Interior Design Furniture History

Interior Design Furniture History
The history of furniture is extensive, this area of the website covers the Evolution of English Period Furniture, including
Tudor Gothic, Elizabethan, Jacobean, Commonwealth, Restoration, William & Mary, Queen Anne, Georgian, Chippendale,
Regency, Hepplewhite, Adam, Sheraton, and Victorian as well as French Period Furniture of Louis 14th, Louis 15th and
Louis 16th periods.
Furniture Style was dictated by the ruling monarch of the country and the conditions of the era and availability of
construction materials and tools to work with. It was also influenced by the knowledge of the designers or craftsmen,
overseas trade or incentives and the economic conditions of the country.
Furniture history is often classed by the reigning monarchs for example Queen Anne, Victorian, William & Mary. Later
furniture history was also classed by the major influence of designers like Robert Adam, Thomas Chippendale and George
Hepplewhite. This website highlights the individual furniture history periods and provides an understanding of the styles
and how they were derived.
English Period Furniture
The Evolution of English Furniture
Britain had Oak and Beech as it's native timber for furniture production, but with the discovery of new land and the establishment of overseas
trade, other timber species suddenly became available:
Oak 1500-1600
Walnut 1660-1723
Mahogany 1715
Satinwood 1765
Prior to 1500, the Gothic Period, teaching and learning of craftsmanship was mostly overseen by the church. Therefore, most ornamentation on
Gothic furniture follows the lines of ornamental stonework from the Gothic Churches and buildings.
The wealth of the country increased under the stable Tudor government and a new
middle class was formed creating a demand for a new form of furniture.
Therefore the 16th C can be divided into two halves. The first part, furniture consis-ted of
carving on gothic framework, stools and forms were the only form of seating available. The
se-cond part, new pieces of furniture evolved. Buffets or sideboards, fold top games tables,
taller chests which doors became cupboards or hutches and the draw leaf table which is still
common today.
Tudor Gothic Furniture Characteristics
Asimple timber planked chest
A simple timber planked chest
Chairs were developed from chests and had upright back legs, heavy turning and
often carved panels.
Plank Chest – Simple Plank construction by a carpenter and blacksmith. Metal straps
and nails were used to hold the timber together but because of the arrangement of grain
the timber often split. They often had handles to carry it.
JoinedorJoyned Chest c1530
Chest / Partly Framed Chest – This was superseded by the partly framed chest.
It used dry pegged construction and panel fitted into the frame allowed for movement
without the timber splitting. Panels from riven boards were hand moulded and sometimes
carved to give the “linenfold” effect. The board is cut with a wedge and split.
Built In Seating – Early settles accommodated up to six people with simple linenfold
panels and foot rest rail.
Wainscott panelwork was used on the walls.
Joined Chest - Joyned or joined distinguished the work of the joiners from the carpenter.
Settles - Settles were made more movable. The seat had a lift up lid for stotrage.The arm supports
were shaped for added comfort. Some were adaptable into tables as well as seats.
Credence - A table to hold bread and wine for holy Communion. Panels carved with
bunches of grapes and vines. They often had an overhead canopy.
Carved linen fold panel
Elizabethan 1558-1603 OAK
Renaissance ideas were entering Britain during this period. Oak was still the main timber used. Strap work carving
was popular and cut directly into solid timber furniture.
Furniture legs were mainly bulbous - carved at the top and a gadroon at the bottom with an acanthus
leaf. Chairs were either turned or wainscoted. Pewter was displayed in buffets or court cupboards. Beds
were very large with carved posts, a canopy and long velvet hangings often with bulbous decoration.
Solid top refectory tables replaced the Tudor trestle tables.
Elaborate four poster bed with solid testers to protect from the draughts
Wealth was reflected in the furniture
Elizabethan Furniture Characteristics
keep feet of the floor rushes.
Melon bulb turning.
Inlaid fruitwood.
Elaborate four poster beds with solid or draped testers to protect from draughts.
Turning was produced using a foot lathe, producing asymetrical objects.
