|Mission style table by Gustav Stickley, c 1910.|
(Image copyright Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Today, of course, we’re much more discriminating. We admire furniture of the 60s as an appealingly naive emblem of the Jet Age, but by and large we’ve concluded that an older, more storied style is the way to go. So what do we do? We adopt a style that’s linear, uncomfortable, and not all that good-looking, and which, even though it’s called Mission, has nothing whatever to do with missions. But it’s got a hundred-odd years of history behind it, and that's no doubt comforting in these mad times.
|An original Mission style lamp by Tiffany?|
No—it's a copy offered by Home Depot.
Regardless of Mission’s murky heritage, one thing is crystal clear: With its sharp corners and church-pew surfaces, it’s certainly among the most uncomfortable furniture styles of the last ten centuries. It gives Danish Modern and even Frank Lloyd Wright’s chairs a run for the money.
|Arts & Crafts fans even have their very own font.|
(Image courtesy myfonts.com)
Trouble is, the vast majority of Arts and Crafts, er, rather, Mission furniture was not made by Morris, Stickley, or any of the other craft studios whose work is rightly coveted these days. Adhering to the highest standards of craftsmanship naturally made for miniscule production, which in turn ensured that only the wealthy could afford their work.
|Latter-day Mission style cabinet, also available at|
Home Depot. You may well find one of these
in your next motel room.
Which brings me back to the current encore of Mission mania. The style has already become ubiquitous in the media, appearing not only in print but in movies, commercials and sitcoms. Mission knockoffs are now standard fare in those giant discount furniture stores.
You may wonder how long this can last. For me, the sure sign that a style is on its last legs is when it starts appearing in chain motels. Well, guess what? Have a seat in the lobby, folks. Just mind those sharp corners.