Harriet Edquist, The Arts and Crafts aesthetic

Harriet Edquist, The Arts and Crafts aesthetic


One of the things that strikes people when
they go into any of the arts and crafts houses is that they are, from our point, of view
rather dark. And when Peter Crone was restoring his own
house, the Chadwick House, he discovered underneath all the white paint that in fact the original
colour for the walls of the living areas was this teal green, which he’s used to repaint
them, and it’s an incredibly beautiful colour. And I was recently in a Usher and Camp house
down at Murndal in the Western District, and looking at the original drawings of it, and
they used that same colour, that same tealy, greeny-blue colour. And I was talking to the owner, saying that’s
probably the colour that they envisaged the house to be painted. We have to go back and think about their aesthetic. While they opened the houses out to the landscape,
that notion of… of whiteness, of glare that we have, was alien to them. They lit their houses differently. There was not an all-over light that we have. So, one of the things when I was talking to
an interior designer once, in the Chadwick House, and we were talking about this and
he was saying, ‘Well, if you think about the lighting, it would have been spot lit. We wouldn’t have had uniform lighting like
we do. It would have been quite soft lighting. And against these wonderful sort of greeny-blue
walls… the fashion for collecting at that time was highly polished brass and things
like Japanese Satsuma ware, which was gilded. So gilded things, things that shone, could
shine in the dark. And it was an aesthetic that came out of the
late 19th century, so the houses did present an alternative to the… a relief, if you
like, from the glare of the outside. And when you go through the Chadwick House
or any of these houses, really, which are designed in a sort of in a 360-degree manner,
so that as you walk through the rooms, you can look at the landscape and you get a different
landscape picture, if you like, from every window. So they were relating to the landscape in
that way, and there was easy access to the outside. But the interior, I think, was seen as a contrast,
as a refuge from the landscape, if you like. And it was a very rich, luscious interior. We’ve stripped our interiors of colour. Now they’re monochrome. And we paint, we produce paintings to suit
those interiors. When you think of what they were collecting,
the frames they used, gilded frames, even for modernist paintings, and I’m just thinking
of their passion for… Middle Eastern metalware, and the sorts of
metalware that they designed themselves – if you think about the fireplaces and the highly
polished copper hoods and the fire dogs and so forth. So everything was… There was a real aesthetic there, but I think
we find it hard to deal with, because we’re used to a very bright sort of relentless interior
that shows everything all the time, and that’s not the way… These houses were for exploring, I think.

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