Everything You Need to Know About Mission Style Furniture

This post may contain references and links to products from our advertisers. We may receive commissions from certain links you click on our website. As an Amazon Associate Rhythm of the Home earns revenues from qualifying purchases.

Share this article:

Mission style furniture is characterized by a strong focus on durability and functionality. It’s designed with simplicity in mind following the main principle that furniture needs to have a clear purpose. Although mission furniture became popular soon after its emergence at the beginning of the 20th century, the style has also been popularized in the 1980s. The furniture style continues to benefit from a resurgence in popularity considering the focus on prized values such as sturdiness and practicality.

1. History of Mission Style Furniture

Mission style design concepts took shape during the Arts and Crafts-inspired movement in the US. It was an innovative design approach at the time because it contrasted with the ornate Victorian style that used to be the dominant style in the 19th century. Mission style furniture was built with a great focus on skilled workmanship instead of factory-made products. Many homeowners at the time saw the greater appeal of high-quality craftsmanship and mission furniture gained popularity.

The main driving force behind this style is widely considered to be Gustav Stickley who promoted mission furniture. A renowned architect and furniture maker, Stickley believed that master craftsmen had an important duty in the world of furniture. He appreciated the construction integrity and the use of durable materials, characteristics that were essential to mission style furniture.

Although mission style furniture has an association with the Amish, the name comes from Spanish missionaries. There’s clearly an influence from Spanish mission furniture but the style added its own twist considering how it took shape in California. Mission style furniture is still very popular nowadays because lots of homeowners see the appeal of humane design in an era dominated by industrial mass-produced items.

2. Key Features of Mission Style Furniture

  • Simplicity

Simple Mission Style Furniture

There are lots of elements that help to define the mission style in the world of furniture but simplicity is probably the most important. Proper furniture design doesn’t need to rely on complex construction techniques or a multitude of materials. The mission style is based on illustrating the utilitarian and organic nature of furniture. The lack of ornamentation represents an advantage because it emphasizes the elegant beauty of simplicity.

  • Horizontal and Vertical Lines

Horizontal and Vertical Line Furniture

As opposed to other styles that incorporate curved shapes, mission style furniture relies only on horizontal and vertical lines. Highlighting the natural appearance of the wood is an important element when it comes to the appeal of mission style furniture. Straight, simple lines managed to achieve this purpose as best as possible.

  • Vertical Boards

Vertical Boards Mission Style Furniture

Also known as stiles, these slats were often added to mission style chair backs to give the impression of extra sturdiness. However, the appearance of the furniture also features an air of lightness to ensure a balanced design. This prevented the furniture pieces from looking too bulky and masculine.

  • Exposed Joints

Exposed Joints Mission Style Chair

The use of exposed joints represents another key characteristic of mission style furniture. This wasn’t simply an aesthetic choice but it also helped to reinforce the strength of the furniture. Together with the visible tenons, the exposed joints contribute to drawing proper attention to craftsmanship details. Even if the mission style furniture is machine-made, the piece still appears handmade.

  • Flat or Squared Elements

Flat and Squared Elements Mission Style Table

While mission style furniture lacks ornate carvings or any eye-catching elements, this doesn’t mean that you’ll find no decorations. The main focus is on functionality but you can sometimes expect to see certain elements that add a nice decorative touch without appearing too extravagant. These elements will typically be flat or squared. For example, the feet of a dining table will be squared in a blocky style. The hardware choices will also be square and flat.

3. Mission Style VS Shaker Style Furniture

When it comes to drawing comparisons between furniture designs, the mission style resembles the shaker style very closely. It’s not surprising that these two furniture designs have been often confused. However, key differences set them apart. The shaker style is much older compared to the mission style considering how it began around the beginning of the 19th century. That is approximately 100 years sooner than the time period when mission style furniture emerged.

As opposed to the focus on durability and reliability of the mission style, shaker furniture was designed more with delicate aesthetics in mind. It could be argued that shaker style furniture offers a more feminine appearance compared to the masculine impression of mission style. Both styles seem to value simplicity without any embellishments but shaker furniture stands out with its tapered legs featuring tilted outward design. The mission style is notable for the slat design that’s not found in shaker furniture.

4. Room-by-Room Decorating Tips

When it comes to decorating a mission style room, you need to find ways to optimize the integration of this unique furniture. Considering the main principles of this furniture style, it’s recommended to focus on organic elements and a connection to the natural world. Mission furniture is crafted from solid wood. Try including similar wooden elements for a harmonious appearance. It’s a good idea to mix together mission furniture pieces with a fireplace and stone flooring.

Mission style furniture works best when using a traditional interior design approach. However, the furniture can look attractive when combined with certain modern elements if you prefer a different vibe. Think about the kind of atmosphere you prefer and incorporate the simple furnishings characteristic of mission design into your personal style. Earth tones are typically paired with this kind of furniture but you can try brighter color schemes for added contrast.

Take a look at some of the decorating methods worth considering for mission style furniture according to each room of the house.

  • Living Room

Living Room Mission Style Furniture

Mission furniture in the living room can be used to create a functional space with an airy vibe. The hardwood appearance of the furnishings will easily make a great impression in this room because there’s no cramped feeling created by upholstery or carpeting. The graceful, straight lines of mission style furniture evoke a sense of spaciousness. It’s an ideal look for an organized living room.

The floor should remain uncarpeted with just one area rug for tying all the room’s elements together. For a splash of color, consider using more colorful drapes or integrating some plant life. Even if you don’t keep a live houseplant here, it’s a good idea to decorate the walls with a botanical artwork piece. If the simplicity of the mission furnishings appears too dull for your style, small embellishments can spruce up the design. A good example is contrasting patterned pillows with the neutral look of a couch.

  • Bedroom

Bedroom Mission Style Furniture

The durable style of mission furniture makes it a great option for the bedroom. You can create a timeless look with a majestic air by letting the beautiful craftsmanship of furniture pieces take center stage. The neutral appearance of natural wood dominates the space. Consider reinforcing the organic theme of the furniture with minimal decorations such as plants, pottery vases, or a linen throw blanket. Cotton drapes and a small rug can provide additional textural layers.

  • Dining Room

Dining Room Mission Style Furniture

Whereas mission furniture works nicely in the living room and the bedroom, it’s the dining room where the style shows its full potential. Due to the fact that typical dining room furniture is crafted from wood, you can easily incorporate mission style in this space. There’s usually no need for carpeting or too many rugs in this area. That means that you can create an easy focal point with the help of a stylish mission dining room set. The graceful slats on the chair backs will definitely stand out more prominently.

By Stefan Bucur

Stefan is the founder and owner of Rhythm of the Home. He has 6 years of experience in home improvement, interior design, cleaning and organizing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *