EVE ZIBART is a reporter for The Post's Metro section.
AFTER ALMOST 70 years of neglect, mission furniture is enjoying an urban renewal.
Since about 1920, most genuine mission oak -- a sturdy, spare style made famous by Gustav Stickley of Syracuse, N.Y. -- has languished in rural retirement. As a recent visitor to Geoff Diner's Adams-Morgan mission storeroom muttered, his family's farm in Vermont "used to be filled with this stuff."
But with the recurring prestige of individual handwork and the revival of made-in-Americana, collectors have found new satisfaction in mission. And with the $46,200 sale at Christie's last year of a fall-front Stickley secretary inlaid with pewter, mission's converts were consecrated by the collecting establishment.
In contrast to the delicate, late- 19th-century Nouveau, the early 20th-century arts and crafts movement celebrated a straightforward simplicity and functionality, playing on the paradox that superficial plainness exaggerates the beauty -- the craftsmanship -- within.
Stickley, disturbed by the shabby workmanship of early mass production, intended to make "furniture that will be a permanent part of the home surroundings and that in 50 or 100 years will be worth many times its first cost."
re and accessories, but houses as well. One of his largest and finest still looms above Rosemount Avenue, built in 1912 by a prominent Washington lawyer and his psychiatrist wife.
At its height, Stickley's Craftsman Workshops included more than 200 woodworkers, a 12- story building in New York City, a magazine called The Craftsman, his brothers' L. & J.G. Stickley Co. and the rival Roycroft shop in Buffalo.
But Stickley's success also inspired a flood of knockoffs, and the market for mission faded when Prohibition gave austerity an unpleasant connotation. Stickley filed for personal bankruptcy in 1915, although the company struggled on for several years.
Diner, who collects and deals in 20th century decorative arts, grew up in upstate New York. "I was familiar with (mission furniture) because my folks had some," Diner said, "but I got into it myself for the same reasons as the Deco: clean, seductive lines."
As the Washington area's main mission man, Diner usually has 25 to 30 large pieces of what he calls "good, middle-of-the-road mission" ranging from "the few hundreds" to $6,000. Among his clients are a Kalorama couple who are furnishing their entire apartment with mission and have repapered the walls with a matching William Morris design.