Compare an Arts and Crafts house side-by-side with one designed around mountain modern and you just may see some eerie similarities. No, it is not your imagination. The two architectural styles share a lot in common. If a particular line of thinking is true, their common origins may date back to the house that served as Doc Brown’s residence in the Back to the Future film franchise.
David and Mary Gamble, of the well-known Procter & Gamble brand, used to winter in Southern California. After spending years in Pasadena hotels, the couple decided to build their own home. The home was affectionately dubbed the ‘Gamble House’. It was built in 1908.
As it turns out, the Gambles were very big on the Arts and Crafts movement. They liked its emphasis on natural materials and handcrafted elements. However, the architects who designed the home believed the Arts and Crafts style featured prominently on the East Coast didn’t work well in California. So they took what they appreciated about it and adapted it to the Golden State.
Mountain Modern Is Born
Your typical early 1900s Arts and Craft home on the East Coast would not have been a large home. It would not have been a mansion. Instead, architects were designing quaint bungalows that stood in direct contrast to the larger, more opulent homes of the wealthy. Arts and Crafts was as much about simplicity as anything else.
Simplicity was not a bad idea to the Gambles. Yet they also wanted a home large and comfortable enough to provide a more than adequate winter residence for themselves and any guests who decided to visit. From their preferences and the designs their architects brought to the table was born what would go on to become craftsman architecture. The craftsman movement laid the foundation for mountain modern.
Common Design Elements
By all accounts, the craftsman movement was an intermediary between Arts and Crafts and mountain modern. All three design styles have some common elements. First and foremost is an emphasis on natural materials. With all three design styles, wood and stone play important roles.
If you have ever seen the Gamble House, you know how much wood is in that structure. Indeed, the home looks like an oversized log cabin on steroids. Likewise, a mountain modern home stresses wood.
Hand-in-hand with natural materials is the tendency to source those materials locally. Local sourcing was not necessarily a high priority in the early Arts and Crafts movement, in the sense that builders would source the cheapest possible materials no matter where they came from. But in craftsman and mountain modern, local sourcing is preferred.
Simplicity Over Opulence
The Arts and Crafts movement could almost be considered a movement of rebellion. It came about as a result of architects wanting to get back to simpler designs in the wake of industrialization. To make their point, the earliest Arts and Crafts architects kept their designs simple. Opulence was out of the question.
You can see much the same thing in both craftsman and mountain modern architecture. In terms of the latter, the lack of opulence does not necessarily mean bare bones. It is anything but, according to the architects at Sparano + Mooney in Park City, Utah.
Modern mountain homes can be quite modern and luxurious without being opulent. Lines are kept simple. Wood and stone are minimally ornamented. Natural views are encouraged while interior adornments are kept to a minimum. Step back and it is easy to see that mountain modern has its roots in Arts and Crafts. The Gamble House is proof of that.