Another Look at Amish Furniture: History, Styles and Shopping Tips

When the word Amish is mentioned, you might immediately think of plain clothing, horse-drawn carriages and a culture outdated from society. We often don’t credit them with speaking three languages in their religious practices. And while we do tend to appreciate the skill of their furniture-making, we typically don’t know much about it. Read on to learn about the different styles of Amish furniture and some tips on how to integrate pieces of this rich culture into your home.

Jonestown School: The Beginning of Blanket Chests
The Jonestown School began in the late 1700s in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania and has created a name for itself through Amish blanket chests. Amish craftsmen make three paneled blanket chests not just for family and friends, but also for profit. Each individually crafted, the panels are hand painted with flowers of various hues and are stunning, recognized and on display at both the Smithsonian Museum and the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Mission vs. Shaker
Mission style Amish furniture is usually made from white oak wood, with little to no decoration, straight backs, flat feet and slats. Little upholstery is used for padding or looks, but occasionally chairs or tables will have leather or linen coverings. Shaker Amish chairs, on the other hand, have a woven seat, tall back posts and curved slates that allow it to gently rock. The woods most often used to create them are maple, cherry, birch and walnut.

Amish Furniture

Soap Hollow School
Another distinctive style of Amish furniture is the Soap Hollow School. Derived from Soap Hollow, Pennsylvania, furniture pieces are each uniquely painted in bright gold, red and black. Emphasized by simple lines and etchings, pieces are plain yet rustic, with intricate woodworking, hand carved detailing and a smooth finish.

Henry Lapp: Credited with the Furniture We Know Today as Amish Furniture
Henry Lapp, an accomplished watercolorist and furniture maker of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, revamped the design, style and coloring of Amish furniture, and it is his style that most closely matches the Amish furniture of today. He turned away from German influence, deserting bright colors and etchings. Instead, he opted for a style very similar to the Welsh, undecorated, simplistic and purposeful. His handmade order book contains watercolor images of all furniture he made and is now on display the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Shop Smart
Be careful where you shop. Mass production companies are making pieces in bulk that look Amish but are not handcrafted and individually made. True Amish furniture is made from solid wood — not particleboard — and you’ll find it at auctions, antique shops and independent furniture stores. You can also find Amish furniture online. Be sure the site you shop is offering truly handmade Amish furniture, such as the Amish Outlet Store.

Real Amish furniture stores will offer plenty in the way of customization. What you see in the showroom should give you an idea. You can then tailor the pieces, however, to exactly fit your needs. While you love that two-door TV stand, it may work better for you with some drawers built in.
The same goes for the stain. You can choose the stain or finish that matches your current décor. If you’re planning on moving, match the stain to your furniture, not your house’s indoor wood trim.
Now that you know some more about the history and gained a few valuable tips on shopping, you’re ready to add some of this unique heritage to your home.

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About the Author:

Adrienne is a blogger and aspiring writer. When she’s not blogging about tech and social media, you might find her practicing her French, whipping up some recipes she found on Pinterest, or obsessing over vintage postcards and stamps.

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