Court Cupboard - the court cupboard was developed for holding plates and eating utensils. Cupboard
space and flat Heavy bulbous tables - bulbous turning often with much carved ornament such as
gadrooning, nulling and acanthus leaves.
Draw Table c 1580, bulbous legs
Tables with 4 or 6 bulbous legs with stretcher rails at the bottom as a footrest to top for serving food. Hardware was handmade and rather
Bible box - the bible box appeared, these were small side chests designed to hold the family bible. They were later made with a slopig top to
facilitate writibg and reading. It was the forerunner to the writing desk. They were oak, left natural or finished with oils or beeswax.
Jacobean 1603-1660 OAK
Oak was still the timber used during the reigns of James I and Charles I. The furniture retained many Elizabethan
characteristics but the ornament gradually became less prominent.
The ornamentation became smaller, lighter with flatter carving, and carpets were now being introduced. The changing of women's
fashion, in particular their dresses, led to the development of chairs without arms, and upholstery became popular.
This was to cover the dovetail joints which were being used for the first time to
construct the drawers. Previously drawers were always hidden behind doors. The
gate leg table was introduced. Knobs and drawer pulls were often carved.
Farthingdale Chair c 1620
Many wealthy left England when the civil war broke out in 1642. The building of great
houses halted and many of the household staff left for the battlefield.
Chests disappeared and were replaced with chests of drawers, which often had applied mouldings mitred around the drawer front.
Until 1660 and the restoration of the monarchy, furniture had been made under the Puritan rule and lacked inspiration and reflected
increased simplicity. Plain bobbin turning became popular and upholstery reverted to plain leather that was usually held by heavy brass
Farthingale Chair -this was developed because ladies wore farthingale hooped skirts, a chair was required for the women to be able to sit
Features of Jacobean Furniture
Gate Leg Table - circular, elliptical and rectangular tables made their appearance.
Bulbous became oval and left plain before disappearing altogether.
Chest of drawers developed with geometrically designed applied mouldings.
Families became less wealthy. Simple panel beds.
"x" chairs with crossed legs were also common.
Bible box has legs added to become a writing desk.
Commonwealth Period 1649-1660
Puritan Cromwells overthrew the monarchy, which saw the strict abolition of all frivolity.
The Puritan scorned even the subdued richness of the Jacobeans. Therefore function prevailed over decoration. Any mouldings
were applied rather than carved.
Cromwellean Style Characteristics
Furniture followed basic shapes and had to be useful.
Furniture with straight severe lines without carving or other enrichments.
Simple bobbin turning was most common.
For the first time chairs were made in sets with the front stretcher rail placed higher and often with two sets of side stretcher rail
Cromwellian Chair c. 1655 Leather was used to replace rich
velvet and tapestries.
Stuffed seats and backs were far too luxurious to be permitted.
Slung seats and backs were used.
Open slat chair backs
William and Mary 1689-1702
This period was named after the marriage of the English Mary Stuart, the daughter of
James II to the Dutch William of Orange. William & Mary Side Table c. 1680
The Dutch prince brought with him new ideas of comfort for the ordinary person. The furniture
in his reign saw the first beginnings of real comfort. Upholstery became common. The chair
backs were shaped slightly to fit the shape of your back and the back legs were splayed out at
the bottom to prevent the chair from tipping backward.
Bureaux were made strong enough to allow for a bookcase to be added on top for convenience.
The Cabriole leg, which is identified with the Queen Anne Period, was borrowed from Holland,
which meant the stretcher was gradually phased out.
William & Mary Side Table c. 1680
The King not only imported ideas from Holland, but the craftsmen who left their
mark on English Furniture history.
Walnut timber was used for furniture. Oriental lacquer finishes over cheaper
timbers became more common. Front fall writing cabinets were developed. Simpler
lines with more delicate proportions than before were seen.
Elaborate veneering and marquetry replaced carving - using holly, ebony,
satinwood and ivory.
William & Mary
Stool c. 1690
Features of William and Mary Furniture
Upholstery became popular with the stuff over technique.
The china cabinet was developed to hold the Queens' hobby, collecting delft and oriental porcelain.
The bureau with a bookcase was set on stands.
Back legs matched front legs.
