By William Morris 1883
In all that concerns household furnishings and decoration, present tendencies are toward a simplicity unknown in the past. The form of any object is made to express the structural idea directly, frankly almost with baldness. The materials employed are no longer chosen solely for their intrinsic value, but with a great consideration for their potential beauty. The qualities thus apprehended are traced to their source and then carefully developed by the skill of the craftsman.
In the eighteenth century, the French cabinet makers created charming objects suited to the palaces and castles of the old nobility. They revelled in richness of material; in woods brought from countries and colonies of access; in costly gilding and other applied ornament; in fanciful painting which exquisite delicacy of handling alone saved from triviality and insignificance.
But today with the idea of everywhere development dominant, in the sciences, in the educational methods, in all that furthers human intercourse, comfort and progress we find the mood of the century impressed upon the material and necessary objects by which we are surrounded. Even our beds, tables and chairs, if planned and executed according to the newer and sounder ideas of household art, offer us a lesson taught by their form, substance and finish. We are no longer tortured by exaggerated lines the reasons for which are past divining. We have not to deal with falsifying veneers, or with disfiguring so called ornament. We are not necessarily confronted by substances precious because of their traditional use, their rarity, and the difficulty attending their attainment. We are, first of all, met by plain shapes which not only declare, but emphasise their purpose. Our eyes rest on material which, gathered from the forests, along the streams, and from other sources familiar to us, are, for that reason, interesting and eloquent. We may in the arms of our reading chair, or in the desk before which we pass our working day, study the striking undulations in the grain of oak, ash, elm or other of our native woods, and in so doing, learn the worth of patient, well directed and skilled labour; of that labour which educates; that is: leads out and develops the hidden values and qualities of things too often neglected because they are frequently seen.