This simple style copies traditional Spanish furniture found in Franciscan missions
What is Mission Style furniture? Mission designs emerged in America between the 1890s and the late 1920s to become a popular style used in both architecture and furniture, particularly in the West. The original concepts and lines copied traditional Spanish furniture found in Franciscan missions in California. With straight, simple designs that mimicked the more functional aspects of medieval furniture, Mission has often been compared to the Arts and Crafts style that emerged in England and spread to America around the same time.
Wood was the preferred medium, with Oak being singled out by most furniture makers. The rectilinear forms employed simple construction techniques clearly evident in the finished products, such as exposed mortise-and-tenon joints. The frames, along with the backs of the chairs, routinely utilized vertical or horizontal wood boards, keeping a clean, square look.
The name "Mission Furniture" was promoted by New York furniture maker Joseph McHugh around 1895. Some important names that used the Mission Style to their advantage included Gustav Stickley, Charles and Henry Greene, and Frank Lloyd Wright. Stickley's magazine The Craftsman promoted this style in the world of furniture makers, while the Greene brothers and Frank Lloyd Wright combined Mission Style with Arts and Crafts as well as Art Nouveau aspects to create furniture that matched their architectural creations. To them the furniture should complement and blend into the surrounding space, and so these architects took it upon themselves to create the furniture that would lie in the buildings they designed.
Mission furniture from the very beginning was made by both skilled craftsmen and was mass produced; the mass produced pieces sometimes presented flawed designs and materials. Oak was favored by both the skilled furniture makers and companies that produced massive lines of Mission furniture. A center for factory-produced Mission furniture could be found in Michigan in the Grand Rapids area; several companies devoted to copying Stickley's designs emerged in this area around 1900. One such company was the Charles P. Limbert Co., which marketed both Arts and Crafts, as well as Mission Style furniture.
Mission Style has always been compared to Arts and Crafts furniture, since both use rectilinear designs, square patterns and the use of straight boards of wood to build their pieces. Arts and Crafts pieces have traditional been promoted as showcasing higher quality, while Mission presents a stripped-down, simpler version. Regardless if an element or design falls into the Arts and Crafts or Mission Style camps, both are routinely employed in modern furniture designs, including patio furniture and even pool tables. The simple designs, rustic appearance and use of organic wood make Mission Style extremely popular with homeowners today.
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