The Differences Between the Arts and Crafts Movement and Art Nouveau

Both arts and crafts and art nouveau have their beginnings in the Industrial Revolution in the 1850s. With more people making money in the cities, the demand for home decorating increased to higher numbers than ever. Due to mechanisation, imitations of luxury products were easily made and highly accessible. Previous styles of furniture and ornaments were made without much thought about quality.

In response to this, the ‘arts and crafts’ movement was founded, with a focus on hand-made, quality products. The objective of the movement was to create beautiful and sustainable pieces for everyone. It became less of a design style and more of a philosophy, but failed due to the fact that the ordinary person could not afford hand-made products.

Throughout Europe, the artists and craftsmen were after a new style that based on craftsmanship and creativity. Rather than the past, they were instead influenced by nature. Mass production techniques to produce such pieces allowed the style to be appropriated by a large amount of people. Followers of art nouveau believed that people should be surrounded by beauty, with the movement becoming a total style, incorporating architecture, interior design, jewellery and art.

Past versus future

Generally, the arts and crafts movement took a lot of inspiration from the past, from the way items were designed and produced to the style in which they were made.

Art nouveau, on the other hand, wanted to distance itself from trends of the past and looked to nature for its influence instead.

Design features

The arts and crafts movement became distinctive due to strong straight lines, along with simple geometric patterns and an avoidance of ornamentation for its own sake. The arts and crafts movement became almost puritanical in its approach to ornamentation and decoration. Even today, the arts and crafts movement influences modern furniture design.

Art nouveau, on the other hand, believed that people should always be surrounded by beauty. It stayed away from geometric designs, instead focusing on long, elegant curves and nature, with birds, botany and deep sea creatures all providing inspiration. Art nouveau learnt how to use space in an amazing way and became almost sensual,


Despite all their differences, both art nouveau and the arts and crafts movement were influenced by increasing trade with Japan, considering Japanese ideas of proportion and aesthetics into their own movements.

You can create some stunning interiors by merging arts and crafts and art nouveau styles. If you like art nouveau, but feel it can be ‘too much’, merging elements with the arts and crafts movement will offer a much appreciated element of restraint.

Similarly, you can add beauty and colour to the sometimes severe arts and crafts style by using art nouveau ornamentation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *