Taken from article in Early Homes.
Primitive photos by Franklin and Esther Schmidt. As they spoke to homeowners, collectors and dealers, they asked them to describe the difference between "country" and "primitive". They say the best answer they got was that, while primitive pieces are indeed country, "country" objects and country decorating are not necessarily primitive. "Country pieces can be manufactured, where as primitives are one-of-a-kind and handmade", they say. The difference is critical. Primitive is not a style.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Primitive Furniture Style
Stickley's essay on "History of American Furniture Making".
Many people misunderstand the meaning of the word primitiveness, mistaking it for crudeness, but "primitive" used here to express the directness of a thing that is radical instead of derived.
In our understanding of the term, the primitive form of construction is that which would naturally suggest itself to a workman as embodying the main essentials of a piece of furniture, of which the first is the straightforward provision for practical need.
Also we hold that the structural idea should be made prominent because lines which clearly define their purpose appeal to the mind with the same force as does a clear concise statement of fact.
This principle is the basis from which the Craftsman style of furniture has been developed. In the beginning there was no thought of creating a new style, only a recognition of the fact that we should have in our homes something better suited to our needs and more expressive of our character as a people than imitations of the traditional styles, and a conviction that the best way to get something better was to go directly back to plain principles of construction and apply them to the making of simple, strong, comfortable furniture that would meet adequately everything that could be required of it.
Country style has proved itself to be an enduring theme in the way we have decorated our homes over the last years. It is easy to understand why country rooms suggest comfort and informality, offering a welcome sanctuary in today's high pressure world. Whereas in the past "country" meant folksiness or over-chintzed fussiness, these interiors have recently become the springboard of stylish new trends in decoration.
Fashions come and go, of course, but what remains constant is the lure of the country itself.
Like the quintessential melting pot it reflects, classic American decoration embodies a blend of cultural traditions, each distinctly different, yet all part of a broader identity built on imagination, resourcefulness, and the spirit of independence.
Our multinational heritage, and the rugged individuality needed to begin anew in a wilderness, became the roots of an eclectic style of decorating that has endured and adapted to changing needs.
Beyond paint, wallpaper, and fabric there are countless other sources for fundamental elements of design. The silhouette of a candlestick on a fireplace mantel, the shapes of windows in a wall, and the line of throw pillows on a sofa all create distinctive patterns. In a similar manner, a stack of bandboxes arranged on a chest or a group of mugs on a table can contribute important touches of color to catch the eye.
Something as simple as painting a checkboard on a floor or spreading a patchwork quilt on a bed not only helps make an ordinary room remarkable but also establishes an immediate visual connection to design traditions with deep roots in the American past.
The spindle-back chairs known as Windsors were one of the most popular country furniture forms from the mid-1700's to mid-1800's.
The settle bench is a medieval form that endured in rural America into the 1800s and was typically used by the hearth. This early example is distinguished by its unusually tall, curved back, intended to shelter sitters from drafts and contain the heat from the fire.
American Country furniture is furniture of the people; pragmatic, refreshingly unpretentious. Country pieces are instantly recognizable by their simplified lines and relaxed look. This is not to say that this furniture is plain or unimaginative. On the contrary, country artisans, working outside the mainstream, lent their pieces great individuality. Country craftsmen created one-of-a-kind pieces with a make-do appearance or unconventional construction that only contributes to their allure.
Reproductions mix comfortably and often imperceptibly with originals.
Antique furniture is a treasure, a tangible link to the country's heritage of handcraftsmanship that also offers sheer visual delight with its timeless design and fine finish mellowed by age. While there can be great pride and pleasure in owning the real thing, reproductions also have their place. Like antiques themselves, they are available in a range of styles and prices and can display an equally high level of decoration and detail, down to the inlay and hardware.
The appeal of reproduction furniture and accessories is when an antique becomes unavailable or unaffordable and a well-constructed, historically faithful copy can provide a comparable look, generally at lesser cost.
Reproductions may also hold up better under heavy use; although handcraftmanship was meant to last, some antiques become fragile over time, making new furniture a practical choice.
Endowing a room with warmth, character, and decorative highlights, accessories are the final strokes of any good design scheme. These small but effective details can elevate an already interesting interior into a truly impressive one or add polish to a lackluster space so it dazzles.
If an object or arrangement is beautiful to your own eye, chances are you will never tire of it. And that means it will be a timeless addition to your home.
Accessories can add interest and diversity by having their smaller scale play off the proportions of large pieces of furniture, and they can be used to introduce color, pattern, or texture.
Such finishing touches will always succeed because they reflect pride in belongings that not only have particular meaning but were selected for a particular reason as well.
Getting the details right is an essential part of creating a country home, be it cozy, quaint, primitive, or sparse. And since country interior has spawned the centuries in America, there's no need to stick to any specific period.
The roots of the style come from our rural past when practical considerations rather than worries about beauty dictated the way a home looked. Elements that filled a country room were chosen for need, not want, and were rarely purist in ethic, so almost anything goes. Pieces from the colonial and Shaker periods are just a valid as Victorian or Depression era furnishings, and all of these pieces can be mixed at will in the American country interior.
Simplicity can speak for itself, evoking a mood that's often impossible to achieve under other conditions. A room can be transformed with a few reproduction pieces, such as a rustic bowl filled with woven fruit sitting atop a strong farm table.
Country today is an attitude, a way of life that embraces the pure and simple and the tried and true. It's an appreciation for timeworn furnishings and humble utilitarian objects that served households of the past. It's a love of the handcrafted items that brought a dash of color, pattern, comfort, and individuality to rooms of long ago. Country is also the desire to live a scaled-back life-style that answers our need for casual, simplified comfort.