Gustav Stickley: Biography, Furniture & Quotes

Instructor: Shenley Schenk

Shenley holds a Master's of Science in Interior Architecture as well as a LEED Green Associate Certification.

Learn about Gustav Stickley's journey and desire for success in the furniture industry. Explore how his ideas of simplicity, honesty, and truth to material led to one of the most well-known furniture and architectural styles in history.

The Man Behind Stickley Furniture

An ordinary man with a passion for success, Gustav Stickley dreamed up one of the most well-known furniture and architectural styles in history. Gustav had a vision to incorporate simplicity, honesty, and truth to material in his designs. His ideals are shown in the mission style furniture he created, which was inspired by the arts and crafts movement.

Gustav was born in 1858 on a Midwest farm in Osceola, Wisconsin. Forgoing any formal education, Gustav worked as a stone mason to support his mother and multiple siblings. As time passed, Gustav moved with his family to Brandt, Pennsylvania, where he took a job at his uncle's chair factory. This was his first experience and education in the furniture industry. One could say this is where his imagination and drive for success began.

Gustav Stickley

The Stickley Journey

The journey to become a well-known luxury furniture designer and manufacturer was extensive and full of failure and success. The journey began in 1883 when Gustav, along with his brothers Charles and Albert, began the Stickley Brothers Company.

Gustav eventually went on to partner with Elgin Simonds, a well-known furniture salesman. Together they established Stickley and Simonds. The business was successful; however, Gustav split from the company and struck out on his own, forming the Gustav Stickley Company in 1898.

This marked the beginning of success for Stickley's own furniture. In 1900, Gustav partnered with Henry Wilkinson and established his first line of furniture inspired by the arts and crafts trend. Shortly after in 1901, Gustav began innovative advertisement and marketing through catalogs, magazines, and newspaper articles, publishing the first issue of his magazine, The Craftsman. Gustav's goal was to make his vision of simplicity, honesty, and truth to material accessible to trade professionals as well as common home owners. Gustav began marketing textiles, lighting, metalwork and any products the craftsman trade would be interested in. Over 100 retailers displayed Gustav's creations.

Gustav didn't stop there; he partnered with architect Harvey Ellis and sculptor Jerome Connor to drive architecture along with his furnishings. This is where Gustav's ideas of simplicity, honesty, and truth to material took life in architectural features. The Craftsman Home Builders Club was formed to provide architectural plans to readers. Gustav's plan was to provide prototypes of simple, natural, and open plans displaying function and economy. Designs were built with the idea of bringing the outside environment into the home and displaying the beauty of wood through log cabin and bungalow style homes.

In 1906, as business grew, Gustav moved his headquarters to New York City. Gustav remained successful until 1915, when his business went bankrupt and eventually closed its doors. Although unable to keep his business alive, Gustav began a trend that was desired and popular. His company was re-established as the Stickley Manufacturing Company; however, it is now known as Stickley, Audi and Co., and Stickley furniture remains a luxury craftsman style furniture.

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