Taking a break from technology

William Morris once wrote: “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

Monday, 16th March 2020, 5:00 pm

It is a useful guiding principle of the Arts and Crafts Movement of which Morris was a leading proponent.

Emerging circa 1880 and lasting until around 1920 in Europe and North America, the Arts and Crafts Movement was a reaction against the machine age of the time.

It placed a focus on decorative arts and traditional craftsmanship - and stood in stark opposition to factory-made goods. We are now living in a new technological age where everything from fashion to furniture is designed by computer for mass consumption.

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Many of us have no real concept of how the things we use every day are made - let alone where they are made, or who makes them. We are increasingly engaging with the world through the medium of a screen.

And just as the founders of the Arts and Crafts Movement had a desire for greater simplicity, there is a profound longing among many of us today for a return to working with our hands. A quick straw poll of friends and colleagues reveals many are engaging in hobbies such as pottery making, life drawing and sourdough baking.

Blackwell in Bowness-on-Windermere is perhaps the perfect manifestation of the Arts and Crafts Movement - not least because many of its original decorative features have survived. “A house too may possess that strange inscrutable quality of the True Romance,” the architect MH Baillie Scott once wrote.

“Not shallow, showy, and pretentious as most modern mansions are, but full of a still, quiet earnestness which seems to lull and soothe the spirit with promises of peace. Such a house is the greatest achievement possible to the art of man better than the greatest picture, because it is not a dream alone, but the dream come true - a constant daily influence and delight.”

Visit Blackwell on a quiet day and take a moment in the White Drawing Room, away from the distractions of screens and instant notifications, and those words carry weight.

- By Guy Cookson, Partner at Hotfoot Design