Feet were simple bun or pear shaped or goat's hoof. First cabriole leg was often left square.
Legs often connected with x shaped stretchers with a finial at the junction. Stretchers were left flat with a veneered
surface. Smaller dining rooms changed the emphasis on dining furniture.
Gateleg tables.
Flemish Scroll.
Apart from the bed, bedroom furniture had not yet taken. Cabinets, bureaux, day beds, tables and easy chairs
were used. There was no dressing table: usually a gilded framed mirror hung over the toilet table.
Tallboys began to develop raised off the unusual stand.
Inverted cup turning and tapered trumpet.
Queen Anne 1702 -1714
The gracious and comfortable furniture from the Dutch influence continued and the English
craftsman were developing their own skills.
They had learned the foreign techniques and started to create a distinct English style. As the room sizes
were now much smaller the pieces of furniture were less massive than those of previous centuries and the
comfort was provided for in the chairs.
The chair is the single item that most typifies any one period and there is no exception with this period.
The Queen Anne Chair is very well known and still popular today.
Queen Anne Chair c. 1715, note the escalloped shell on the knee and the well proportioned shape.
Features of Queen Anne Furniture
Pembroke table pivot top and drawer in end/Dressing mirrors designed to sit on toilet table, or writing table was the beginning of the dressing table.
Tall boy - the extension of the chest of drawers, formed by placing one on top of the other.
Graduation of drawers was purely English. / Writing desk with sloping front and lopers to support.
Twin pedestal desk has its origin in the knee hole writing table. / The secretaire similar to the bureau in having a vertical front and
bracket feet.
Oyster pattern veneer. / Cock beads, protection for veneer.
Queen Anne Chair c. 1710
Queen Anne Chair
Furniture relied on its graceful well-proportioned shapes. Carving almost disappeared or only on the escalloped shell on the knee.
Unbroken curved lines. Urn or vase shape splat shaped to fit the back (spooned). / Chair backs were considerably narrower at the back.
Stuffed over seats or drop in. / Wing chairs to protect user from draughts. / Cabriole legs, sometimes terminated with a claw and a ball.
Windsor chair with shaped seat.
Most early Windsor chairs has front cabriole legs. /
Smaller folding tables including concertina tables with cabriole legs increased in popularity due to tea and card games.
Difficulty in veneering large tops led to folding tables and four way matching. / Bureau (secretaire) no drawers
Georgian Period 1714-1806
This period is divided into three:
Early Georgian 1745-1780 - Mid Georgian 1730-1750's - Late Georgian 1750-1830
Furniture had previously had its origins in the court and worked its way down, but George I brought a dull and tarnished
feeling to the court and only few developments took place in the households of the rich.
Separate designers distinguished themselves in the late Georgian period, this is known as the "The Golden Age of
Furniture". The designers were:
Chippendale 1745-1780 Hepplewhite 1760-1790
Adam 1760-1792
Sheraton 1790-1806
Thought was changing during these periods and the house and its contents started to be considered as two parts of one whole. Architects
were now turning their hand to furniture design.
Georgian Period 1714 to 1837
The Georgian period is often divided into early, mid and late Georgian period. The three phases are a continuation of each
other as the style changed and took shape as the century moved on lighter colors and decoration prevailed.
Entertaining was popular and interiors were all the rage due to the availability of print books showing design and
architectural examples providing an insight and education into what design was all about.
Learn about the Edwardian Period where colors were fresh and light, creating an informal feel.
The Georgian Period which is divided into the early, mid and late Georgian periods was a time for entertaining and interiors were a popular
The Gothic Period was a revival by the Victorians in the 19th Centuryand was a style that had a religious symbolic base. The Victorian Period
provided a great change in the middle-class home. Goods and services became more accessible for the general population, and pride in the
home began to show.
Decorating Styles
Decorating styles are defined for the characteristics of their time.
Art Deco style is well known for it's geometric and angular shapes, bold outlines and ziz-zag forms. Travelling was now accessible to many more
people and foreign design pieces began to appear in the home interior decoration.
