Rock and Roll — 1907

Gus Rocker

1907 — America was not ready for Rock and Roll. No, not yet.

But Americans were Rockin’ in their living rooms and on their porches listening to the likes of the “Kansas City Rag” by James Scott and the “Maple Leaf Rag” by Scott Joplin. Women wore full length dresses, men wore coats and ties. What passed for air conditioning was a glass of lemonade pressed to the forehead or cheek and a feathery fan keeping time to the piano keys.

Based on a 1907 Gustav Stickley design, this roomy rocker features exposed through-tenons and corbels supporting the sturdy arm rests — hallmarks of Stickley craftsmanship and Arts and Crafts design. This is the original Rock and Roll chair. Still rocking after all these years. Available in dozens of leathers and hundreds of fabrics.

Visit Traditions Furniture in Overland Park and Wichita for End-of-Summer Sale savings on Stickley, America’s favorite brand.

Gus Rocker and Prairie Settee

Oh, How I Hate to Get up in the Morning

It is raining. It has been raining for a week. Rain, rain, and more rain, and in Kansas no less, not Portland or Seattle where they could use rain to cool things off. I am lying in bed, thinking about Irving Berlin’s patriotic WWI song, Oh! How I Hate to Get up in the Morning. I am thinking about Independence Day, July 4th, 2021. There are a lot of good reasons to get up in the morning.

This one is the Stickley Independence Day Sale. 40% off Stickley’s msrp on Mission, Park Slope, and Highlands collections.

We are closed Sundays and Mondays because five days a week is enough to shop for the Best Home Furnishings in Overland Park and Wichita.

Oh, I did get up. Grumpy and cross, walked downstairs. When the wife yelled, “Let the dogs out!” So, in my T-shirt and shorts, I let the dogs out, and we all got wet in the morning.

a thing of beauty

A thing of beauty is a joy forever.
John Keats, 1818

That goes for the stylishly and strangely contemporary Tuxedo sofa that has been around since the start of the 19th century.

Beginnings

The Tuxedo sofa traces its beginning to the tony village of Tuxedo Park in Ramapo mountains just north of New York City. New York, the same place that created the formal suit. Credit for the suit is given to wealthy tobacco manufacturer Pierre J. Lorillard IV, who swapped a summer estate at Newport called “The Breakers” for a luxury estate of 13,000 acres around Tuxedo Lake. Lorillard would combine with William Waldorf Astor and other wealthy friends into building a get-away 40 miles from New York City and hired architect Bruce Price to design the clubhouse. Notable residents of the fashionable Tuxedo Park included banker J.P. Morgan, railroader John Insley Blair, and writer Mark Twain. Later residents who graced the grounds included Emily Post, the grand dame of good manners, and colorful interior designer Dorothy Draper.

Simple and clean

Who deserves credit for designing a sofa where the arms are the same height as the back is lost to pages of history. The style is modern, the lines geometrically simple and clean. There is some similarity in the Big City architecture of Bruce Price whose buildings combined classical Greek forms with modern construction techniques. But there is no evidence that Price was a designer of furniture.

The style reminds us of the more opulent Chesterfield sofa, but the Chesterfield is grander in scale. The Tuxedo is more in line with the distinctively American designs of Gustav Stickley and Frank Lloyd Wright, or with Scottish designer Charles Rene Mackintosh and his wife Margaret Macdonald. But all these designers prominently featured the wood frame.

Modern Times

No, I think that we will have to accept he idea that the Tuxedo sofa sprung fully formed like Athena from Zeus.

A scaled back sofa, straight and slim, one that suited “modern” times. Following the lead of the flappers of the 20s, a new generation of liberated women who wore short skirts, sported short hair, listened to jazz, and redefined what was considered acceptable behavior.

Strangely Contemporary

The Tuxedo sofa continues today as a fashion statement. It may be eclectically casual as this sofa by Rowe Furniture. Like the suit, sported at Hollywood by the likes of George Clooney and Bradley Cooper.

Or to the manor born, like debonair Daniel Craig, as this Tuxedo sofa designed by Stickley Furniture. Either way, the Tuxedo, sofa or suit, is a great conversation piece, and at home a great way to celebrate the joy of family and friends.

A joy forever

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever” is the opening line from John Keats poem Endymion which goes like this:

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
..

And there I will rest.

Celebrate 120 Years

 

new-store-hours

Qualities that make a furniture company enduring are excellence of craftsmanship, continuing design, and a commitment to the workers who make the furniture. But this means nothing unless the customer loves the furniture – the feel of the solid wood, the beauty of the design, and its lasting value.

