Although the most celebrated Stickley furniture pieces are those designed and made by Gustav Stickley, there is more to the subject simply because Gustav was born into a family of furniture makers.
Four of his brothers were well-known for furniture crafting and multiple businesses were formed by various combinations of the brothers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Gustav first started a company named United Crafts with his brother Leopold in 1899. He later established his own Craftsman Workshops, organized after medieval crafts shops, and became a figurehead for the American Arts and Crafts Movement.
Furniture made by the Stickley brothers is sometimes generally referred to as Stickley mission furniture and falls into an overall subcategory of Arts and Crafts furniture.
More correctly, Gustav’s products were Craftsman furniture, named so after his magazine The Craftsman, and he was not inclined in the least to use the term mission in reference to his own furniture.
His brothers, however, manufactured and marketed entire lines they called Stickley mission furniture, and the term became generalized.
What is Stickley Furniture?
The basic principle of Stickley furniture is that it was meant to be simple, strong, comfortable furniture. Add the qualities of beauty and function and put an emphasis on handcraftsmanship and the use of
natural materials and you have the essence of Stickley furniture.
Gustav Stickley used the phrase “to the best of my ability” (from the Flemish “als ik kan”) to describe what customers could expect when they purchased his Craftsman furniture. Stickley selected high quality natural woods and used clear finish dyes that would not hide the beauty of the natural grain.
Stickley mission furniture is a term that refers to antique furniture made by any one of the Stickley brothers. It applies equally as well to furniture handcrafted by modern day furniture makers in the simple yet elegant Stickley style.
How to Identify Stickley Furniture
Furniture crafted by any of the Stickley brothers during the Arts and Crafts Movement may have paper labels, plaques, decals, or branded markings. These labels often identify which Stickley brother crafted an individual piece. These labels may be found under the arms of chairs, under tabletops, and on the backsides of cabinets or shelving units.
Different decals and labels were used by different Stickley brothers at different times. You can see images of specific decals, labels, and brands at the Stickley Museum website.
The Stickley brothers designed furniture with a functional purpose and without heavy adornment. Oak and other high quality natural woods were used with light dye finishes that added color without hiding the natural grain of the wood.
If you stumble upon any furniture crafted under a Stickley name in the early 1900s you may have something worth a substantial price tag. Gustav Stickley’s earliest efforts from 1901 to 1905 are now considered rare pieces and many collectors will pay handsome amounts to get their hands on these pieces.
Stickley pieces crafted at later periods of the Arts and Crafts Movement may still be worth exceptional prices, but the early Craftsman furniture made by Gustav Stickley carries the highest value today.
You can find modern furniture makers capable of creating beautiful pieces in the Stickley style. The best craftsmen follow the true spirit of the Arts and Crafts Movement and crafting by hand from the highest quality woods and finishes, and their pieces are beautifully appropriate for any Arts and Crafts style home.