Most of the Western furniture you see today contains more Native American influences than you probably realize. Native Americans have a very strong connection to the land they live on and the world around them. This is then reflected in their own artwork, including their recognition of the Earth as a living entity.
So if you look at rustic furniture from Oklahoma, or any of the Western states, you’ll see Native American influences in the design, look and feel of Western furniture for well over 200 years now. There’s a wholesome beauty in each of these designs that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world – it’s a true fusion of the modern and the very ancient.
In the days of the Western frontier people had to make their furniture with whatever materials they found locally. This included pieces of unfinished wood, which were then cut roughly into shape. This is much the same approach of the nomadic Native American tribes, where local materials were used because nothing else was available. Some of the more rustic pieces of Americana you’ll find today rely on that rough-hewn look, which is very popular with a lot of customers who want to return to their roots.
For Western Europeans, geometry is something mathematicians do, but for the Native Americans these intricate shapes often had sacred spiritual meaning. In fact geometry was often part of their language and their overall identity, which is why you see large geometric shapes and patterns on Native American fabrics, pottery and furniture. There’s a beautiful simplicity to these designs that has been copied any number of times by different designers over the last few centuries.
Native Americans used strong primary colors throughout their own designs, and these same color choices can be seen in “modern” Western furniture.
The colors are bright and simple because the local dyes would have been bright and basic too. Reds, blues and whites are very popular color choices, and they gave each piece of Western furniture an unique look. The use of specific colors was out of necessity as much as anything else, and those same practices remain today.
While European furniture became more ornate with each passing year, the furniture of the American colonies became more simplistic instead. Those people surviving on the frontier didn’t have the luxury of creating furniture that looked great but served no real purpose. Instead they had to create furniture that would last for years, if not decades.
So if you look at the European furniture from this era, it was beautiful but fragile, whereas Western furniture is robust and built to last. This is, in no small part, due to the choice of materials and the lessons they learned from their Native American neighbors.
If you’re looking for the original creator of what we call Western furniture, then you should hop back to the 1930s. A designer named Thomas Molesworth is the man responsible for the merging of European and Native American influences to create the style we call “Western” today. It’s taken the very best influences from across North America, to create a unique type of decor you won’t find anywhere else on the planet.
The Santa FE Company has rustic and Western furniture to suit every budget. We hope to see you soon!