Amish furniture is created primarily by the Amish communities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. Made of 100% wood, without the use of any synthetic “wood” product; the style of Amish furniture is normally traditional in design.
Coming into its own, in the 1920’s; Amish furniture was discovered during the same time period as American folk art. Quickly becoming known for its exceptional quality and craftsmanship; Amish furniture pieces became highly valued by collectors and auction houses. There are many unique styles of Amish furniture design; the Jonestown School and the Soap Hollow School are two of the most popular and well-known styles in history.
Both the Jonestown School and the Soap Hollow School originated in Pennsylvania; Jonestown was started in a town called Lebanon, and the Soap Hollow, from a town of the same name. Widely known for painted blanket chests with colorful floral designs, the Jonestown School style of Amish furniture is on display at the Smithsonian and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
The Soap Hollow style is also very distinctive. The pieces are often vividly painted in red, gold, and black. The style of Amish furniture many of us are familiar with today, can be credited to a man named Henry Lapp. Lapp was a furniture maker who lived in Lancaster County, Pa. It is Lapp’s designs that we think of when we think of Amish furniture within the last few decades. Prior to Henry Lapp, the germanic-style of Amish furniture making was most popular, with painted, floral designs. Lapp’s style abandoned that form of artistry for a more traditional and neutral style of wood furniture.
The very first order book Henry Lapp created for his furniture customers was done in watercolors and is now located in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In 1986, Sothebys sold a piece of American folk art styled furniture for over $200, 000. It was a clock made by Johannes Spitler in the early 1800’s. So you can see the value of a finely crafted handmade wood furniture item over time. Most will not sell at such extravagant prices but they will hold their value throughout generations of family history.
Two of the most well-known styles of Amish furniture today are called the Mission and Shaker styles. These two styles of Amish furniture share some similarities but have their own unique characteristics as well. The Mission style is known for its exposed joinery and straight lines. The Mission style of furniture is clean and modern. The Shaker style is known for its simple elegance and durability. For those who love more ornate designs, the Queen-Anne style is just what they’re seeking. Taking a total departure from both the Mission and the Shaker styles; the Queen-Anne is also very popular with a certain number of customers who desire a more lavish design.
Making Amish furniture is a skill that is passed down through generations; children often begin to learn the craft by helping out at home and in the furniture shops. Though there are categorized styles of Amish furniture; no piece of Amish furniture is identical to another. All are handcrafted with pride, which makes each piece unique.