers, look no further than Ben Pentreath’s ‘Queen Square’ and ‘Cornubia’ collections for Morris & Co. Original designs are given new life with a color palette inspired by the period as well as the Morris colorways of the 1970s, but fitting for life in the 21st century,' says Leo.

Opt for a classic scheme with William Morris's Strawberry Thief or Blackthorn designs, or introduce wallpaper or upholstery featuring florals, botanicals, and fruits in an inspired design.

5. Display handmade and vintage decor

Arts & Crafts decor

(Image credit: Cave Interiors/Paul Massey)

The emphasis on craftsmanship doesn't focus solely on furniture, but decor, too. As such, introducing handmade and vintage pieces adds character and a high-quality feel to your home.

'Incorporating handmade and vintage items, such as pottery, textiles, and artwork, adds a personal touch and enhances the authenticity of the space. Emphasizing natural materials like wood, stone, and copper further enhances the rustic, organic feel of Arts and Crafts interiors,' says Matthew.

'Beyond the aesthetic elements, it's essential to embrace the underlying ethos of the Arts & Crafts movement, which values quality, craftsmanship, and a connection to nature,' he adds.

Arts and Crafts interior design is a classic style. As it continues to endure over 100 years after it was first created and with it's emphasis on quality craftsmanship and eclecticism, it's no surprise it's making a come-back in 2024. 

Molly Malsom
Content Editor

Molly joined the Homes & Gardens interiors team at the start of 2024 as a content editor. Her undergraduate degree was in Magazine Journalism and Production, which she studied at the University of Gloucestershire. Before joining Homes & Gardens, she worked for two interiors titles across both print and digital channels, writing about a range of topics from room design ideas and decorating trends to the best places to source pre-loved homeware.