Art Nouveau is considered the first style of the 20th Century, and a movement forward in the way design was concepted, coming from the now
rather than looking back at the past.
Shaker was a religious sect founded in England in the late 1700’s. The Shaker’s design philosophy was one of necessity and usefulness.
Georgian Style
Severe lines and classic architectural details moved design away from the gentle curves of Queen Anne design. Georgian style is characterized
by its elaborately carved cabriole legs, ball-and-claw feet, broken pediments, ornate carvings, piercing and gilding.
Georgian Furniture
In early Georgian times, heavy carved and gilded pieces were upholstered in velvet and damask. Fabrics were luxurious: brocade, damask and
tapestry, with colors and patterns kept subtle. A royal style extended into common houses with cabriole legs and claw feet on chairs and baths
creating an almost throne-like feel. Mahogany slowly replaced walnut as the wood of choice.
The furniture was delicate, and the fireplace was the heart of the room. It was often fully outfitted with cast iron, carved pillars and medallions, and
an opulent fire screen.
Georgian Color
Colors were pale and subtle—cream, dusky rose, sage, pea green, powder blue. Florals were also found, and in more grander houses, gold and
murals were the preferred wall coverings. Upholstery and curtains often had matching fabric.
Georgian Influences
Early Georgian style was the tail-end of Queen Anne design, and this gradually became more severe in its lines and architectural detail.
Architecture style was copied from Ancient Greece and Rome, however a lot of Chinese design showed through in the interior. Chinese motifs
like peonies and chrysanthemums were found in the fabric and Chinese porcelain and motif table lamps were common. Georgian furniture was
strongly influenced by Palladian, Rococo and Neo-Classic design.
Famous Designers of the Edwardian Style
Mid Georgian times were greatly influenced by designers Chippendale, The Adams Brothers and Hepplewhite. It was a time of experimental
Chippendale’s early work made use of the cabriole leg with carved foot. He used many Rococo motifs such as C scrolls, flowers, foliage, shells
and rocks. He also favored the incorporation of Chinese style into some of his later works.
The Adams Brothers designed strictly for the super rich however, their ideas merged into the mainstream. They did not make chairs, but favored
side tables, cabinets, bookcases, settees, and most of all, sideboards.
Hepplewhite chose to adapt the opulent and largely unobtainable Adams designs for a wider market. His furniture bridged the decline from rich
mahogany into the lighter and more delicate satinwood.
George 11 Corner Chair c. 1740, whorl feet
Early Georgian
The importation of Mahogany in the 1720's firstly from Cuba, and later from Honduras generally replaced Walnut as
the main timber for furniture making. Mahogany had much better characteristics, it was not attacked by worm, it
carved with a crispness (which led to a revival in carving) and it was less likely to shrink and twist.
Furniture was now being imported from other countries, China and France.
Furniture was designed to match the Neo-Palladian architecture and was on a grand scale. William Kent, an architect, designed heavy
showy pieces of furniture for the rich market. They were designed for mansions and palaces and were often enormous gilded pieces of
bad taste. Bookcases had pediment tops which imitated the exterior of the house.
It was the designers that followed this period that developed the style, now considered typically Georgian.
Early Georgian Furniture Characteristics
George II Chair - splats carved in honeysuckle motif.
Corner chairs for reading and writing some had candlesticks.
Whorlfeet. - William Kent Chair.
Similar lines to Queen Anne chairs. Solid vase splat but heavier construction.
Baroque style of William Kent.
Gessowork. A paste of chalk and parchment size. It is applied to part finished wood, carved in fine detail, an easier task than
with wood, then gilded. / Crimson and gold upholstery pieces with the Greek key pattern around the seat frame.
Carved lions masks and paw feet.
Double chair back form.
Concertina extension tables with two or three tops
Mid Georgian- Chippendale (Mahogany 1745-1780)
This is a term used to describe furniture designed by Thomas Chippendale.
In 1754 he became known worldwide with his book publication "the Gentlemans' and
Cabinetmakers' Director".
The book was an advertising journal put out by a tradesman aimed at potential customers.
