Mission / Arts & Crafts
Today, there is a certain style of furniture that is commonly referred to as “Mission,” “Arts & Crafts,” or “Craftsman.” We use the terms interchangeably to describe furniture that is well built, unadorned and above all else, functional and comfortable. The term “mission” was coined after the mission houses built in the American Southwest by Spanish missionaries. These missions inspired a style of architecture (think stucco-coated adobe-style homes) that blossomed all over the American southwest, including California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Around the same time (the early 1900’s) the Arts & Crafts era was beginning to take off in response to the excess and fussiness of the Victorian age and its over-adorned mass-produced furniture. This Arts & Crafts movement was embraced by architects and designers such as Gustav Stickley, Greene and Greene, and Frank Lloyd Wright (among others) and led to the creation of a very distinctive style of furniture. Mission designs and architecture shared some of the same ideals and philosophy of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Both were big proponents of using natural materials to create handmade items with the utmost craftsmanship. It just so happened that the Arts & Crafts style furniture being designed fit very well in the Mission homes and therein lies the blending of Arts & Crafts and Mission styles.
The simplest way to describe Mission and Arts & Crafts furniture is simple and uncomplicated design with a focus on wood, especially quarter sawn white oak. Mission and Arts & Crafts style designs accentuate the grain of the wood and use simple horizontal and vertical lines, flat panels, wood slats and straight angles. Mission and Arts & Crafts style furniture is characterized by straight slats, flared or straight legs, through tenons, corbels, decorative inlays and leaded glass or wooden panel doors. The characteristic shape and silhouette of this type of furniture is clean and angular. Often the wood is the focal point of this type of furniture with a focus on natural beauty.
Shaker style furniture was developed by Shakers, a religious group that was formed during the 1800s and lived by principles of simplicity, utility, and honesty. These beliefs were reflected in their hand-made furniture of minimalist design. Instead of using decorative details like inlays or carvings, furniture was made only for function. Shaker furniture has no ornamentation, with a focus on quality and function. The iconic piece of Shaker furniture that most of us are familiar with is the Shaker Ladderback chair. Asymmetrical arrangements are typical characteristics, and much of the Shaker style furniture is made of cherry or maple. Shaker style furniture is one of the most enduring American styles of furniture. Characteristics of Shaker furniture include tapered legs, turned legs, round wooden pulls and rounded or gently beveled edges. The Shakers originally designed furniture to be light and easy to move around; this still holds true today. At The Amish Craftsman, Shaker style furniture can be most easily spotted for its easy, clean lines and minimal decorative aspects.
When the term “Traditional” is used for furniture, it references a classic, decorative design. At The Amish Craftsman, that means simple, yet timeless in design. We believe traditional furniture is classic Americana design that has been tested by time. A lot of the design elements in traditional furniture today are borrowed from antique furniture. Traditional designed furniture usually has more rounded corners and curves versus the straightness of mission and shaker design. Traditional style furniture can be identified by highly decorative moldings, arched or scalloped edges, turned legs or elegantly tapered legs, and softer lines on chairs. Beveled glass, arched doors, ball or bun feet (a foot for furniture that has been around since the 1600’s) and bevel or ogee edges on table tops are all characteristics of traditional style. A popular style through the decades, furniture with a “sleigh” look can also be considered traditional. Traditional furniture is typically very flexible and can blend in with most decors. Traditional style furniture can also lend itself to a more relaxed rustic look or very formal.
Transitional & Versatile
At The Amish Craftsman, we define transitional style furniture as furniture designed to blend one style with another. While Mission & Arts and Crafts, Shaker, and Traditional styles all have very distinctive design elements that make them unique, transitional or versatile furniture usually represents a combination or blending of many styles. A transitional piece is just that – able to transition between many designs and styles. It’s perfect for blending different pieces, styles, or even rooms! At The Amish Craftsman, a transitional table might have a big, heavy turned pedestal base with four feet that are streamlined and clean. Or it might be a bedroom set that is a little shaker and a little mission. It’s a blending of styles – perfect for those of you out there who might not be 100% committed to the Mission or Shaker style. It gives you a little taste of the different styles without overwhelming you!