The Corner

Re: Crunchy Coms

Now Andrew, surely you aren’t so politically

correct that you would reject an entire style of architecture because one of

the founding members of the broad artistic movement was a socialist. Are

you? It’s simply wrong to say Arts & Crafts houses are like Bauhaus with

frills. Nothing could be further from the truth. For one thing, Bauhaus

architecture was not built for human comfort. A&C houses were. They

emphasize simplicity, modesty and a connection to the hearth and nature. For

another, according to the architectu Witold Rybczynski, they were part of

architecture’s attempt to create a comfortable and affordable domestic style

in reaction to the fripperies of Victorian-style houses. Here’s a fair

description from a useful

website:

When you walk into a Craftsman Bungalow the sense of space, the openness

of the rooms, and the rustic or bold-square styling feel completely

different from the Victorian houses still being built into the 1910s.

The Victorian excesses referred to included “useless” ornamentation and

gingerbread, living with a mish-mash of inconsistant patterns and style and

copying “foreign” styles. The primary inspiration for the Craftsman style

was to look to nature, local materials, local (nationalist or native)

building traditions and to design and construct after the manner of honest

craft traditions: iron and copper blacksmithing, pottery, coarse weaving and

rough hewn materials. … The house layout emphasizes the horizontal, rather

than multiple stories, and the philosophy is very middle class in a

contemporary sense without space for maids and servants. The “man” of the

house still had the library, but the “woman’s” workspace became more

functional, and the fireplace or the hearth became the family center to a

degree that was almost mythical.

What’s communist about that, for Pete’s sake? If you’re a McMansion kind of

guy, fine, have fun. But some of us on the Right actually prefer the

workmanship, modesty and intimacy of these old Craftsman houses. An NRO

reader responded to my earlier blog by saying that he too is a fan of the

“Not So Big House” philosophy of Sarah Susanka:

I have tried to spread the NSBH gospel to friends who are building

houses, but they look at me as if I have just suggested that they paint

their home a lovely shade of mauve. “Um . . . O.K., we might, um, look into

that.” What they are thinking is: “Don’t you know that bigger is better? You

know, resale value! Glamour bath! A walk-in closet the size of my parents’

den! Are you nuts? Or a Commie, trash-composting vegan?”

What they seem to miss is the central point of having a home: to live in

it.