120 years of quality and craftsmanship

It has been 120 years since Gustav Stickley first introduced Mission Furniture to America. This was a new line of solid quarter-sawn white oak furniture whose virtues were simplicity, functionality, and soundness of construction. The wood piece was then stained and finished; the finish subdued with the quarter-sawn flakes close in tone to the surrounding wood. The joinery exposed to exhibit the work of the craftsman. Gustav Stickley established the Craftsman Workshops in Syracuse in 1901, close to the forests where the lumber was sustainably harvested. To educate the public and promote his ideas, he began publishing the monthly magazine The Craftsman, which included articles about architecture, home construction, and philosophy, as well as new designs for “Mission” furniture.

5-BROTHERS

L. and J.G. Stickley

In time, Gustav’s two younger brothers entered the furniture business and built Mission furniture from his designs. Two other brothers had for some time produced similar furniture under the name L. and J.G. Stickley, and numerous imitators had followed his lead as well. The public was smitten with this uniquely American look. Famed songwriter Irving Berlin even wrote a song, “You’d be Surprised” that referenced the Stickley Morris recliner. Later, Marilyn Monroe added the song to her repertoire.

Walnut Grove Living Room (more floor)

New Collections

Through World War I and World War II, Stickley survived. Other designs were added, including a traditional look called “Cherry Valley” that celebrated early American furniture styles. The company passed on to the Audi Family which continued operations in Manlius, New York. Meanwhile new designers were hired, and new collections added like Park Slope and Walnut Grove, as well as a contemporary Modern look.

All the while, the Audi family maintained Stickley’s core values of quality of construction, worker satisfaction, and value.

Register to Win

This year Stickley celebrates 120 years making Mission Furniture. It is time for a Sale, 40% off msrp. Buy Stickley and be a part of American history. To celebrate, Stickley is giving away a Leopold chair and ottoman, register to win, contest winner selected August 3.

ENTER-TO-WIN-1

Working at Home

The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play. Arnold J. Toynbee

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Work and Play

We are blurring the lines between work and play. And that can happen only when one finds a job one loves. For when something you love becomes work, it fundamentally, for the better, changes the way you live your life – with gusto!

Here’s to all those men and women who work and play, and live their lives with passion.

When a man’s home is born out of his heart and developed through his labor and perfected through his sense of beauty, it is the very cornerstone of life. Gustav Stickley

Gustav Stickley

This same passion surrounds the Stickley family in Manlius, New York. It began 120 years ago with Gustav Stickley who designed and created a new line of furniture that came to be called Mission Furniture. His idea was that furniture should be honest and simple, natural wood, what-you-see-is what-you get, quality construction.

Gustav Stickley

Gustav Stickley loved what he did. He hired the best craftsmen and utilized designers like Henry Wilkinson and LaMont A. Warner, and later, Harvey Ellis. He started a magazine to expound his philosophy called The Craftsman and hired Susan Sergeant as managing editor and layout designer. Gustav Stickley then went on to found the Craftsman Farms in Parsippany-Troy Hills, Morris County, New Jersey, as a school for the Arts and Crafts movement.

But perhaps the best story about Gustav Stickley’s love for his business came from his grandson, Gustav Stickley III, who as a young boy watched his grandfather and recalled, “I used to watch him draw his hand across a piece of wood and you could see the reverence in the hand,” he said. “That’s where I learned my love of wood and the feel of it when it has been properly preserved.”

Gustav Stickley may not have whistled while he worked. He was a quiet man, who took pride in the accomplishments of others. He was after all a mentor. He enjoyed what he did and wanted to pass on the love to others.

Made with Passion and Pride

passion-pride

 

Made with passion and pride in Manlius, New York – Stickley Furniture.

Gustav Stickley moved to New York in 1884 and began to experiment in Arts & Crafts Designs. By 1900 he developed a line he called “New Furniture” and we call “Mission”. In contrast to the ornate Victorian piece then in vogue, it displayed simple horizontal and vertical lines and flat panels to accentuate the wood grain (often oak, especially quartersawn white oak, but also cherry and walnut), leaving for all to admire the simple and honest joinery, the hallmark of quality American craftsmanship.

It was furniture that was made with passion and pride. It still is.

See it now at Traditions Furniture in Overland Park and Traditions Home  in Wichita.

he-desk

Naturally Stickley

In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.

Alice Walker, American novelist

 

In 1893, Gustav Stickley built a new factory in Syracuse, New York near Lake Onondaga. In the summer of 1900, he created an experimental line, his first Arts and Crafts designs, he called the New Furniture, which today we call Mission. That same year the State of New York began to identify those lands included in the forest preserve. In 1905, when Stickley bloomed as a national company and Gustav worried about over timbering, New York had 10.8 million acres of forest, while Pennsylvania had 8.7 million.

