Stickley Style: Arts and Crafts Homes in the Craftsman Tradition

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9780684856032: Stickley Style: Arts and Crafts Homes in the Craftsman Tradition

Beginning in the very first year of the twentieth century, Gustav Stickley made furniture that is prized almost a hundred years later for its honesty, simplicity, and usefulness. As a designer and manufacturer who emphasized careful workmanship, respect for natural materials, and simple lines, Stickley had a profound impact on the look of American homes. Today, Arts and Crafts design -- synonymous with Stickley to many people -- has become an American passion.

Elegantly designed and lushly photographed, Stickley Style is the first major publication to explore in full photographic color the central role Stickley played in the development of Arts and Crafts design. Author David Cathers invites us into the world of this influential furniture maker and provides us with an insider's tour of some of the country's most important Stickley collections and interiors. Here, imbued with pure and simple lines, are the comfortable Morris chairs, the upright settles, the solid oak chests, the hammered metalwork, and the delicate textiles that have come to epitomize Stickley's style.

But Stickley was more than a furniture maker -- he was a one-man phenomenon: book and magazine publisher, proponent of a simple and natural lifestyle, and de facto leader of the Arts and Crafts movement in America. Calling the composite of his ideas and activities "the craftsmanship of life," he used the word Craftsman to refer to his houses, his furniture, and his magazine.

Stickley Style captures the excitement and revolutionary zeal of these ideas and this era, a time when Victorian fussiness was being abandoned in the search for a modern way to live. The book opens with a vivid description of the Craftsman idea and describes Stickley's vision of ways to make a house conducive to a life of beauty and contentment. Cathers then goes on to show us the collections in a series of stunning Arts and Crafts homes, including Stickley's own family home in New Jersey. Finally, for those who want to furnish their own homes with appropriate reproductions, an extensive catalogue presents everything from Stickley tables and sideboards to tall case clocks and metal door latches. Throughout, specially commissioned photographs by Alexander Vertikoff show the overall harmony that will make the Stickley style as much a favorite for the new century as it was for the last.

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Review:

The Arts & Crafts movement first gained popularity in England in the late 1800s as people became distressed by spreading industrialization and factory goods produced inexpensively with flimsy construction and inferior wood. Seeing that the new system treated workers as machines, the movement sought to revive a craftsmanship of earlier times. In the United States, Gustav Stickley gathered together many of the movement's shared beliefs as he tried to, among other things, clear the clutter typically found in Victorian interiors and replace it with something simpler. The book begins tracing Stickley's life in 1876 when, at 18, he found his life's vocation while working in his uncle's furniture factory in Brandt, Pennsylvania. Through wonderful photos (many of them full-page) and careful wording, David Cathers and Alexander Vertikoff demonstrate a clear appreciation for Stickley's style--unvarnished wood, exposed joinery, strength, no-nonsense forms, and the beauty of integrity. Stickley, in short, devoted his life to celebrating and making visible the elements of construction. The work of others who helped to shape the Arts & Crafts movement--including architect Harvey Ellis, Charles and Henry Greene, Elbert Hubbard's Roycroft community, and Charles Rohlf--is also examined. Among the highlights of the book is Craftsman Farms, an artisan colony, model farm, and school Stickley built on 650 acres, described in its time as "a log cabin idealized." The book also examines Stickley's Colonial Revival House in Syracuse, New York, which he turned into the first Craftsman residential interior after a fire damaged the house on Christmas Eve, 1901. It was also to be the house where Stickley, widowed and nearly penniless, lived out most of his final years (he died in 1942) with his daughter and her five children. Many of the details about Stickley's personal life come from his grandchildren's memories. "He was," one grandchild has written, "almost an evangelist in bringing new thoughts and new appreciation of things artistic and new social thinking. That is something that doesn't go bankrupt and he, as an inspiring person, never did go bankrupt." --John Russell

About the Author:

David Cathers is a writer and frequent lecturer on the Arts and Crafts movement. He is also a trustee of Craftsman Farms. Stickley's log home in New Jersey, which is now a National Historic Landmark Cathers is the author of Furniture of the American Arts and Grafts Movement, the first in-depth study of the Furniture made by Gustav Stickley, L. & J. G. Stickley, and the Roycrofters. His Genius in the Shadows, a study of Harvey Ellis, traces the work of the architect who designed some of Stickley's most important Furniture. A former advertising executive, Cathers lives with his wife in Westchester County, New York, in a farmhouse furnished with classic Stickley pieces.

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