By Ande Waggener
How do you decorate in the mission style? Well, first, it helps if you’re clear on what mission style is.
Mission style interior design is, quite simply, craftsman style interior design. Say what? They’re the same thing? Yep.
Here’s the deal: In the early 1900s, a furniture maker named Gustav Stickley fell in love with what was called the “arts and crafts” style of furniture. This style focused on handcrafted wood furniture with less ornate carving and inlays than those of its predecessor, the Victorian style. Stickley took this idea and simplified it even further to remove most, if not all, of the carving and inlays. Stickley dubbed this style “the craftsman.”
Now fast-forward just a bit. At one point, one of Stickley’s salesmen gave an interview to a reporter. Pointing at one of Stickley's chairs in a catalog, the salesman said that there was a chair like that in “a Spanish mission in Southern California.” The newspaper used the word “mission” in the heading and sidebar of the story, and the name became synonymous with the craftsman style.
So whether you call it craftsman or mission, here are seven interior design ideas for decorating in the mission style.
1. Use Earthy Colors
Mission style decorating, although not considered a modern style, is current in its color palette. Right in sync with today’s trend toward earth tones, the mission style draws most of its colors from nature. Think in terms of blues, greens, tans, and yellows for the base colors in a mission style room.
Because mission style design is heavily influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie style, it has room for some bolder colors as well. These are generally used in room accents. Wright favored brighter hues like strong yellow, deep turquoise, and powerful red. Use these sparingly.
The tones used for walls in a mission style space are generally muted and light because the this style relies heavily on wood furniture, built-ins, and trim (often in dark stains). The lighter wall colors bring out the best in the wood tones. Colors that have just a bit of gray in their mix work well to create a mission feel in a room.
2. Keep Furniture Lines Simple
Mission style furniture is all about straight lines. Because it stems from the Arts and Crafts Movement, which grew out of a backlash against the intricate curlicues of the Victorian era, mission style furniture showcases the wood and the space around the wood instead of trying to carve the wood into something else entirely.
Although mission style wood furnishings can also include exposed joins and some simple carvings, the quintessential mission style features open vertical slats. The openness of this design is what keeps its wood furniture pieces from looking heavy and cumbersome. A room full of this furniture makes such a strong statement that it can create a mission style room even if the space otherwise has no mission style features.
3. Add Built-ins
Mission style (aka craftsman style) homes are known for their built-ins. Built-in shelves, cabinets, and benches blend with prominent wood trim in mission style rooms. Although mission style built-ins are stunning in design, their focus is on function over form. If you’re going to add a built-in to your room, be sure it provides either storage or seating.
4. Keep Cabinet Fronts Simple or Clear
Cabinets in mission style spaces, whether they’re kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets, built-in cabinets in other living areas, or freestanding cabinets, must be fronted with clean, flat-paneled doors or glass doors with simple wood framing. Although you can opt for solid cabinet doors in most of your home, having at least one glass-fronted cabinet is a strong mission style design statement.
5. Keep Lighting Angular
The trademark of mission style lighting is its angular lines. Mission style lamps and fixtures start with straight designs similar to mission style furniture, and they add specialty glass and bronze finishes to develop an amber glow that fills mission style rooms with inviting warmth. Although you can use other lighting types in a mission style room, anchoring your lighting mix with either a mission style chandelier or a pair of mission style lamps will cement the mission feel in your space.
6. Include Stained Glass
As he did with bold color accents, Frank Lloyd Wright brought stained glass to the mission style design group. Often featuring the brighter accent colors, stained glass enlivens mission style spaces. The stained glass motifs that fit this style are generally angular. They use lines, squares, rectangles, and triangles instead of curves or circles in their patterns.
Although stained glass can be a pricey design feature, you don’t have to go all out with it. You can add small bits of stained glass to your room in several ways. The lamps discussed in the last section often feature stained glass. You can also set stained glass into cabinet door fronts, put up a stained glass wall hanging, or add stained glass to a transom between rooms or to a small portion of your windows.
7. Keep Textiles in Solids with Occasional Patterns
Although mission style home décor relies heavily on its wood and glass elements, it obviously must include fabrics. True mission style décor emphasizes solid colors in its textiles. Because of this, leather furniture works well in this design style. But you don’t have to stick to leather. As long as the majority of the fabric in your rooms are in solids, you can also introduce large-scale prints onto the scene. Prints that work well in mission style rooms include those with nature themes and those with geometric designs. Just keep the patterns to a minimum. Too many patterns will clash with the strong styling of mission furniture.
As you can see from these seven design ideas, mission style decorating is as distinctive as it’s inviting. Because its elements are so idiosyncratic, you can incorporate them into either a traditional or modern space and still get a mission style character in your home.
Images used with permission, courtesy of www.shutterstock.com