Harvey Ellis: A lasting impression


“Altogether, he is to be regretted as one who possessed the sacred fire of genius.” This often-quoted tribute to Harvey Ellis, written by Gustav Stickley, appeared in The Craftsman magazine in February 1904, weeks after the death of the man who was all too briefly Stickley’s employee and collaborator.

Harvey Ellis

For reasons we may never fully know, Ellis was a unique talent whose impact on American design is not widely recognized. But in the few months he spent in the Craftsman Workshops at the end of his life, he made his mark on Stickley and the American Arts and Crafts movement.

Architect and draftsman

Born in 1852 in Rochester, New York, Harvey Ellis was an artist practically from the cradle, drawing imaginative characters and scenes from a young age. He discovered a knack for architectural drafting as he reached adulthood and formed a business with his brother Charles, building houses and public buildings in and around Rochester. Starting in the late 1880s, Ellis spent several years working for architectural firms in various midwestern cities, including Minneapolis, St. Louis, and St. Joseph, Missouri.

Pillsbury HallMany of the designs attributed to him are in the castle-like Romanesque Revival style, with arches and turrets that seem to fit with his fanciful childhood imagination. But though some of his designs were built, it was as a brilliant draftsman and perspective renderer that Harvey Ellis really made his reputation, more widely acclaimed for his drawings than for his buildings.

A fateful meeting

Ellis returned to Rochester in 1893 and spent years immersed in painting, illustration, and the English Arts and Crafts movement, teaching art and eventually co-founding the Rochester Arts and Crafts Society. It was likely here, organizing a Stickley exhibition in Rochester in 1903, that Ellis met Gustav Stickley, and the course of his life shifted one last time. Gus brought him to his Craftsman Workshops in Syracuse in May of 1903 to design homes for The Craftsman magazine.


Before long Ellis had helped revamp the magazine’s look and contributed several exhaustive articles and illustrations of his exterior and interior home designs.



Style shift

And his presence in Stickley’s firm was enough to nudge the brand’s furniture design in a new direction. Ellis’s style was lighter and more decorative than earlier Arts and Crafts designs, influenced by his Scottish and English contemporaries Charles Rennie Mackintosh, M.H. Baillie Scott, and C.F.A Voysey, as well as by Native American and Japanese art. The furniture he drew in his Craftsman interiors showed a delicacy that Stickley’s heavier, more rectilinear pieces lacked, adding features like overhanging tops, bowed sides, and rounded aprons that lifted pieces gracefully from the ground. These characteristics soon made their way into Stickley’s chairs, dressers, and cabinets.

Ellis Dropfront 1





Making his mark

But it was the signature use of decorative inlay that we associate most with Harvey Ellis today. His inlay patterns—including elongated floral abstracts, sailing ships, and woodland scenes crafted from pewter, copper, and tinted woods—added a beautiful decorative detail that remains a favorite feature in Stickley’s Harvey Ellis Collection. Examples of inlay in Stickley antiques give us a hint at how they looked originally.

89 472 HEdeskDetail2 o s


OriginalDeskDeckOver time it became clear that, because wood and metal expand and contract at different rates, the metal pieces were at constant risk of loosening and falling out. This is why our modern interpretations of Harvey’s inlay patterns are composed primarily of colorful woods like cherry, makore, English sycamore, magnolia, and bird’s-eye maple, with only occasional copper rings and accents.

OriginalDeckInlayModern Oak finish 503 Lodge89 1797 2LVS HEDiningTbl032Detail o s





Cool reception

As much as we love Harvey Ellis inlaid designs today, those furniture pieces weren’t an unqualified success at the time! They were costly to produce and presumably to purchase. And after all, an important part of the Arts and Crafts philosophy was the elimination of unnecessary ornament. Being asked to suddenly embrace it again may have put off some customers, though The Craftsman, in an article introducing the designs, did its best to defend the decoration, explaining that it “emphasizes the structural lines” and “appears to proceed from within outward.”

89 1791 HEsideINLAY o s

89 567 InlayOnly o s

An enduring legacy

Ironically, that essay appeared in The Craftsman’s issue for January, 1904—the very month in which Harvey Ellis died. Chronic illness and a fall down a flight of stairs contributed to his death at St. Joseph’s Hospital on January 2. After a career of extraordinary design, drafting, and art, he was just beginning to make his talents known to a new audience. Luckily, enough of his work for Stickley survived that we’ve been able to bring it back to the world generations later.

89 847 HEDoorConsole032 o s

We can only imagine what Harvey Ellis would have accomplished with more time, but we’re proud to keep a portion of his legacy alive.





Additional sources:

The Stickley Museum, Fayetteville, New York.

Cather, David. “Harvey Ellis: Genius in the Shadows.” L. & J.G. Stickley, Inc.

Masterpieces of American Arts & Crafts: Highlights from an Important Private Collection. Paris: Oscar Graf Decorative Arts, 2016.

Michaels, Eileen Manning. Reconfiguring Harvey Ellis. Edina, MN: Beaver’s Pond Press, Inc., 2004.



Visit our download page to grab beautiful Stickley photography for your computer and phone. You’ll find calendar wallpapers for your desktop or laptop and artistic wallpapers for your mobile devices. We’ll keep adding more, so check back often!


Happy Birthday, Alfred Audi!

Our beloved former CEO, Alfred J. Audi, was born in Brooklyn on April 11, 1938. Among his many accomplishments, Mr. Audi was the driving force behind the creation of The Stickley Museum. He’s shown here with one of its pieces: the Cherry Valley cannonball bed both he and his son slept in as children!

1 Alfred MusemInterior  


Drop by for a Self-Guided Tour

Call 315.682.5500 or email history@stickley.com to book a self-guided tour of The Stickley Museum, or stop in at your leisure. Current hours are Tuesday from 1:00 to 5:00pm and Saturday 10:00am to 4:00pm. The Stickley Museum is located on the 2nd floor of the original L. & J.G. Stickley factory at 300 Orchard Street, Fayetteville, New York, above the Fayetteville Free Library. The museum is free and is fully accessible.

Stk Museum NEW


How to see Gustav Stickley: American Craftsman

The father of the American Arts and Crafts movement is chronicled in the new documentary Gustav Stickley: American Craftsman. The film offers an unprecedented look at the life and works of Gustav Stickley and visits several key locations, including the Syracuse home where he created his first arts and crafts interior. TO WATCH THE FILM, choose your nearest Virtual Cinema location from this list and purchase your streaming ticket!

3 InstaNowStreaming


Stickley’s Hidden Compartments

Our late CEO, Alfred Audi, and then-Director of Design, Bill de Blaay, honored a centuries-old practice by building secret compartments into a select number of furniture designs. Two examples can be seen when you visit The Stickley Museum, but if you own a Stickley piece dating from 1987 on, there’s a chance you have one, too! Start searching now, be thorough, and be sure to look high and low! Follow us on social media to stay informed about upcoming giveaways (hint: finding a secret compartment might win you a prize!).

More Posts

A Message from Stickley

Throughout the recent COVID-19 challenge we have been buoyed by the resilience and care we have experienced in our communities. We acknowledge that we have

Read More »
Scroll Up