Mission-style furniture originated in the late 19th century as part of the Arts and Crafts movement. This style is known for its simple, clean lines and simple design, emphasizing the natural beauty of the materials used. It is often made of white oak, which takes on a beautiful patina as the wood ages. It is typically finished with a hand-rub oil finish highlighting the wood’s rich coloration and accentuating its grain patterns. Another popular finishing option is an ammonia-fuming process where the wood is exposed to ammonia fumes that react to the tannins in the wood, adding a rich brown coloration to the wood.
The history of Mission-style furniture dates back to the late 1800s when a group of artists and craftsmen started the Arts and Crafts movement in England. The movement was a response to the industrialization of society and the lack of quality in mass-produced goods. This lack of quality in mass-produced goods is prevalent in today’s furniture manufacturing.
These artists and craftsmen sought to bring back the traditional methods of craftsmanship and to create beautiful and functional objects. Unfortunately, as the movement grew in popularity, large-scale furniture manufacturers shifted their offerings to include mission-style furniture of lesser quality and lesser price, competing with artists trying to hold on to the tradition of their craft by building quality furniture.
The movement spread to the United States in the early 1900s, becoming known as the American Arts and Crafts movement. In the United States, the movement was heavily influenced by the work of architect Frank Lloyd Wright with his use of natural materials and simple forms. Thus cementing the movement as part of the 20th-century American culture.
Some of the key features of Mission style furniture include:
- Simple, clean lines emphasize the furniture’s function and the natural beauty of the materials used.
- Natural materials: typically made of white oak and finished to showcase the natural beauty and coloration of the wood grain.
- The furniture is often built with mortise and tenon joinery, which makes the pieces sturdy and durable.
- The furniture is unadorned, with little to no decorative elements. Instead, the focus is on the functionality of the piece and the quality of the craftsmanship.
- Earthy colors: Mission style is often funded with ammonia to bring out earthy colors such as various shades of brown
The furniture is often used in homes with a traditional or rustic aesthetic, but it can also work in modern or contemporary spaces. Its clean lines and natural materials make it a timeless style that will never go out of fashion. It is an excellent choice for anyone who values quality craftsmanship and understated elegance. This furniture style is still popular today, and you can find it in many furniture stores and online retailers. However, if you want to pay homage to the craftsmen who created the style, skip the big box stores, and purchase your Mission-style furniture from a master craftsman.