Mission Style Defined

What is Mission style? The term is often used loosely and interchangeably with the terms Craftsman style and with Arts and Crafts Style. Are we talking about homes? furniture? or decorating? It can get confusing when referring to the same subject matter. The truth is that each of these conveys a distinct and unique meaning.

So what do we mean when we say Mission? Well, let's look at it through the process of elimination...

Mission or Arts and Crafts Style?

Arts and Crafts style is an umbrella term for the architecture, design and decorative arts associated with the Arts and Crafts Movement. Think simple, beautiful, functional, harmonious, hand crafted, high quality, and durable, and you have a basic understanding of the style.

Arts and Crafts style mostly concerns the interior decorative arts but can also be recognized on exteriors. It is observable in the craftsmanship and craft objects that were common in Arts and Crafts homes of the early 20th century.

Arts and Crafts style is extremely visible in Craftsman style homes and bungalow style homes but is also evident in cottage and tudor homes. It can sometimes be more of a philosophy than a style.

The hand crafted objects that express the Arts and Crafts style include:

  • furniture and built-in woodwork
  • lighting fixtures and lamps
  • pottery and tiles, rugs and tapestries
  • fabrics and textiles, wallpaper and stencils
  • stained glass and metalwork
  • fireplaces and stonework
  • doors and windows
  • gardens
  • paint colors

Mission or Craftsman Style?

Craftsman style as a descriptive term comes originally from the trade name that Gustav Stickley chose for his line of Arts and Crafts furniture.

More broadly, the term designates the popular style of architecture, interior design, and decorative arts that became affordable to middle class homes built in the United States during the Arts and Crafts period between 1900 and 1930.

It also includes the lifestyle values of the Arts and Crafts Movement that Stickley promoted in his monthly magazine, The Craftsman.

Although Stickley disliked his Craftsman furniture ever being referred to as "Mission", he recognized the existence of Mission as a style and published articles about it in his magazine.

Craftsman and Mission were often mixed and blended together as one style. Craftsman furniture was used in Mission homes and expressed in the popular Mission Revival style. The blending and mixing of these and other styles is explained in the book Craftsman Style by architectural historian Robert Winter and photographer Alexander Vertikoff.

A very interesting and rustic example of Craftsman and Mission mix that may intrigue you is Charles Lummis and the Lummis House. He was one flamboyant southwestern American.

Mission Style: the Southwestern Look

Mission style is actually that style inspired by the stucco coated adobe architecture of 18th century Spanish missionaries and native Americans in the Southwest.

A Mission Revival style blossomed in the early 20th century and spread across southern states including California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.

Modern Mission interior design includes simple, functional, and decorative accessories and furniture handcrafted by both native and non-native artisans. For example, Mission furniture, rugs, and pottery are uniquely distinctive.

Mission design and architecture follows some of the ideals of the Arts and Crafts Movement, mainly in its use of indigenous, natural materials and handmade items.

While some consider that Mission equates to Craftsman, others do not consider it to be part of the movement. In truth, the early history of Mission architecture predates the Arts and Crafts Movement, but the Mission Revival style definitely flourished concurrently in the early 1900s.

Early Mission structures were made from materials such as timber, stucco, stone, brick, and tile. Unconventional materials such as straw, manure, and adobe bricks were also used. Homes of this style have a distinctive exterior appearance that is unique from other types of Arts and Crafts homes.

On the exterior, Mission homes have thick masonry walls covered with stucco, arches and arcades, arched windows, covered patios, interior courtyards, heavy timbers, sturdy carved doors, roof parapets, and red clay roof tiles, all of which gives them a distinct Southwest style.

Deep porches, extended roofs, and covered walkways are additional Mission features that help keep interiors cool in hot weather.

On the interior, Mission homes incorporate inglenooks, built-ins, exposed beam ceilings, rough plastered walls, arched passages, curved wall and ceiling corners, stone or tiled fireplaces, and Spanish tile floors.

Accents, accessories, and sturdy furniture handmade from metal, wood, and tile complete the interior Mission look.

Mission Style Homes, Furniture, and Decorating

Mission as a style can be examined further in three categories: homes, furniture, and decorating. Check out these page links for more information:

Return to Arts and Crafts Style Home from Mission Style

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