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Standen House: a legacy of sustainable design

Updated: Oct 27, 2023

Imagine a home where every detail, from the walls to the gardens, is a tribute to both aesthetic beauty and environmental responsibility. A place where historical design choices offer fresh insights for today's most pressing challenges. Intrigued?

In that case, read on to discover how Standen House serves as a compelling guidebook for a more sustainable living and thoughtful design.

Let’s dive in.

The Standen House: a harmonious blend with nature

Nestled amid the rolling hills of East Grinstead in West Sussex, the Standen House is an architectural gem that captures the essence of blending seamlessly with the natural landscape. Designed by the esteemed architect Philip Webb, this marvel is a living testament to the Arts and Crafts movement. With its aesthetic sensibility and functional design, Standen House is more than just a home; it's a philosophy.

The house itself is an ensemble of stone, wood, and glass, creating an inviting yet humble exterior. Step a little closer, and you'll notice the intricate detailing that pays homage to the Arts and Crafts ethos: hand-crafted fixtures, pebbledash, and artisanal elements that convey a sense of individuality.

But Standen House isn't just an architectural marvel; it's a part of the landscape it inhabits. The house seems to 'grow' out of the ground, its natural materials melding effortlessly with the scenic backdrop of lush gardens. This is the genius of Philip Webb — the ability to create a structure that does not dominate its surroundings but rather fuses with them.

Today, in an age where the struggle for sustainability is more pertinent than ever, Standen House stands as a poignant reminder of how we can live in harmony with nature, without sacrificing beauty or functionality.

Standen House interiors

As soon as you cross the threshold of Standen House, you find yourself immersed in an interior that is a true tribute to the Arts and Crafts movement. The guiding hand behind these stunning interiors is none other than William Morris, a founder of Arts and Crafts movement, which design influence cannot be overstated.

One of the standout features of the interiors is the intricate wallpaper designs, a signature element of Morris' work. Adorned with elaborate patterns inspired by foliage, vines, and floral motifs, the wallpaper serves not just as a decorative element but as an integral part of the home's design philosophy. These motifs evoke a deep connection with nature, seamlessly blending the interior and exterior worlds.

Morris’ designs extend beyond the wallpaper to the textiles, furniture, and fixtures throughout the home. While the wallpaper captivates with its detailed designs, the furnishings are in harmony with the overall aesthetic, featuring clean lines and functional forms. The colour schemes often employ earthy tones, further enhancing the nature-inspired theme that runs through the house.

The house is also thoughtfully designed to let in abundant natural light through its large windows. This not only illuminates the intricate Morris designs but also creates a vibrant interplay of light and shadow across the various textures within the home. Such a design choice enhances the energy efficiency of the space (which has central heating since it was built), making it not just a work of art but a practical living environment.

In today's world, where sustainability is not just a buzzword but an urgent necessity, the interiors of Standen House offer an enduring lesson. They illustrate that thoughtful design can transcend mere decoration to cultivate a meaningful relationship with the natural environment.

In doing so, it not only elevates the beauty of our living spaces but also enriches our daily lives by nurturing a sense of connection and harmony with nature.

Arts and Crafts Movement

The Arts and Crafts Movement, which emerged in the late 19th century, was not merely an aesthetic trend but a philosophy that advocated for a holistic approach to living. It was a response to the industrialisation that was rapidly changing the landscape of Britain, a call to return to handcrafted quality, local materials, and thoughtful design.

In this scenario, Standen House serves as an exemplary model of these principles, but it's essential to understand the broader movement to appreciate the house fully.

Founded by figures like William Morris, John Ruskin, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the movement was a response against the mass-produced and often shoddy goods that were flooding the market at the time. Instead, it proposed a return to craftsmanship, where artisans would take pride in their work, creating items that were both beautiful and long-lasting.

This emphasis on quality over quantity had a built-in element of sustainability. The Arts and Crafts Movement implicitly understood that well-made items, crafted with care and designed to last, were not only superior in terms of aesthetics but also less likely to end up as waste.

This is a message that resonates strongly today, as the world grapples with the twin challenges of environmental degradation and throwaway culture.

But the Arts and Crafts Movement wasn’t just about the objects or buildings it produced; it was also about a lifestyle. It promoted the idea that our surroundings, the items we use daily, and the spaces we inhabit could and should be designed in a way that is harmonious with nature.

Today, as we search for ways to make our lives more sustainable and meaningful, the Arts and Crafts Movement offers valuable lessons. Its principles of quality craftsmanship, thoughtful design, and respect for nature provide a roadmap for creating spaces that are not just visually pleasing but also ecologically responsible and emotionally fulfilling.

Talking about nature, let’s have a look at Standen House’s gardens.

Standen House gardens

As you walk out of the intricately designed interiors of Standen House, you find yourself stepping into another masterpiece, albeit of a different kind: the gardens. Designed to be an extension of the house, the gardens at Standen encapsulate the same philosophy of unity with the natural

world that is evident inside the home.

The gardens are a carefully curated blend of formal and informal elements, offering a mix of structured flowerbeds, meandering paths, and untamed woodland areas. This design sensibility provides not just visual delight but also a sense of exploration and discovery.

In an era where urban sprawl and environmental degradation are pressing concerns, Standen Gardens stand as a beacon, showing us an alternative. They exemplify how careful planning and a respect for nature can result in a space that is not only beautiful but also ecologically sound.

Much like the interiors, the gardens teach us that when we design with nature in mind, we create spaces that not only please the eye but also enrich the soul.

An inspiration for today’s restoration

As we confront the escalating challenges of climate change and environmental degradation, the principles embodied by Standen House offer more than historical interest; they provide practical insights for modern restoration and sustainable living.

The house and its accompanying gardens serve as a blueprint for how we can approach the restoration of items and spaces in a manner that is both aesthetically pleasing and environmentally responsible.

In an age where "fast furniture" and disposable goods are contributing to overflowing landfills, the Arts and Crafts Movement's emphasis on quality and durability takes on renewed significance.

The concept of restoration here extends beyond merely fixing up old houses; it encompasses the rejuvenation of furniture, lighting fixtures, and various household items.

Here is an example of the impact it can have on nowaday's furniture restoration, a Danish arm chair:

By choosing to restore rather than replace, we not only preserve the craftsmanship and heritage of these items but also reduce waste and consumption.

The use of local and natural materials in Standen House can also guide current restoration projects. While it may not always be feasible to use reclaimed wood or local stone in modern settings, the underlying principle remains valid. Sourcing materials responsibly can have a profound impact on the environmental footprint of any restoration project.

Moreover, the design philosophy that blends in harmony with nature is increasingly vital in today's world. Whether it's choosing paint that doesn't emit harmful fumes or opting for energy-efficient lighting, small decisions can make a big difference.

The Standen House experience shows us that sustainable choices need not be at odds with aesthetic ones; indeed, they can enhance each other.

By revisiting the principles that guided the creation of Standen House, we find a wealth of ideas that are remarkably relevant today. They serve as a reminder that the challenges we face are not entirely new and that the solutions may lie in wisdom from the past. In this way, Standen House isn't just a monument to the Arts and Crafts Movement; it's a living guidebook for a more sustainable and harmonious way of life.

Let’s embrace it and, most importantly, take action.

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