Today, forest preserves have almost doubled, covering 18.7 million acres in New York and 16.6 million acres in Pennsylvania.

The Autobiography of Gustav Stickley

My parents came to America and settled in Pennsylvania in the wave of German immigration fleeing the economic and political uncertainty of the first half of the 19th century.
Gustav Stickley

My father and mother were German immigrants. My father Leopold Stoeckel was born in 1821 in Baden, along the east bank of the Rhine River, an area that includes the Black Forest. Perhaps that is where I get my love of the forest, of wood, and making furniture. My parents met and married in Pennsylvania. My father being 18 years older than my mother, I suppose that a cause for their separation that would happen when I was 12 years of age. By that time, my mother had born 11 children, and my parents had moved to the Ohio Territory where they farmed 40 acres near Osceola. Like early settlers we lived in a log cabin and my father struggled to raise wheat and provide for his family. My father supplemented our meager earnings as stonemason, and I too took up this trade, earning my journeyman’s license by the age of 12. This became a matter of necessity for my father’s farm failed and he left the family.

My mother had the good sense to move the family back to Brandt, Pennsylvania where, at the age of 17, I worked in my uncle’s chair factory. His name was Jacob Schlager, and he along with his business partner Henry Brandt, were quite the entrepreneurs. This was my introduction to furniture making. In 1883, after 8 year, along with brothers Charles and Albert, we formed the Stickley Brothers & Company, the same year that I married Eda Ann Simmons. First ventures do not always succeed. My brothers and I parted ways, and I then formed a partnership with Elgin Simonds, a furniture salesman from Binghamton, New York. This partnership had the advantage of creating sales for the furniture I made, and it caused me to move to Upstate New York which was closer to the clients who bought my furniture.

Syracuse would eventually be my home.

By the year 1888, I turned 30 and my wife Eda and I were the parents of two small children. Simonds and I were achieving some success in Syracuse. I dabbled in real estate, tinkered with machines like a better wood-bending machine and a belt sander, securing patents in both the United States and Canada.

In 1895, my wife and I made our first trip to Europe where I was introduced to the ideas of William Morris and John Ruskin. They too had seen the effects of a rising industrial age and became concerned with its effects on the working man. Amid the pomp of ceremony of the Victorian Age, the world seemed to have forgotten the artistry of the craftsman and the value of his labor. An Arts & Crafts Movement had taken hold in England, and I wanted to be its American proponent.

It was 1898, I turned 40, my wife and I had a large, well-appointed home in Syracuse which accommodated the six children we now had. But I was restless. Simonds and I parted ways, and I experimented with the idea of making furniture in the manner of true craftsmen, honestly and simply.

The new century was the perfect opportunity to introduce my New Furniture. In the eyes of some it was plain, but that was the point. The design highlighted the beauty of the wood and the quality of the construction. This was not intended to be ornamental furniture, but furniture that served a purpose, enduring furniture that would last for generations. To help me with design, I brought in Henry Wilkinson and LaMont A. Warner. I changed the name of my company to United Crafts and within a year started a magazine called The Craftsman with Irene Sargent as editor.

Our magazine became the proponent of a new lifestyle, one that accommodated the working class, middle America, and the craftsman style homes that were popping up across the country like prairie flowers. Our furniture designs continued to emphasize mortise and tenon joinery and the workman’s pride in the structural qualities of his works. Hammered metal hardware, armor-bright polished iron or patinated copper also emphasized the handmade qualities of the furniture.

In May of 1903 I hired architect Harvey Ellis who died less than a year later, but still influenced the company going forward with his lighter pieces and inlay designs. Ellis’ artistry was reminiscent of Scottish designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh, but uniquely his own.

My brothers Leopold, Albert, Charles, and John George also produced Arts and Crafts furniture, and we collaborated and worked together in varying ways over the decades that followed.

The Lord’s Word sustains me in all that I have faced. And in the curse of the Garden of Eden I find a blessing. For “in the sweat of thy face, shall thy eat bread,” Genesis 3:19.

The Flemish motto I adopted, Als Ik Kan, is still my mantra. I have worked to the best of my ability. That I have failed on occasion is not a source of disappointment. What is life, if not to strive, to achieve, sometimes to fail and by failing to learn and improve. This I know – All the romance in the growth of civilization is born of conflict. Heroes are not made of affluence, ease. Adversity is their birthright, difficulty their means to opportunity.*

I believe that in some small measure I have made life better for the working man, for the middle class, and for America. I believe that the future is bright with hope.