Chippendale was a functional designer and never sacrificed strength for appearance
Breakfront bookcase, Barred doors, broken swans neck pediments
Chippendale Rococco Chair
Country Chippendale - rural craftsman has access to pattern books.
Dining tables followed the chairs either cabriole legs or straight.
French legs.
Chippendale Chinese and Gothic Chairs.
Master carver - acanthus leaf, claw and ball. Carving is the only form of decoration.
Influenced by French Chinese and gothic.
Pierced urn shaped splat.
Cupids bow top rails.
Fretwork, ladder back and ribbon back chairs.
Piecrust edge tables, tilt top, birdcage gallery, tripod base.
Claw and ball foot with icanthus leaf carving on the knee
Arm supports set back to accommodate hoped skirts.
Chests of drawers with bracket feet.
Breakfront bookcase, barred doors, broken swans neck pediments.
Bedstead with cabriole legs carved.
Bureau bookcase square and straight legs returned in 1760 and stretchers returned.
Chippendale Rococo Chair c. 1750
Late Georgian
Furniture was now arranged in small functional groups and was no longer for display. Formality was
replaced by romanticism.
Regency Furniture (Mahogany, Rosewood and Ebony 1800-1830)
Regency followed a style in France after the coronation of Napoleon as Emperor (Empire Style).
Prince George became Regent from 1811-1820 - this was a period of classical furniture. It was then the fashion to copy
actual furniture of the classical Roman and Greek times. If they were not identically copied, they were made as close as
possible to the classical decoration forms. Winged Griffins, lions heads, animal legs, Roman Gods: anything that was
popular in ancient Rome, Egypt or Greece. Furniture had moved from natural evolution to return to Classical form. The
settee returned to a couch with scrolled ends supported by sphinx heads on lions legs.
Grecian Couch c 1805
Designers who distinguished themselves in this period were Thomas Hope, George Smith, &
Henry Holland. George IV had a large influence over the craftsmen of the time. The pinnacled, mosque like Pavilion at Brighton, England reflects some of the final madness of this period.
Features of Regency Furniture
The addition of brass to wood. Brass inlays were longer lasting than marquetry and this lead
to the revival of French Boulle decorations.
Sofa Table
Sabre Leg
Cable Twist
Metal Grille
Regency Bookcase on a stand c 1810, the front has a metal grill.
Commode was replaced by the chiffionier - straight front low cupboard
Cheaper pieces sometimes painted with black lacquer -revival of japanning
The current fashion was for decorating walls with paintings which led to lower pieces. Tallboys disappeared and
bookcases and cabinets became smaller.
Wide use of metal mounts, lion paw feet, fretted brass grilles cover glass doors, pierced galleries, supports for shelves. Ormolu - imitation ld.
Regency Library Table c 1825
Chest with front pilasters of classic forms, sphinx head on animal legs or caryatid - female figure
Scrolled end couches. Wooden frame often gilded.
Circular tables, some with marble tops, stood on plinth base with animal feet
Sabre shape legs decorated with reeding or brass inlay. Brass boss used at junction of leg and rail.
Trafalgar chair used in mourning, death of Nelson. Cable twist, sabre legs.
Novelties - Canterbury to carry music or plates / Whatnot to display small pieces - Davenport small writing desk.
Twin quadrople tables / Sofa Tables - long narrow table with a drop leaf aty each end and two drawers.
Sideboard in the Adam style with solid pedestals and urns grew quite massive. / Lyre shape used for table ends / Quadruple support.
Hepplewhite (Mahogany and Satinwood 1760-1792)
George Hepplewhite owned his own factory and made furniture for Robert Adam. He produced a book of
designs "The Cabinetmaker and Upholsters Guide".
He had a fondness for the curved line and introduced this into his design wherever possible. Hepplewhite moved away
from the heavy carving of Chippendale and used more refined carving. His favourite timbers to work with were
Mahogany and Satinwood. He lightened up the look of the timber without sacrificing the stability.
Best known for his chair back designs - shield back, hoped back, oval and heart shaped which were very popular.
Adam (Mahogany and Satinwood 1760-1792)
Robert Adam was a Scottish architect. He spent a lot of time studying in Italy.
