I Made a Strange Table We Didn’t Really Need

My friend Jimmy makes furniture in my woodshop. Sometimes he finds stuff that’s so cool that I want one for myself and we make two. Such was the case with this reproduction of an oddball, early Gustav Stickley poppy table.

Mostly known for his rectilinear “Mission” furniture, Stickley would occasionally detour into curvy Art Nouveau territory. He traveled to continental Europe in 1895 and, I’m guessing, also read German language newspapers published in American which covered the latest trends. He had a brief few years of staggering creativity and innovation in the first decade of the 20th century, quickly went bankrupt and faded into obscurity until a revival of interest in his work in the 1970s.

It wasn’t too difficult to make this table if you don’t count the many hours of filing and sanding all those tight radius curves. I wish I could say that you don’t need many tools but that’s not the case. We deployed a jointer, planer, scroll saw and hand planes. We freehand routed the poppy pattern on the two horizontal surfaces. The quarter sawn white oak came from Bohnhoff Lumber.

My workshop is right on the street so people walking their dogs and heading to the hip restaurants on Sunset boulevard see me working. I felt weird working on this particular table because it’s about as far from what’s fashionable now as you can get–kind of like Pearl Jam, but furniture. The brief fling with Craftsman style and Grunge back in the 1990s is long over, replaced by mid-century modern and unstained Silver Lake Shaman furniture. But I don’t care. I vibe with this table’s biomorphic exoticism and decadence. It’s just missing the absinthe fountain dripper.

If you’d like to make one of your own you can purchase plans here. I used these finishing directions, specifically for the “Onondaga” finish.

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9 Comments

  1. Beautifully done, Eric. Weirdly, I like the poppy forms but the legs put me over the edge. My grandma’s mass-produced–in Grand Rapids, Mich–Stickley couch has likely put me squarely (nyuk) in the rectilinear camp.

    • I had many questions about those legs too even as Jimmy and I made them. Funny thing is the poppy table has just blended in next to a new rectilinear Stickley couch that I just finished and I don’t even notice the weird table.

  2. Absolutely beautiful table, beautiful piece of wood- didn’t realize Stickley had a curvy nouveau period and it’s fantastic. Just saw you guys in Kirsten Dirksen’s video. We love what you are doing and appreciate the authenticity – hard to come by. Thanks !

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