Gustav Stickley is perhaps the most recognized proponent of the American Arts and Crafts movement in architecture and design, sharing that stage with Frank Lloyd Wright and Greene and Greene. These visionaries embraced the integrity of workmanship, and the philosophy that a home should reflect its organic environment, lifestyle, and interaction to its natural setting.
Gustav Stickely was born in Wisconsin 1858. He worked as a stonemason, his father’s profession, to support his family. Instead of pursuing a formal education, he continued to work in trades, most notably in his uncle’s chair factory, which would inform his skill and approach to fine workmanship, highlighting mortise and tenon joinery, metal accented details, and finishes that would enhance the beauty of the material and their use. Stickley pursued the inspiration of the British Arts and Crafts movement throughout his career as a furniture builder at the turn of the century. Applying the principles of simplicity, integrity of construction, and honoring the intrinsic property of his materials was his highest aim, and became the hallmark of Gustav Stickley designed furniture.
In the early 1900’s Gustav Stickley turned his attention to publishing a magazine to promote the spirit and philosophies of the Craftsman Movement. His magazine endorsed the design of homes, which would create an entire environment, from the earth and stone on which they were built, to the fine details of construction… and the furniture, fixtures, and textiles, which would enhance the enjoyment of the space in a modest, deferential way. His focus was “to substitute the luxury of taste for the luxury of costliness; to teach that beauty does not imply elaboration or ornament; to employ only those forms and materials which make for simplicity, individuality and dignity of effect.”
The Craftsman magazine published architectural plans accessible to home builders who sought to apply the tenants of this design. Today, as it was then, a true Craftsman Home bears the endorsement of the Stickley mark of approval, and as such, is highly sought after, and as collectible as his early furniture designs.