An arts and crafts gem |

An arts and crafts gem

Eclectic is the style preference that best describes most of my clients.

Blending the contemporary, clean-lined preferences of one family member with the collected antiques of another is quite common. I once was asked to do “mountain lodge combined with European traditional with a ‘Zen-Asian’ feel, but also include some contemporary styling.” (More on that in a future column).

Occasionally, I am asked to work in a specific style. So I study the period and style carefully, I research the architectural forms and details, and I source products, colors and materials that are appropriate. I spent several years helping a family near Colfax transform their home from 1990s faux-farmhouse to an Arts and Crafts-inspired gem.

Arts and Crafts style is a result of the Arts and Crafts Movement, which began in Europe in the 1860s and flourished from 1880 through 1910. It was primarily a social movement in reaction to the industrial revolution.

Its adherents were against the principle of division of labor and mass production by machines. Instead, they sought to have the maker of items use his hands through every step of creation. They favored the idea of a “master craftsman,” who created all the parts of an item, assembled and finished it.

In the United States the Arts and Crafts Movement was reinterpreted in many ways, most commonly as Craftsman style.

Craftsman style developed with similar design principles, but became a slightly cleaner-lined, simpler style, as it focused less on the virtues of hand craftsmanship (which can be expensive) and more on the virtues of producing a tasteful and affordable middle-class home (like the Craftsman bungalow).

The hallmarks of Arts and Crafts design are simplicity of form without superfluous decoration, truth to material, and craftsmanship.

Arts and Crafts designers often used patterns inspired by flora and fauna.

For the renovation in Colfax, I assisted with the layout, colors, materials, design motifs, finishes, textures, decorating and furnishings to create an Arts and Crafts-inspired home.

In keeping with the Arts and Crafts movement, a true “master craftsman” was found to create and install all of the interior woodwork. It was good fortune and a privilege to have Chris Madden of Redwing Woodworks in Nevada City in charge of all the finish carpentry.

While we specified the placement and general idea of the interior woodwork, Chris designed the shapes, joinery and sparingly added a few beautiful ebonized wood and copper embellishments. He then crafted all of the woodwork and installed it.

Jim Manley, of All Ways Painting in Grass Valley, stained and finished the woodwork to perfection and did all of the painting.

To embrace the materials of the period, I specified copper-back panels for custom corner shelves in the dining room, and custom, hand-made tiles for the fireplace in the family room.

We used a palette of paint colors from the period, selecting rich, earthy copper tones, dusty blues and greens, and warm yellows.

While I always love the warmth of eclectic homes filled with items collected over time, it was a rare treat and a phenomenal experience to work on this home.

While the home was transformed, so was I, as I learned about the movement that started Craftsman and Arts and Crafts styles.

It wasn’t just a new look; it was a social decision and a statement about valuing the high quality of human efforts over the high production of machines.

Today, we are all enduring a challenging economy, and we have to find ways to save money. I love to help people make their homes feel good on any budget. I believe everyone can afford style and should feel good in their homes.

But my appreciation for artists and master craftsmen and carpenters and the principles of hand made, locally made is heightened. I will forever do all that I can to support talented people and their treasures.

Erin Miller is the owner of Erin Miller Designs in Grass Valley. She can be reached at (530) 477-1401 or at

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