What is mission style furniture?
At the end of the 19th century, there was a guy called A.J. Forbes. He used to make chairs. Once upon a time, he was inspired by a chair he saw in San Francisco’s Swedenborgian Church and started to make something like that.
Then, there was another guy Joseph P. McHugh, who made and sold furniture in New York. He saw the chair made by A.J. Forbes and was very fond of its design. He started to make and sell chairs made by this pattern. He thought the design was invented by the Spanish missions in California.
He was totally wrong, but the name stuck. Mission furniture became a fashion trend, especially after Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, 1901.
List & Comparison of Mission Desks:
|Home Styles 5180-15||54x28x30in||Asian hardwoods, veneers||More Information|
|Leick Furniture 82430||24x48x30.3in||Hardwood solid, birch veneer||More Information|
|Winsome Wood 81140||40x20x30in||Solid beechwood||More Information|
|Atlantic Furniture AH12224||48x24x29.4in||Wood solids, veneers||More Information|
|Home Styles 5180-16||24x42x30in||Asian hardwoods, veneers||More Information|
|Leick Furniture 82400||48x24x30in||Hardwood solids and wood veneers||More Information|
|Furniture of America IDF-4245-3PK||Coffee table: 48x24x18in|
End table: 22x24x21in
|Office Star SRA25-AH||40x20x30in||Solid wood, engineered wood||More Information|
Let’s take a closer look at different mission desks.
Review of the Best Mission Desks:
This item looks pretty much genuine because it is made of the hardwood. Of course, it is not an oak, but something cheaper (it smells like pine), but the finish is cottage oak. The item is finished from all sides, so you can show it bravely in the center of the room, not sticking it somewhere in the corner.
The desk is rather heavy (genuine wood). The framed doors are styled with showcasing raised wood, lattice planks, and the legs are flared slightly (a bit out of style). The top is not smooth, it shows the grain of the wood, so the writing and drawing on this table require the additional padding. Five drawers are surprisingly spacious and easily accessible.
The assembly is required. Some cons: the desk is not designed for really tall people. And there can be some assembly issues on which people complain. Also, they complain about the shipping service.
On the other hand, the people who liked the item, really like it. The overall impression is: “a really sturdy and solid desk for a reasonable price”.
“Mission oak computer desk” sounds a bit like an oxymoron. They didn’t have computers back then, did they? But the times, they are-a changin’, so now we have mission-styled computer desks alright.
This one is designed to be set in the corner to take less of your precious space. It is made of solid hardwood with an oak veneer finish. They say it is hand applied, which is really in accordance with the spirit of Arts&Crafts, and pay attention to the metal hardware on the drawer. The drawer is a keyboard drawer, and it slides smoothly on the ball bearings. There are lower shelves for a CPU tower and a printer, and the wire grommet on the back.
The assembly is pretty easy: just attach legs and insert the drawer. The manual is easy to follow.
Cons: people taller than 1,80 meters may feel uncomfortable.
This is a nice and neat piece for a tiny home office. It is foldable, so you can easily move it around and even take with you wherever you go on the vacations. The assembly is very easy, your grandma can do it. The material is genuine beech.
The keyboard tray glides smoothly on steel rails. It can also be used for papers and office equipment. And, finally, something for tall people! The desk, despite being foldable, is stable and sturdy, like the real piece of mission furniture has to be, and if you are a handy person, you can install some improvements like locks that prevent the legs from folding by an accidental kick.
Okay, you are not a fan of small home offices. You have an office and you want to impress the visitors with your good taste. So, nothing pompous (and regrettably unaffordable), but solid-looking mission style office desk.
Of course, it is not a walnut. But it is plantation-grown timber, either hevea or white beech or poplar.
The assembly is easy, but since the material is solid wood, the item is rather heavy and may require two persons to put together and flip over.
The drawer is felt-lined. The bearings are a ball, so it glides smoothly. It has two built-in 11V power outlets and two built-in USB charging ports.
It is a typical mission styling with framed drawers, lettuce patterns, and vertical plank to give the desk an airy impression. It has an opening in the drawer for cables and wires, and it is considered a perfect desk for a schoolchild or a student.
The desk can hold a CPU tower and a monitor, even a printer of moderate size. The entire assembly takes about 30 minutes and can be done by one person. The finish is smooth, so one can easily write or draw on it without additional padding. It will be a great purchase for kids and like the finish for crayon and ink marks could be easily removed.
Well, it is named Arts & Crafts, so it is natural for kids to use it for their arts and crafts. You may put an acrylic padding on top, just to be sure.
The thing is amazing in its simplicity.
The drawer is carried by ball bearers and is a drop-down to serve as a keyboard tray. It is also fairly spacious. The finish is hand-applied. The top is solid wood, 1 inch thick. The top comes preassembled which saves you a lot of time. The item is small which saves a lot of space. The desk is finished all over.
