Mission Style Lighting – It’s Timeless Beauty Continues
If you ask most people to tell you about Mission Style lighting you are likely to be met with a blank stare and shrugged shoulders. But, if you ask these same people if they have ever heard of the Arts & Crafts Style, you are probably going to see a lot more recognize this term. The truth is, these terms are virtually synonymous.
Around the turn of the twentieth century in 1912, a little known Wisconsin architect by the name of Frank Lloyd Wright began developing his Prairie School architecture that would eventually set him on the path to world renown. The Prairie School architecture was really a slight variation on the Arts & Crafts–or Craftsman as it is also known–Style which had been developed by others a few years earlier.
Mission Style, as it is now known, is typified by exacting straight lines in rectangles and squares with an emphasis on woodwork. Mission Style lamps and light fixtures were constructed for use in modern applications such as gas and electric power sources. Typically made from brass or iron, these Mission Style lighting fixtures were constructed with square glass shades and square brass tubing. Fixtures of this particular style literally were made to match the architecture of the house contributing to a synergy between home and furnishings. Table and floor lamps of the Mission Style as it is now called were constructed with a simple elegance. It was not uncommon to see basic shapes forged out of iron and copper and linked to bulky chains in fixtures in the Mission Style. Lamps constructed with square wooden bases with simple but elegant glass shades were common in the time period. Basically, the characteristics inherent to this style were functionality, simplicity, and quality craftsmanship. Mission Style fixtures were not elegant in the classic sense but nor were they fragile and easily broken.
The popularity of the Arts & Crafts or Mission Style continued to grow until the early to mid 1930’s. After World War II, a surge in consumerism and a fickle taste in the culture contributed to the waning popularity of Mission Style lamps and lighting. This is not to say that the style ever truly disappeared from the design scene but it definitely took a back seat to the growing emergence of the Contemporary Style that began to take root after WWII which emphasized that function was paramount. This seems contradictory as functionality was a key component of Mission Style fixtures and design but the rustic appearance inherent to the Arts & Crafts Style could not compete with the smooth, flowing lines of contemporary designs nor the discounted prices of mass production and lower cost materials used by competing styles.
The resurgence of the Mission Style fixtures began slowly in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. The same features that first popularized the style helped it regain momentum. Most of all, though, it was the quality and hand-crafted appearance of Mission Style features that propelled the resurgence. So whether you want to call them Arts & Crafts, Craftsman, or Mission Style fixtures, they are back to stay and remain a classic of American design.