While he was there a large amount of excavation work was taking place, especially around Pompeii. These excavations
and findings of the 1750's had a large influence on his work.
When he returned to England he became the Court Architect to George III. There were already changes happening in
the Georgian furniture, the flowing curves, the ornate carving. Adam brought back the simple classical lines of the
Roman and Greek Styles.
The people then turned to Adam's simple straight lines and simple mouldings. He started the new Neo Classical style.
Adam and his brother James were primarily Architects and designed the furniture to decorate the rooms. Adam's furniture
consisted of huge pieces, sideboards with two pedestals surmounted by large classical urns.
The dining room became the most important room with a strong masculine feeling. The men would spend many hours there
after the women had withdrawn to the drawing room where the furniture was lighter and more delicate.
Adam Furniture Characteristics
Used other tradesmen to produce his designs
Oval and shield back chairs / Never used cabriole legs he preferred to use straight, tapered legs
Used low relief ornament based on Greek and Roman Motifs
Often-massive pieces of furniture / Lower back chairs. Introduced the lyre shape, with metal rods which are still now being
used in furniture making
Introduced the pedestals to the side table for the start of the modern sideboard
Rounded front commode / Used center motifs on frieze with fluting and patereas
The mouldings were of the simplest kind, dentils were used /
Applied decoration to Wedgewood China: applied to center panel (Adam Stucco Ceilings)
Applied plaster motifs usually painted or gilded / Used octagonal and hexagonal shapes / Winged griffins
Sheraton (Mahogany and Satinwood 1790-1806)
Thomas Sheraton was a trained Cabinetmaker and Carver, but was primarily a
designer. He produced a book called "The Cabinetmaker and Upholsterers' Drawing
Sheraton continued to use Mahogany as his timber, but preferred satinwood,
rosewood or painted finishes for his lighter drawing room furniture. He had a passion
for mechanical parts and designed many types of secretaire or bureau. For example
open a top drawer to reveal a writing surface, which then opened or slid back to
provide access to drawers or pidgeon holes. Carving basically disappeared.
Tambour Front Roll Writing Desk
Sheraton Furniture Features
Kept chair backs with straight lines and square shapes
Kept backs as open as possible / Single cross rails, vertical uprights and trellis effect
Tapered legs including spade toe / Turned legs with reeding became a fashionable form of decoration.
Shield back with straight top
Known for many complicated mechanical actions, secret compartments, concealed drawers, sofa into beds or
bed settee.
Six legged sideboard - straight front with convex ends. / Brass rods including candle stand.
Sewing table / Introduced the tambour top or roll top desk, tambour front, roll top. / Serpentine front chest of rawers.
Victorian Furniture History (Mahogany, Burr Walnut, Rosewood,
Ebony 1830-1901)
Victorian furniture is popular today, probably due to it's accessibility more than the aesthetics. There was plenty of
furniture made due to the change in history of methods of manufacture, the machine had taken over and was able to
produce mass amounts of Victorian furniture to satisfy the vast demand by the middle class people that desired it.
Furniture history changed forever through the Victorian period. It became desirable to have a home laden with furniture to
show your status to your peers.
Throughout history Queen Victoria identified herself with the middle class. Therefore the furniture of this
period was made for an ever-increasing middle class population.
Many people moved from the country into the cities and like the Elizabethan Period, these people demanded that they be wealthy as well as
look wealthy, creating more new customers. Large families and lavish entertainment produced a greater need for furniture. Rooms had to be
crowded with furniture.
The early part of this period saw machines beginning to replace hand labour, the beginning of the industrial age.
This period created a large gap between the designer and the craftsmen. The factories had changed, the designers no longer had direct
contact with the customer. The demand for furniture was high, the factories were manufacturing at a fast pace, and a frantic rush for the
designers to keep ahead of each other created poor quality design.
The new machines were introduced to take away from man the back braking jobs and speed up manufacture. They soon began to take over
most of the work and the furniture started to be designed around what the machine could make, therefore the quality of design declined. At
this stage circular saws, planers and band saws were introduced. Many machines were horse driven, water driven or even man powered.