Overall impression: a pretty cool thing for a small room. It looks like someone’s heirloom like it was left to you by your ancestors that kept it in good repair. And it can really thrive for many years, being used with care. It is heavy duty, so if one doesn’t tap-dance on it, it can indeed become an heirloom.
Quite unusual for this review, to put here a coffee table.
This is a good 3-piece ensemble for a living room. I like the drawers where can store some necessities, such as tissues, pens, scissors, and at the same time, they can use the lower shelves to show their knick-knacks. It may take two people to assemble it because the top is rather heavy.
But, being heavy and solid, the thing doesn’t really make the impression of something hard. This is the peculiarity of the mission style, actually.
The compliance of this item to the original mission style is wonderful. Even the legs are not flared. The proportions are perfect. The top is made with engineered wood but looks genuine. The assembling is very simple.
Like a previous item, it is small, so maybe it is not destined for tall people. But people of small frame buy it gladly. It serves good as a writing desk, computer desk (which nowadays are pretty much the came), sewing machine table or vanity. For the price, it is a good piece of work.
Are mission style and Arts & Crafts style the same things?
Er, no. The mission style is all-American invention and Arts & Crafts movement started in the UK half a century before Forbes produced his chair. The prophets of Arts & Crafts movement, designers, artists, architects and writers, such as John Ruskin, William Morris, Augustus Pugin were the sworn enemies of machinery and fabric system.
They thought it deprives the workers of their work, making them “serves of the labor” who cannot take part in the design and value the fruits of their work freely and set the prices by themselves. They proclaimed that the craftsmen should have the possibility to make their items from the very beginning to the very end, from the conception to the market.
The sentiment of this movement was very thoroughly expressed in The Return of Don Quixote by G.K. Chesterton.
The participants of the movement were not mere theorists. They founded their own company, Morris, Marshall, and Faulkner, which produced furniture, wallpaper, glass, carpets, jewelry, kitchenware and so on. The designs of their items were simpler and way purer that overembellished Victorian designs.
The company thrived up to WWII, and the ideology and philosophy of Arts & Crafts spread worldwide and are actually even now. The main point of this philosophy is that it’s important how the item is made: mechanically or with sense and love. They wanted to erase the border between fine and decorative art and make art an element of everyday life and work of common people.
They looked at the medieval craftsmen who created items that thrived for centuries and took them as an example.
So, how it happened that people mix the mission style and Arts & Crafts style together? The thing is, that the end of 1890th, when the mission style developed, were years of maximum popularity of the Arts and Crafts movement that praised simple forms and handiwork, so people gladly bought the furniture made in accordance with its principles.
They were tired of over-sophisticated designs and soulless mass-production. The mission style totally complied to the philosophy and ideology of the Arts & Crafts movement. That’s why people started to mix them together. We may say that the mission style was a part of the Arts & Crafts movement, characteristically American in its simplicity and utility.
What is the mission desk?
As anyone can guess, it is the desk made in mission style. It looks simple, dark, varnished, with flat horizontal surfaces, lots of vertical planks and functional drawers.
How to make the desk look like a mission style?
There are five distinguishing characteristics of mission style.
First: simple vertical and horizontal lines and flat panels that expose and accentuate the wood grain (mostly the quartersawn white oak). There is no embellishment, and the crisp outlines fit both on modern and in the classy interior.
Second: it shows the joints, to demonstrate the precision required to assemble the item. Though all the set of chairs may be made in one design, there will be no two identical chairs, because the wood grain pattern will make every piece distinguishing.
Because of the usage of quarter-sawn wood, it is easy, for the wood from the middle of the tree contains the most interesting patterns. Mission Style furniture manufacturers did their best with quality wood: white oak, hickory, mahogany, pine, cedar or walnut. That’s why the mission furniture thrives through generations.
Third: Stain, medium or dark. The wood gets darker with time due to oxygen and light exposure. Thus, the manufacturer used stain to protect the wood from damage, especially from water. The genuine mission style furniture looks dark.
Fourth: functionality. We already mentioned the lack of ornamentation. Mission style furniture was designed for practical use, it was made to serve people’s daily purpose. It never looks like something exquisite, on the contrary – it has a simple rustic look.
Fifth: metal and leather. Mission furniture manufacturers sometimes used other materials than wood. In these cases, they used copper or iron hardware. The other material used for upholstering was leather. Leather is durable, functional and aesthetic.
Nowadays, mission furniture is produced mostly by Amish communities in the United States. They use genuine wood and leather, they do not use any machinery.
And, of course, there are many original mission furniture items on the antique goods market. The price… you can imagine, but sometimes you can purchase a rather cheap set of chairs or a secretary desk from someone who sells their great-grandmothers goods.
Good news: there are many manufacturers that produce cheaper lookalikes of mission furniture. You can afford such things and decorate your apartment in a manner that the Arts and Crafts movement would certainly approve (unless you tell them that it is mostly made on some Chinese factory).
But if you are about to buy more than a genuine look, and ready to pay twice – Amishes will take your money gladly.