The simplest answer to that question is this: Mennonite furniture is furniture that is made by Mennonites!
Who are the Mennonites?
Mennonites are people who belong to the Mennonite religion. Mennonites and Amish people have many similarities as they both came from the same religious movement in Europe back in the 1500’s. Mennonites were persecuted in Europe. Their religious beliefs, which did not allow fighting in war or for any other reason, made them a target during many conflicts. As groups, they moved around within Germany, Russia, Poland, and finally came into North America as they sought freedom to practice their own beliefs without persecution. The Amish branched off when they made the decision that technological and mechanical advances were not in line with their philosophy of simple living. The Mennonites did not make that designation and so moved on using newer tools and methods in their work while still embracing a simple lifestyle.
So, once again….what is Mennonite furniture? During their long history (as well as today), the Mennonites made their living from the most simple and peaceful methods possible. This generally meant farming and furniture building. The furniture they built was generally all hand-made and of the highest quality. The style of furniture they embraced originally was of the simplest form, so all their pieces were unadorned and as non-decorative as possible. This style fit their belief that their furnishings should be functional and well made but not overtly striking.
Modern Mennonite Furniture
While the origins of Mennonite furniture created the quality and simplicity of design that are so sought after now, there have been some changes over the generations as well. So, in the current era, what is Mennonite furniture? It is furniture made by Mennonites in their tradition of quality. Many Mennonite furniture makers have now also embraced more contemporary furniture designs as there is a market for that type of furniture – but the methodology of creating it remains the same; quality, hand-made furniture. “Hand-made” may now include the use of some power tools where traditionally only hand tools were used which is the only real change in how Mennonite furniture is made.
Many Mennonite furniture makers these days make a wider range of furniture than in the past. They make their traditional simplistic style furniture, but also some modern, country style and some have embraced the reclaimed wood movement as well. So, if you’d asked “what is Mennonite furniture” a hundred years ago, you may have found the answer to be quality, hand-made furniture. That is still the answer today but with some adjustments to the modern day world.
What is Mennonite Furniture’s Appeal Today?
The simplicity and craftsmanship that seem lost in most modern furniture are what people appear to find most attractive about Mennonite furniture now. It’s clean and old fashioned appearance often remind non-Mennonites of the simpler things in life. The yearning to reclaim some quality and minimalism from what most people see as a by-gone era are the most appealing qualities of Mennonite furniture for most people in this modern world.