The sun has risen and set many times over the course of my lifetime.

An old man often returns to his childhood and his memories, to his beginnings to get a bearing on his accomplishments. I think back on the little log cabin my father built in the woods of Ohio. I still admire the forests of sturdy oaks and the groves of stately walnut. From these stands of wood, my father built our house. There are elements of intrinsic beauty in the simplification of a house built of logs. First, there is the bare beauty of the logs themselves with their long lines and firm curves. Then there is the open charm felt of the structural features which are not hidden under plaster and ornament, but are clearly revealed, a charm felt in Japanese architecture. The quiet rhythmic monotone of the wall of logs fills one with the rustic peace of a secluded nook in the woods.

* The sources are many. Gustav’s thoughts were published in The Craftsman Magazine, in the editorial articles titled, “Als I Kan”. Much of these personal observations come from his editorial in The Craftsman Magazine, dated November 1911.

William Morris

To do nothing but grumble and not to act – that is throwing away one’s life.
William Morris

The British Arts & Crafts Movement was a late 19th century reaction to industrialization and mechanization. Proponents like Augustus Pugin, John Ruskin, and William Morris, who believed that a return to honest and simple labor reconnected man with his creative process. The most influential advocate of the three was William Morris (1834–1896), novelist, translator, socialist critic, and textile and furniture designer. Morris’ decoration of the home, emphasized nature, using simplicity of form.

[As an aside, I note that in 1871 William Morris leased Kelmscott Manor in the Cotswolds, halfway between Oxford and Gloucester, but only if one gets off the main route. And importantly to me, a stones throw from Langford Downs where my family farmed and raised chickens, as I was told by the antiquarian chemist in the nearby village of Lechlade. Morris described the 16th century limestone manor house as the “loveliest haunt of ancient peace.” Its bucolic setting is on the rolling hills of Oxfordshire at the source of the Thames River. It is surrounded by hamlets with names like: Filkins, Broughton Poggs, Grafton, and Buscot Wick. The region has kept its ancient two lane routes that wind and meander over hill and dale. The houses are small, cottages really with gardens well-kept. These are the tradesmen and craftsmen for whom the Arts & Crafts Movement was meant.]

William Morris is perhaps best known as a designer of wallpaper. His exquisite patterns remind one of the intricacies of Islamic Art, and many patterns are still reproduced today to decorate homes. But to us, his name comes down to us through Gustav Stickley’s distinctive rendition of the Morris Recliner.

To do nothing but to grumble, Morris said, is to waste a life. Unless one is sitting in a Stickley Morris chair enjoying a day’s labor and thinking thoughts of greatness. As Morris observed from his chair, “memory and imagination” help us as we work.

bow-arm.fw

Park Slope, Something New

Yesterday, I remarked that the artist’s life lies somewhere between “inventio” and “imitatio“. We are a curious lot. We observe, but we critique, and if we do it well, then we add to the sum of the value of life.

That is why the process of creating and improving never stops. That is why Stickley’s  Park Slope Collection is so fresh and yet familiar, traditional yet contemporary, and certainly distinctive.

I hope you will agree.

park-slope-bed-front

 

Will Ye Take the High Road?

By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes,
Where the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond,
Where me and my true love were ever wont to gae
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond.

Chorus:
O ye’ll tak’ the high road, and I’ll tak’ the low road,
And I’ll be in Scotland a’fore ye,
But me and my true love will never meet again,
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond.

‘Tis a sad tale

I can hear the tune in my head. It tells the story of the Jacobite Uprising of 1745. The song is sung by the lover of a captured Jacobite rebel set to be executed in London following a show trial. ‘Tis truly sad and sure to cause a tear to the cheek of any true Scotsman. Bonnie Prince Charlie is gone and ne’er will return to the bonnine banks of Loch Lomond.

highlands_chair.fw

The Highlands Chair

The Highlands Chair by Stickley Furniture makes one think of the bonnie shores of Loch Lomond. Made by skilled craftsmen and women in Upstate New York (near the bonnie Finger Lakes and bonnie brae, rolling hills). The Highlands Collection reinterprets the timeless designs of Scottish architect and furniture designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The look is clean, refreshingly modern in its approach with a nod to the Art Nouveau movement and Arts & Crafts designs.

Discover the Highland Chair

Traditions Furniture in Overland Park and Wichita where:

…Wee birdies sing and wildflowers spring,
In sunshine the waters are sleeping.
Oh, my broken heart it kens nae a second spring again,
Though the woeful may cease their crying.