The Stickley History
The story of Stickley finds its beginning in this old saying “to the best of my ability”. This was the phrase that founder Gustav Stickley labelled on each piece of his furniture, a dedicated promise that Stickley furniture was made with integrity and honour, two staples of genuine craftsmanship. It is a promise that the Stickley company still holds fast to today.
During the early 20th century, the new process of industrial furniture making was producing poorly-made furniture, furniture with fake joinery and unnecessary garishness. There was a lack of “honest” or authentic work: real joinery and attention to detail. Enter the Stickley brothers, Gustav and Leopold, whose “honest” Mission Oak designs responded to the shoddy workmanship with a resounding “als ik kan” – and elevated the brothers to international recognition.
The Stickley brothers combined technique, high-quality woods and materials with innovative design. They were able to create new forms that appealed to the American public: furniture that was practical, long-lasting and fashionable. Stickley pieces were, and continue to be, furniture that could be lovingly used and admired. Great attention was paid to the material itself, letting the wood, such as quartersawn oak and other high-quality woods, be the focal point of the pieces. Rather than being thick gums, finishes were clear dyes, which highlighted the natural, beautiful grain of the wood.
This dedication to design, craftsmanship and value continued with all other Stickley pieces. In the 1920’s, Leopold Stickley introduced the Cherry Valley Collection, a colonial-inspired collection which proudly emulated the honourable traditions of early American builders. This elegant collection gave Leopold a new title: the “Reverend Dean of Cabinetmakers.”
After years of creating innovative, beautiful furniture, the Stickley siblings passed away. Stickley continued, but between the 1950’s and 1970’s, interest and respect for handcrafted furniture waned, and their styles began to fall out of trend. The future of the company seemed bleak.
Yet Stickley was not to be abandoned – there were those who believed passionately in well-crafted furniture, like the Audi family. E.J. Audi had been the leading seller of Stickley’s furniture for years from his Manhattan showroom. His son, Alfred, and Aminy, Alfred’s wife, were determined that the Stickley name, and its associations with valued, incomparable craftsmanship, should continue, and not slip away into memory. Alfred and Aminy purchased the Stickley factory from Leopold’s widow, just as it faced closure. To the employees that remained at the factory, Alfred gave his word that he would support them: “If you stick with me, I’ll stick with you, and we’re going to make this place move.” With this optimism and the combined hard work of the owner and the employees, Stickley emerged into a brighter future.
In the fall of 2007, Alfred Audi passed away. The Stickley legacy is continued by his wife, Aminy, and son Edward.