The clean Grecian lines of the Regency period were out of favour by 1835 and everyone wanted furniture that was showier with plenty of
curves. This showier furniture after 1850 led to low prices and poor construction and workmanship that was often hidden by veneer and
applied ornament.
William Morris started a rebellion against this trend, founding a company to demonstrate the superiority of quality handmade furniture.
Honesty of the hand made joints was his feature of construction. This lead to the Arts and Crafts Movement on the 1880's leading on to Art
Nouveau. This drew attention to the merits of 18th Century furniture and led to the practice of purchasing second hand furniture and the
antique shop began.
Papier Mache chair. Boxes and trays but applied over a wooded frame for chairs.
Ottomans used in rooms which had bow windows or circular ends and picture galleries.
Smokers bow for houses, barbers shop, cottages and offices.
Worktable for games and sewing. Reflects Louis XIV style.
Davenport - lades writing desk / Chest of drawers with wooden knobs - more to do with cheapness
Chiffioniers used in dining and sitting rooms. / Lootable named after the fashionable card game
Whatnot suited the over furnished rooms
Sutherland table - a cross between a gateleg and Pembroke table. Very narrow, failing in proportion.
Gothic revival sideboard.
Telescopic table - strong steady table with bulbous turning. Solved the problem of leg room.
Sideboard contained back piece of mirror - mass produced in 1840 /
Military desk - designed in three parts for traveling, sunken handles. / Brass bedstead - four poster with curtains started to disappear.
Overall the Victorian period saw the introduction of labour saving machinery which was misused due to high
demand which caused a serious deterioration in design and construction.
Features of Victorian Furniture
Cumbersome furniture, dust catching carving. /
Buttoned upholstery-armchairs frequently with low arms scrolled at the front / Balloon back chairs and spoon back
Thonet's steam bent chair / Abbotsford Chair inspired from Charles II era (Restoration) /
Ladies easy chairs without arms because the vastness of the skirts.
Chesterfield - fat layer of well sprung upholstery named after the Earl of Chesterfield.
Later Victorian easy chairs removed the fully upholstered arms to help lighten up the appearance.
Sometimes had a small drawer fitted in the front to hold a spittoon.
French Period Furniture
The craftsmen of France were far more advanced than the English, therefore the English craftsmen took
their furniture design inspiration from them. French Period furniture follows the French Style periods.
14th - 15th Centuries Early French
1610 - 1643 Louis 13th
1715 - 1774 Louis 15th
1795 - 1804 Directoire and Consulate
16th Century French Renaissance
1643 - 1715 Louis 14th
1774 - 1793 Louis 16th
1804 - 1815 Empire
The major influences of French Furniture came within 1643 to 1793, the reigns of Louis 14th, 15th and 16th
Louis 14th (1642 - 1715)
The French Renaissance had lost most of it's Italian origin and had developed a character of it's own. This is when Louis 14th came to reign;
he was a man with extravagant tastes. France was at the time one of the wealthiest countries in Europe therefore he was able to indulge in
his passion for arts and crafts. The country had fine skilled craftsmen of enormous talent in abundance and nothing was too good or too
expensive to be made. The most outstanding of these craftsmen was Andre Charles Boulle, he experimented with the Italian art form of
Marquetry in brass, copper, tortiseshell and ebony. This work is now commonly called "Boulle work".
The features of the furniture were, wood carving, which did not have decoration, only marquetry, and often elaborate brass mounts. The
surfaces of cabinets were generally flat. This is a considerable feature as the next period used curved surfaces everywhere. The main
source of decoration was Boulle work. Curved and straight legs were used, with the curved dominating at the end moving to the more
shapely next period.
The Palace of Versailles was commissioned by Louis 14th, it was furnished with the finest and richest work that could possibly be
produced. Much was destroyed during the Revolution, but what remains today is still extravagant splendour. In major contrast, England at
the time was producing simple walnut furniture. On Charles II return from years of exile in France, he introduced many of the French ideas
and designs to England.
Louis 15th (1715 - 1774)
The son of Louis 14th was only five years old when his father died and too young to take the reign. The Duke on
Orleans was appointed Regent and took control until his death in 1723.
