Stickley Furniture is one of the most intimate products any of us will acquire. We share our meals around it. We rock our babies in it. We furnish the places of our lives so our families will love returning home, so our friends will look forward to visiting.
What makes one piece of furniture an heirloom while another remains humdrum? Special design, painstaking craft, and construction, a history. These lend permanence and meaning to what would otherwise be just an object.
The Stickley Story
The Stickley story began with three words: Als Ik Kan?”to the best of my ability.” This old Flemish craftsman’s phrase has been the guiding principle of Stickley. Gustav Stickley marked his product with the phrase to assure customers that Stickley furniture was of the finest quality, every piece made with honor, integrity, and pride.
The Stickley brothers burst into international prominence in the early 20th century with their Mission Oak designs. These were based on the notion that furniture should be “honest”?a reaction against the fake joinery, unnecessary gaudiness, and shoddy workmanship of many of the pieces created in the early days of industrial furniture making.
The Stickleys used solid construction, what-you-see-is-what-you-get joinery, and the highest quality woods. But even more, they showed a genius for design, creating hundreds of new forms that were at once beautiful to look upon, practical to use, exceedingly strong and long-lasting, and perfect for the new ways American families wanted to live.
Stickley furniture was not for shutting up in formal parlors?it was to be used and loved by young and old. Great emphasis was placed on letting the gorgeous, organic forms of quartersawn oak and other woods speak for themselves. Finishes were not thick gums, but clear dyes that allowed natural grain to sparkle.
The same devotion to design, the best workmanship, and the enduring value was applied to all Stickley designs. Leopold Stickley’s colonial-inspired Cherry Valley Collection, introduced in the 1920s, honored the traditions of early American craftsmen, earning Leopold the title “Revered Dean of Cabinetmakers” in the process.
Eventually, the Stickley brothers passed away. And respect for handcraft ebbed during the 1950s-1970s. Stickley faced an uncertain future.
Then the Audi family stepped in. At his Manhattan showroom, E.J. Audi had for years been the leading seller of Stickley’s unsurpassed furniture. His son Alfred, and Alfred’s wife Aminy, were unwilling to let Stickley become a relic of the past and decided to purchase the Stickley factory when Leopold’s widow was on the brink of closing it. Alfred promised the couple of dozen employees then remaining that “If you stick with me, I’ll stick with you, and we’re going to make this place move.” Together, they rejuvenated the company.
Alfred Audi passed away in the fall of 2007, but the Stickley legacy is being continued by his wife Aminy and son Edward.
Enduring tradition, superior craftsmanship, an unshakeable philosophy of excellence?these are the bedrock of the Stickley ethic and the reason that Stickley produces America’s premium hardwood furniture.
We say it in many ways, and in different tongues, but the spirit goes right back to that Flemish studio: Als Ik Kan.