This Harris Lebus classic is a tour-de-force of the English aesthetic.
by Nancy R. Hiller
When we think of the origins of the Arts & Crafts movement in England toward the end of the 19th century, we tend to focus on the revival of handcraft in reaction against the soul-deadening monotony of factory production. Many furniture makers pursued the ideal of handcraft wholeheartedly. But over time it became clear that then, as now, the market for furniture and other wares made to a high standard by hand is limited. Even William Morris complained that he resented spending so much time “ministering to the swinish luxury of the rich” and agreed, late in life, that machines had their place in performing repetitive processes.
While Morris and other idealists looked askance at machines, some workshops eagerly adapted elements of the Arts & Crafts aesthetic to factory production. By doing so, they not only maintained a healthy bottom line, they went a long way toward realizing the movement’s ideal that all homes, not just those of the wealthy, should be furnished with objects that are beautiful and well made.
One of these businesses was Harris Lebus of Tottenham in North London, which made the original version of the sideboard pictured here, as well as numerous variations on the theme. At the turn of the century, Lebus produced bedroom and dining room furniture for an international clientele, in addition to its English market.
Blog: Make rabbeted doors the traditional way (but with contemporary tooling).
Blog: Read Nancy’s contributions to the blog.
Blog: Read about Nancy Hiller’s forthcoming book on English Arts & Crafts.
Website: Visit Nancy Hiller’s website and read her blog at nrhillerdesign.com.
In Our Store: “Making Things Work,” a hilarious memoir by Hiller about her life as a furniture maker.
From the November 2017 issue, #235