Mission style furniture is a highly collectible as an art form and as functional furniture. Mission furniture was made popular during the Arts and Crafts Movement, and two of the most famous artisans were Frank Lloyd Wright and Gustav Stickley.
Frank Lloyd Wright
Art collectors who concentrate on American artists are no doubt familiar with the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. His work is appreciated today for its simplistic artistry and functionality. During the Arts and Crafts Movement of the late 19th and the early 20th century, artists and architects alike sought to emphasize craftsmanship.
The Industrial Revolution was responsible for mass-producing many items, including furniture. The Arts and Crafts Movement sought to persuade the public that hand craftsmanship could never be duplicated. Architects that embraced the key elements of the Arts and Crafts Movement (simplicity, function and hand craftsmanship), included Mr. Wright as well as the following:
- Alfred Caldwell
- William Gray Purcell
- Claude and Starck
- Philip Maher
- Walter Burley Griffin
- William LaBarthe Steele
- E. E. Roberts
- Dwight Heald Perkins
- George Washington Maher
- Marion Mahoney Griffin
- George Grant Elmslie
Frank Lloyd Wright was the creator of the Prairie Style, which took notes from the prairie landscape. Horizontal lines, open floor plans, and natural materials were the key elements of the Prairie Style.
Considered a purist of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, Gustav Stickley became well known as a craftsman of Mission style furniture. Mr. Stickley believed that beautifully designed furniture could "make life better and truer by its perfect simplicity." Today, the Stickley name is synonymous with well-crafted furniture.
Gustav Stickley furniture is the most desirable, since it was made during the heyday of the Mission furniture craze. Pieces marked with the original makers mark are the priciest. Furniture made by L&JG Stickley rank second behind their brother Gustav in popularity and price. Stickley Brothers, followed by Stickley and Brandt, rank third and fourth respectively in terms of collectibles. In general, the earlier the date of the Mission furniture piece, the better. Earlier Mission style furniture pieces are larger and bulkier; later pieces were scaled down and had considerably smaller and thinner legs, arms and tabletops.
Locating Mission Style Furniture
Collecting antique furniture can be fun, though pricey if you are collecting authentic pieces. Furniture items that were hand crafted during the Arts and Crafts Movement are considered investments since the pieces will continue to grow in value. Reproductions are easily found though in many furniture store collections and can be purchased for reasonable prices.
Places to find authentic Mission pieces include the following:
Before you Buy
It is always important to educate yourself about collectibles before you dive in and spend your hard earned cash. Mission furniture has been reproduced and passed off as authentic pieces for years. There are some important key signatures that make it easier to spot the genuine pieces from the fakes. A few things to be aware of before you buy include:
- A maker's mark is very important to prove an item is authentic. Look for stamps and labels which indicate who manufactured the item.
- Form and design are important in terms of value. If the piece of furniture is made in the Mission style but it isn't comfortable, its value will be much less. An example of this is the Mission style rocking chair- pretty to look at but uncomfortable to rock in.
- Finish color, quality and original hardware are important to collectors because they can help determine the age of the piece. Original pieces were made with darker finishes to the wood. Hardware should have a patina to reflect the age of the item. Items stained a lighter color are less valuable, but they do exist.
- Leather upholstery in good condition can greatly increase the value of the furniture piece, but it is extremely rare to find original leather cushions on Mission furniture.
- Are all of the pieces to the item there? If a piece of furniture is damaged or missing cushions, pieces of wood or hardware, the value will be considerably less.
Sources of Information
There are many sources on the Internet where you can find out more about Mission furniture and the Arts and Crafts Movement. Check out these sites to learn more about this period in history: