“Plain people” and “simple living” are synonymous to the Amish. From various Amish custom furniture, you will see that these are evident in their craft and of their means of living.
Let’s take a look at the following in this feature on the Amish:
- From early creations of distinct Amish swings,
- to completing unfinished Amish furniture
- to their handiwork of an Amish furniture warehouse and,
- eventually their Amish furniture online strategy.
Brief History: European Roots
Originally from Switzerland, they are a Christian group that adheres to the Mennonite churches and Anabaptism. Mennonites stress that the ministry of Jesus is strictly following the Bible.
The Amish also share Anabaptism with the Mennonites. Anabaptism is the baptism in the adult life instead of in the younger stage. According to history, the Amish were born from a divide among their group led by Jakob Ammann, to which their name was derived from.
In the 1800s, the Amish emigrated to Pennsylvania looking for farmland to settle anew. Soon they occupied some parts of New York, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri and other states. As of May 1, 2014, there are 290,100 Amish adults and children in Northern America. Although they have scattered, the larger part of their population remained in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana, with 64% living in these three big states.
Amish continue to observe tradition passed on from generations
Tradition to the Amish is based on their religious beliefs. To describe their tradition is to mention the Biblical teachings of Jesus Christ. To name a few, the Amish do not conform to modern comforts or technology, effectively shunning the outside world.
The way of the Amish is to follow Ordnung, stressing virtues of humility, obedience and simplicity. Out of this belief is an explanation of how we see them today. Their ways even reject the use of worldly things such as electricity. Thus, they continue to do things the old way.
As a result of Ordnung, they depend on their own skills to live. We would like to believe that this is the reason why they are good at doing things by their hands. You will find that their staples and offerings to the world are made by their own hands. These staples come in the form of culinary, farming, arts, crafts, woodwork and a lot more.
Culture and Beliefs
If you study the Amish heirlooms, you will see that these reflect a lot of who they are, including their beliefs and the culture that that have built as well as the tradition that they have inherited from their European roots. Perhaps the most common of their beliefs is their way of living.
Simple living is one of the teachings that Jakob Ammann held on to that made them separate from the Mennonites. This is why they have not adopted electricity in their community. Electricity is considered worldly that can tempt them to connect to the outside world. This is also the reason why a lot of their machineries work on hydraulics that run on diesel.
Although without electricity, the Amish are not uneducated. They have parochial schools until eighth grade, after which they are taught practical work to become farmers, homemakers, carpenters and tradesmen.
As an example, Amish brides sew their own wedding dress and women are responsible for managing the home, cooking and helping neighbors. Other activities are left to the men of the community.
So why are their furniture so coveted by people who are not Amish?
The Amish live on their own means, one of which is furniture making. Amish made furniture is synonymous to carefully hand crafted furniture. Because these furniture pieces are handcrafted, they are usually priced higher in the market. It should not come as a surprise as these are made by hands meticulously.
These days, you will see Amish polywood outdoor furniture or solid oak in the market more often but there are varying kinds of furniture that the Amish make. Unlike the new world, the
Amish take the time to sensitively create each element of the piece with their own hands. Today, not only are they known for their Amish porch swings or any Amish porch furniture, but through their own means, they are now serious market competitors for furniture manufacturing.
Amish Country Furniture: History Embedded in Crafts
Amish furniture makers are not common, especially those who can make an Amish porch gilder. Although their numbers are increasing, there are still more commercial furniture manufacturers. Notably, Amish furniture is characterized as 100%, full grain, natural wood. But aside from material, they are always custom made because they are handcrafted.
Since the 1920s, when decorative arts and crafts were booming, Amish craftsmen also became known. Handcrafted Amish furniture is differentiated not because of its make and overall design, but on the decorative feature added to it. The design style is old, traditional, and reminiscent of old Europe and America.
Today, there are only 22 surviving pieces of unpainted walnut furniture with sulfur inlay style of decoration. A schrank is made for George Huber in 1779 and walnut schrank for Emmanuel and Mary Herr which are displayed in the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Winterthur Museum, respectively. These are now considered Amish heirloom furniture.
Handmade Amish furniture go from simple to the most sophisticated. Their German and Swiss influences see through in their handcrafts. At times you will see color in their designs. The most prominent is the use of hexes which was misinterpreted incorrectly during the 1900s in Lancaster. Hex signs are written on barns to ward spirits away but are limited to a few areas only.
However, the Hex signs along with stars, tulips, circles and the Tree of Life now symbolize their distinction from the rest of the world.
According to Don Yoder and Thomas Graves, authors of Hex Signs, the meanings in these hex signs are that of ethnicity, pride and pure joy of colorful declaration. These simply are a representation of who they are and where they come from and not of witchcraft. Tulip, as an example is a known flower in Europe.
Amish Woodwork: Styles and Techniques
Early Amish woodwork depicts different styles, though simplicity and excellent craftsmanship is an entrenched character. One cannot really categorize Amish furniture design into old or contemporary because in effect, they have retained the old styles until today.
Any Amish furniture outlet is different, with different offerings and pricing schemes. But there are certain signatures that you should look out for when looking at Amish furniture for sale.
Sulfur Style Inlay
Sulfur inlay style is now rarely used because of its smell, but this must be one of the reasons why Amish wood furniture is so coveted. Used in cabinet making, its origin dates back to 18th century by German cabinet makers in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They use it especially to decorate the surface of chests they make. In addition, commercial furniture manufacturers can rarely duplicate this inlay technique.
All the more reason why it’s one of a kind. To do this technique, a small groove is first carved on the surface of a chest, then molten sulfur is poured onto it. It is then left to cool. Once cooled, the sulfur may now be scraped..
Sulfur is used because of its low melting point which reduces charring on wood. During the cooling process, the sulfur slightly expands, locking into place. When finished, it leaves an off-white or yellowish color, often characterized with antiques.
However, sulfur may also be overheated which may cause darkening and risk creating fire. Such is the exhaustive process with sulfur inlaying technique used by Amish woodworkers.
This style is characterized by straight lines and exposed joinery. It is the cleanest and simplest in all of the Amish styles. Because of its simplicity, this Amish built furniture style is seen as a classic and can pass off as a modern style.
The Shaker is closest to the Mission style. It is plain, yet elegant. In its simplicity, its focus is on functionality and durability instead of aesthetic design. You will not see ornamental designs in a Shaker styled furniture.
To make up for lack of decorative features such as inlays, carvings, metal pulls or veneers, asymmetrical drawer arrangements and multipurpose functions are used. Even without adornment, this Amish style furniture still maintains its visual appeal.
Queen Anne Style
The Queen Anne style is the complete opposite of the Mission and Shaker styles. A Queen Anne furniture will have curvatures, cabriole legs, cushioned seats, and sometimes padded feet. At times, there are those that emphasize line and form rather than ornamentation.
Named after the reign of Queen Anne of Britain, it came into North America through the surge of immigrants in the 1700s. This was also most likely brought on by the Amish.
There are certainly other styles used and adopted by the Amish into their woodwork. There are Southwestern, Rustic, Cottage and Beachfront styles that you can choose from that the Amish are good at.
A unique piece every time
Whichever the style, know that no two design are alike because of the Amish way of choosing wood and that these are handcrafted one by one. You can say that each furniture has its own personality, often reflecting the craftsman.
Although Amish furniture making has been in the market for so long now, it recently is making a boom once again.
Handcrafted is the new luxury brand
This is because homeowners want furniture that will last a long time unlike those commercially-manufactured products. Commercial manufacturers focus on speed of production so at times quality is sacrificed. With Amish furniture, it is linked to durability while having a unique piece.
Homeowners also want bespoke, unique or hard-to-find pieces that can become conversation points and great objects to brag to their friends. You can’t, after all, just go out and buy the same Amish piece once you see it in your friends’ home.
The small, hand-worked and unique pieces that you find so popular online are becoming the trend now and the Amish are at the forefront of quality, unique work.
The Current Amish Carpentry Shop
The Amish do not socialize with those outside of their community except for a few who are tasked to do business for the community. Some of them join country fairs and festivals to sell their wares where you can buy Amish furniture direct from the source. Through the times, they have learned to engage business with middlemen so they can reach a wider audience.
Today, present Amish woodworking shops can be found online. Through a wider reach, middlemen can now sell cheap Amish furniture. When searching online, there are now a lot more Amish furniture manufacturers who are really middlemen to the isolated community.
Now you don’t need to wonder where to buy Amish furniture. With just a click of a button, manufacturers offer you custom Amish furniture. The good thing about eCommerce is that products are brought to you. You no longer need to physically travel to a specific shop just to buy unique items. Even Amazon sells Amish furniture!
Amish furniture is getting its much needed attention and with good reason! Online Amish furniture selling not only extends the craftsmanship to the world, but more importantly, the
Amish community can make a living without having to reluctantly sell their crafts on their own.
This way, they maintain their practice of little or no interaction with the outside world.
Nevertheless, Amish woodwork is nothing to belittle. Although they stop going to school after eighth grade, they are taught practical activities such as carpentry, woodwork that gave birth to their livelihood, creating an indirect Amish furniture factory. eCommerce is working for them so they can discount Amish furniture through retailing efforts.
Furniture Variety, the Amish Way
Amish wood products vary from desks, schranks, cabinets, chests, chairs, porches, swings tables and a lot more. The designs also greatly vary, so you are not limited to a few choices.
One thing to expect though is their use of wood. The Amish take pride in choosing wood for their crafts. However to keep up with the times, recyclable materials that look like wood are now used and sold. This is why an Amish furniture store is able to offer a lot more to interested homeowners. Here are a few varieties that might interest you.
Amish Polywood Furniture
An Amish poly furniture is the standard in Amish outdoor furniture. Polywood is made from recyclable materials making it eco-friendly. In addition, it’s the perfect Amish made outdoor furniture material since it can withstand different weather conditions.
You can also use this for Amish lawn furniture or that Amish polywood patio furniture glider you have been dreaming of, so you need not worry about wear and tear. If you’re into ecological materials, then this one is for you, while retaining that Amish feel.
Amish Oak Furniture
If you want solid wood Amish furniture, then Amish Oak Furniture is a good choice. Because it is solid wood, you don’t need to worry about durability or even its design. A good choice of solid wood trumps intricate designs. You can use solid oak for any Amish patio furniture. All Amish furniture stores have this material, so you don’t need to worry about stocks.
Other than oak and polywood, other materials are also used for solid wood amish furniture. However, oak is a constant favorite while polywood is a surging need because of environmental laws. Most Amish furniture companies sell both.
However, if by any chance you have Amish unfinished furniture, there are also Amish carpenters for hire. The Amish are not limited to furniture. In fact, they are the masters of DIY, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise if they can even build you a house or a simple Amish porch.
A Generation of Exceptional Woodwork
Why do Amish-made porch swings create an impact like the one created by antique furniture? It’s not really the time it was made, nor is it the design. When you own any Amish furniture, you know that only you will own that specific piece--and no one else will.
The Amish has greatly contributed to the arts and craft movement, generously teaching their styles to specific schools.
Amish furniture reviews will inform you of a positive consensus of the woodwork. It is durable, made to last and very detailed. Furniture sold at store outlets do have the same characteristic and is even more convenient.
And yet, Amish artistry is more than that. It must be because of the attention given from the very conceptualization of every furniture made; or the hand selection of wood to match the style in mind; or the littlest detail in the grain of wood used; or the way each part is glued together to achieve the perfection each Amish is known for.
To the outside world, this means passion or love of work that makes a worker take so much time, detail and effort in creating each piece of artwork.
Beauty in detail. Such is the Amish woodwork.
What do Amish Porch Swings look like anyway?
The distinctive style of the Amish is not usually in the design but in the durability and solid structure of the piece. Porch swings usually look the same in terms of the arrangement of the wooden slats, the wrought-iron frames and the simplistic, rustic designs.
What you can expect out of these pieces of furniture is that they will look good even after exposure to the elements and a lot of abuse.
How do you style these kinds of porch swings?
Since the Amish have such great taste and choice of wood used for porch swings, leaving the wood unfinished or simply coating it with clear varnish can be enough. Get plain white cushions and sunbrella cushions or pillows to make the porch swing more comfortable.
Since one of the key features of Amish swings are their simplicity, adding neutral accents is still the way to go as anything ostentatious looks incongruent with this type of furniture.
How much do these porch swings cost?
You can find these pieces online, with one swing or set starting from $150. Depending on the material, shipping costs and other design and installation considerations, you may be in for a pretty penny.
But you can be sure that it’s going to be $150 well-spent if your swing can survive anything from a storm to your roof breaking down from the support. Most of the time, these swings come out unscathed from the ordeal.
You can ask a carpenter to help you install a swing ordered online, if you want everything to be as sturdy as possible. Most of the time, installation comes with instructions that can be followed by anyone with basic carpentry skills.