Canadian Woodworking

Furniture styles – Mission

Author: Michel Theriault
Photos: Lead photo courtesy of Crestwood Design
Published: August September 2004

The Mission style was developed by a number of influential designers in order to create a simpler, more craftsman, look.


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Their rustic designs were a reaction to the strong ornamentation flaunted in the Victorian style that preceded it.

The Mission style was influence by the traditional style of the American Southwest, which incorporated Native American, Spanish, and Hispanic elements. The name ‘Mission’ reflects the resemblance to furniture crafted by American Indians for the Spanish missions in the late 1800s.

Morris chair

style, was the L. & J.G. Stickley Company of upstate New York. Stickley designed solid, often massive, furniture with exaggerated joinery, including mortise and tenon, and pegs. This simple construction was meant to last for many generations and was very different from the Victorian construction that preceded it. The wood of choice was oak, which was often artificially aged and darkened to create a rustic, weather-beaten, look. This rugged, aged, look contrasts sharply with the refined, highly finished furniture of the Victorian period.

One of the more recognizable Mission designs is the Morris chair. Its design is attributed to William Morris, an English architect, artist, and social reformer. Morris shunned mass-production of inexpensive furniture and designed instead furniture that was to be efficiently produced by craftsman, using rectangular shapes and simple joinery.

At that time, the mass-production of furniture was increasing, but the quality was low compared to handcrafted furniture. The much simpler design of Mission furniture was meant to revitalize the prominence of the craftsman. However, with its simple design and straightforward joinery, its style was readily adopted for mass production, a trend that ensured that this furniture style would be available to more than just the wealthy.

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