The Collection: The Dining Room

This week’s highlighted piece is the triangular Stickley cabinet in corner of the dining room. Have you seen all our featured pieces?

Corner Cabinets

Dimensions: 50 3/4″ W x 66 1/2″ H x 26 1/2″ D
Oak with copper hardware
Date: Circa 1910 – 1911
Designer: Unknown
Acquired by the Craftsman Farms Foundation at Christie’s, New York, November 29, 1999, lots #417 and #418.

As the manufacturer of reproduction “period” chairs through the 1880s and 1890s Stickley would have been well aware that the corner cabinet was a common vernacular furniture form in late 18th and early 19th century America. Given his professed admiration for the design skills and craftsmanship of the artisans of that pre-industrial era, it is not surprising that when his firm began producing case pieces that he would want to construct a Craftsman version of that familiar form. He first cataloged a Craftsman corner cabinet in 1902, making it of massive oak planks and giving it glazed doors with wooden mitered mullions above a pair of solid oak cupboard doors enriched with iron or copper strap hinges. About the same time his firm created a variant of that design with diamond-paned leaded glass doors instead of wooden mullions. This diamond pattern is familiar to any one who has ever visited Craftsman Farms and noted the many log house windows that use this same motif.

In 1903, Stickley made a corner cabinet for the Arts and Crafts exhibition he held that year in the Craftsman Building, offering it for sale for the high price of $100. That tall, strap-hinged oak case piece is the most magnificent corner cabinet ever produced by his firm. Fortunately – for later generations – it did not sell, and Stickley took it home to his own dining room. It remains in his family today and has been shown in several recent museum exhibitions. His firm evidently manufactured other corner cabinets in later years, but after 1902 none were included in Craftsman furniture catalogs. In April 1906, however, The Craftsman magazine offered plans and building instructions for a corner cupboard in its monthly feature, “Home Training in Cabinet Work.” The short accompanying text noted that making this case piece was a complicated task for a novice: “This piece is the most difficult of any yet given in our Cabinet Work series. The fitting of the 45-degree angles must be carefully done. The glass mullions … demand careful work.”

Except for their triangular plan, the corner cabinets made for the log house dining room at Craftsman Farms are closely related to the standard china cabinets and bookcases the firm was then manufacturing. The top rails curve gently from back to front, an elongated iteration of the curve frequently seen on Craftsman case pieces made between 1901 and 1916. The glazed doors have straightforward, lap-jointed mullions and, as was true of all cataloged Craftsman china cabinets from 1907 on, the interior shelves are stationary. For his own home Stickley might have specified china cabinets with costlier, more labor-intensive mitered mullions and adjustable shelves. But instead of insisting on those subtle refinements he followed the dictates of what had become his standard factory practice. If there is a slight indulgence evident here, it is the shapely, non-standard hammered copper hardware echoing the hardware on the sideboard.

In late 1916 Stickley’s firm made perhaps its final corner cabinet. Combining vernacular, Gothic Revival, and Sheraton attributes, it was part of his ill-fated Chromewald line, and was finished with hand-rubbed blue and brown hues. Though not particularly well constructed, and a far cry from his earlier Arts and Crafts furniture, it is a delicately beautiful object and a fitting conclusion to his nearly fifteen year engagement with this three-sided cabinet form.

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