Always in Style: Stickley furniture offers history lessons

Wrenda Goodwyn • special to the Fort Myers News-Press• Feb. 23. 2013

For many, it is an acquired taste.

But homeowners who love Stickley furniture are addicted to its style, design and quality. Collectors search in earnest for antiques — early Stickley pieces are recognized as gems of the American Arts & Crafts movement — and can add new pieces because the furniture is still made today, in the company’s factory in Manlius, N.Y.

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“The quality of construction is amazing. Each piece is built when it is ordered ... the name of the customer is on the piece and remains on it as it progresses down the assembly line,” said Larry Norris, founder and president of Norris Home Furnishings, Southwest Florida’s exclusive Stickley dealer.

“And Stickley is delivered on its own truck. When you purchase a piece of Stickley, you are buying a collectible of tomorrow.”

Stickley furniture is known for its hand-finished, solid wood furniture in styles including Mission, Traditional and Metropolitan. Founded in Fayettesville, N.Y., in 1900 by Gustav Stickley — considered to be one of the country’s most legendary furniture makers — Stickley is seen in museums from the Metropolitan to the Museum of Fine Arts.

Today, Stickley has more than 1,600 employees and produces furniture collections ranging from the company’s early Mission Oak and Cherry to Classics, Modern, John Widdicomb, St. Croix and more.

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From the modern collection, the willow bed is part of the Edinburgh line. This beautiful bed was inspired by the Willow Tea Room in Sauchehall Street in Glasgow.

The company burst into international prominence in the early 20th century with its Craftsman/Mission Oak designs. These were based on the notion that furniture should be “honest” — a reaction against the fake joinery, unnecessary gaudiness and shoddy workmanship of many of the pieces created in the early days of industrial furniture making.

Stickley used solid construction and the highest-quality woods. The company showed a genius for design, creating hundreds of new forms that were at once beautiful to look upon, practical to use, exceedingly strong and long-lasting, and perfect for the new ways American families wanted to live.

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Record-setting auction house prices and regular “Antiques Roadshow” appearances of Stickley originals have raised public awareness of the brothers’ important creative legacy. Today, Stickley enters its second century with the Mission Classics collection that started it all as well as many other collections ranging from traditional to contemporary, leather and upholstery.

“At Norris Home Furnishings, we’ve always carried the best American-made furnishings,” said Norris of his showrooms in south Fort Myers, Sanibel and Naples. “We are very pleased to be the exclusive area dealer for this uniquely American fine line of furnishings.”

To see it for himself, Norris recently flew to the factory where he was given a firsthand presentation on what makes Stickley so special. He was impressed.

Also impressive, Norris says, is the “Sanibel” finish that was created especially for furnishings for Southwest Florida homes. It is light, sandy toned and stunning.

For newcomers to Stickley, as well as for those “Sticklets” who have been fans for years, Norris says that in addition to pieces in his showrooms, there is access to all lines and visitors are welcome to meet with Norris designers and browse catalogs and get to know the brands.

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Probably best known in the Stickley line is the Leopold Chair. Comfortable, tufted and massive, the chair was a Stickley classic from the 1930s and has been the most popular chair since its reintroduction in 1996. The beautiful arm on the chair was said to have been one of Leopold Stickley’s favorite design elements.

Susan Frank, Norris sales associate and designer, says she has clients who have Stickley shipped to homes all over the country.

“They appreciate the construction and the lasting quality that they can hand down. Stickley is an antique waiting to happen.”

Wrenda Goodwyn is a Southwest Florida interior decorator. Her column, Home Inspirations, appears the first Saturday of each month. Visit her website at spectacularspaces.com. Call her at 949-1808 or email wrenda@spectacularspaces.com. For more decorating tips and photos, visit spectacularspaces.com/blog.