[originally posted October 2021]
While Arts and Crafts conjures images of sturdy cases and stunning wood grains, upholstered furniture has been an important part of that design movement from the very beginning. Fashioning a comfortable chair or settle was in line with Gustav Stickley’s vision of the home as a place of pure comfort and ease. Likewise today, upholstery is a vital component of the contemporary Stickley business, one to which we apply the same care and high standards of quality. Perhaps Gustav’s and Leopold’s best-known upholstered pieces were their variations on the Morris Chair originally produced by William Morris’s Morris & Co. in England. Stickley’s Mission interpretation was quite different, with cushions covered in plain, soft leather and beautifully grained solid oak frames that lacked all excessive Victorian ornament; Morris's recliner functionality was revised from metal bar to a wooden peg system.
Ad for Stickley’s early “Morris” chair
Gus also designed the Eastwood Chair (see this month’s sidebar!) and a range of broad settles, ancestors of today’s sofas. Leopold introduced the Prairie Settle and Chair with graceful corbels and quadralinear posts that revealed the beauty of the ray flake on all four sides.
Though Leopold Stickley later produced a variety of popular wing chairs, including a style held in the American collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, his favorite upholstered chair now bears his name, and in it you see the influence of the Colonial styles that became his specialty. As early as the 1930s, a version of this heavily tufted chair appeared in L. & J.G. Stickley catalogs. It’s said that Lee’s own chair, where he often napped in the furniture showroom, was well worn from use by the time of his death in 1957. Years later, Alfred and Aminy Audi rescued the chair from storage and eventually revived the design. We still make the Leopold’s Chair, and it’s one of the most consistently popular items we sell. In the mid-1990s, the Audis recognized the opportunity for Stickley to expand into upholstery production. The company purchased the assets of Heirloom Upholstery in Archdale, North Carolina, in 1995 and reopened the plant as Stickley Fine Upholstery. More than 25 years later, SFU in Archdale is the birthplace of all our fully upholstered pieces, crafted by artisans with decades of experience in the fine points of upholstered furniture.
An SFU craftsman hand-knots a spring foundation
Today, Stickley’s exceptional upholstery is designed in a variety of styles that appeal to a wide range of customers. We still create Mission pieces based on early Stickley designs, but in addition to their original versions we can update them with the latest technology for reclining or motion, as we’ve done with the classic Orchard Street Sofa. Contemporary and transitional looks also speak to our design versatility. Customization is easy thanks to a broad assortment of fabrics and fine leathers. Combine these with the full range of Stickley wood finishes and they have the power to thoroughly alter a piece’s character.
Stickley Selectionals go a step further and allow customers to choose every detail from arm style to back style to seat depth. Without a doubt, the marriage of exquisite Stickley wood furnishings with beautiful and deeply comfortable upholstered goods creates the warm, personal sanctuary that Gustav and Leopold Stickley conceived for every home.
Memphis Sofa, Chair, and Ottoman with St. Lawrence tables and bookcase
“Adjustable-Back Chair,” The Victoria and Albert Museum. https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O9236/adjustable-back-chair/
Mrs. Aminy Audi, CEO and Chair of the Board
Amanda Clifford, Director, the Stickley Museum Stickley, Leopold. The Story of a Developing Furniture Style: Fiftieth Anniversary Edition. L. & J.G. Stickley, Inc. Fayetteville, New York, 1950.