The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

IT ALL STARTED OUT INNOCENTLY ENOUGH: just a few pages with nice pictures showing how inviting a bungalow or Craftsman house can be once you strip a quarter-inch of calcimine from the woodwork to liberate an eon’s distillation of warmth and beauty. Of course we knew that there were millions of such houses across the country just waiting to be appreciated, so launching a magazine that attempted to rescue a forgotten style and resurrect a simpler way of life seemed like a noble cause.

The tide of interest took a few years to rise, but once film and television got smitten, the spell was cast and the dam burst. Craftsman style spilled across screens all over America, breaching the levees of vintage neighborhoods to flow into new home construction, commercial architecture and even modular housing. A trip to any part of the country— except perhaps Colonial Williamsburg — revealed the extent of the Craftsman deluge.

Today, that flood of interest has revitalized countless bungalow neighborhoods from the teens and ’20s, and that is all to the good. But much of what is new sports faux tapered porch columns and cobblestone trim, too often pasted on like a little boy’s cowboy suit. Like that costume, much of the new only looks the part. Some-times I’m alarmed by what we’ve done. I wish we could devise some corrective sorcery to break the spell and tame the flood of imitation and fakery.

Why has this 100-year-old Craftsman aesthetic, almost dried up and forgotten by the 1950s, resurged to such popularity? Is it just a matter of style?

I think the waters run deeper than that. Look at it this way: if you give a group of children some crayons and paper on which to portray their worlds, here is what ‘they’ll draw: stick-figure pictures of themselves, then similar figures of each brother and sister, then Mom and Dad, all in a row next to a box with a pitched roof, paned windows, an undersize front door with a prominent door knob, and of course a chimney with smoke curling from it. The family dog or cat, a smiling sun, a lollipop tree and perhaps a few clouds complete the composition. In short, home and family: love and sanctuary. (I know: for too many children, this is only a dreamscape. Call me a dreamer.)

You probably once drew such a picture, too. It shows that early on, our worlds tend to be pure and simple: our selves, our families, nature, a friendly pet and of course home, the familiar place where it all comes together.

Over the years, as we grow to adulthood and our experience of the world widens to encompass a more acute awareness of how others see us, our homes can easily become not so much sanctuaries as statements. An adult, given house-planning software or the services of a trendspotting builder, may be tempted to envision a house not from the inside out and for the ages, but from the outside in and for the moment. And now seems to be the Craftsman moment.

Perhaps the surging enthusiasm for the Craftsman “look” is understandable. But I believe that most of you still harbor the vision of home as sanctuary, and that for you it is the Craftsman spirit that really makes your house into a home. Deluge notwithstanding, I make no apologies for our part in helping to release the magic of that spirit.

Looking forward to hearing from you,





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