Gustav Stickley: The Enlightened Home

Folding Screen, 1907-1912. Once owned by Barbara Streisand. Collection of The Stickley Museum, L. & J.G. Stickley, Inc.
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Inlaid Viking Ship Desk, 1902-1903. Probably designed by Harvey Ellis. Private collection.

Gustav Stickley (1858-1942) was a furniture maker as well as the leading spokesperson for the American Craftsman movement. Stickley formed the philosophy for his Craftsman furniture after encountering the British Arts & Crafts movement during trips to Europe in the mid-1890s. Before he discovered and began making Arts & Craft-inspired items, Stickley manufactured the mass-produced, ornamental, fad-driven furniture which he later denounced.

The Craftsman Home was the full realization of Stickley’s philosophy. While individual pieces of furniture used construction as decoration, embodied simplicity, and prioritized utility, these tenets were also implemented on a much grander scale within the home. Rejecting the extravagance of Victorian interiors, Stickley championed functional homes whose beauty derived from simplicity and harmony. As the center of family life, the living room exemplified these qualities. Furniture, built-in features, exposed structural elements, textiles, and colors coalesced “into place as if they had grown there.”

To properly achieve harmony and balance, Stickley believed each Craftsman room should have a central focal point from which the design of the rest of the space flowed. In the dining room, for example, this was often the table, but sideboards or china cabinets were sometimes chosen.

This exhibition features approximately 40 pieces of Stickley furniture which exemplify Gustav Stickley’s philosophy of living.