Changes happened in this time and the extravagant grandeur of the court was no longer. The country was not as wealthy and
people lived a much quieter presence. Changes in social standings were occurring, the aristocracy began to marry the more
humble but now wealthy middle classes, bankers, merchants etc. The grand mansions that once were ostentatious and full of
extravagance were replaced by smaller more intimate homes.
This meant that the style of furniture had to change to meet the peoples new demands. It needed to be smaller, it stayed ornate but the once
masculine forms were replaced by softer prettier feminine lines. Therefore the furniture became more elegant with more ornamental decoration.
The major feature of Louis 15th Furniture is the shaped work of the curves. This commenced in Louis 14th 's reign and was expanded upon to
the extent that there was barely a straight line or, flat surface visible.
Fronts and sides of cabinets were curved in plan and elevation, which required a high level of skill for the craftsmen to apply the veneers, then
there was the elaborate decoration that was usually inlaid. Guilded mounts in place of carving continued its trend.
The cabriole leg (French Version) was at it's most popular during this period. It was similar to the English, their's had a high-pronounced knee
adjoining a square at the top and the bottom usually was completed with a club or claw and ball foot.
The French had a more flowing shape, it did not have the square at the top, the shape flowed into the rails or had a concave curve upwards
and the foot was usually scrolled.
The most common of timbers used at this time were, boxwood, rosewood, mahogany, walnut, tulipwood, sycamore and ebony. Guilding and
lacquering were also popular at this time. There was a reaction to the elaborate Rococo work near the end of Louis 15th's reign and the revival
of the classical spirit began in Louis 16th's reign.
Louis 16th (1774-1793)
The reaction against the work of the 18th century as well as the continued financial difficulties of his
predecessor created a new style of furniture.
The design became more refined, most of the shape work was removed and with the Queen's influence, (Marie Antoinette), who
preferred the simpler forms a new style was developed.
In comparison to the English styles of the same period it was still very ornate, but compared with what had been previously in
fashion it was very much simplified.
The major characteristics of this period's furniture are the use of straight lines and flat surfaces with delicate, refined use of detail.
Guilded mounts were still popular, small mouldings and light carvings were now seen.
The timbers used were the same as for the previous period adding satinwood to the list. Now that the shaped work had gone, the cabriole leg
was no longer as popular; it was used in a lighter form for small beaureaux and console tables.
Light turned legs or square tapered legs which often had recessed surfaces and guilded mount decoration were then introduced.
In conclusion
The furniture of Louis 14th was heavy and excessive, of solid and magnificent splendour. Louis 15th was over ornamented, had flamboyant
elegance with shapes and curves and Louis 16th was delicate refinement and is considered as French design and workmanship at its best.We
have only touched the furniture for the wealthy. There were lesser more subdued styles of the reigning fashion. These were made by tradesmen of the provinces and created some lovely pieces of which we still see in use today. This style is commonly known as "French Provincial".
French Empire Style
Throughout the early 19th Century the French Empire Style evolved from the court of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. It used
heavy classical designs and geometric form whilst retaining an air of fineness along with soft draped fabrics and highly
polished veneers.
Strong colours were prevalent in interiors introduced when the French gentry returned from their military sessions in Egypt.
The Egyptian tombs that they had seen and their use of vibrant colours inspired them. Azure blues, rich greens, red ochre
and acid yellows became popular for interior decoration. Softer colours were still used, lilac being one of the most popular.
The military influence of Napoleon lead to formality in the arrangement of furniture, this was softened with the abundant use of drapery.
Carving was not popular but the use of ormolu mounts of classical motifs; laurel wreaths, urns, and sphinxes were for detailing throughout
the room as well as hardware. Egyptian motifs were also prevalent, lions, hieroglyphics, palms, winged griffins, cobras and sphinxes.
The most favoured timber used for furniture was mahogany, fruitwoods, yew, elm and maple were still seen and the use of imported
veneers from Africa and West and East Indies. / Most furniture had curves for example scroll backed daybeds and chairs.
The preferred decoration materials were marble and tortishell and were used for ornaments.
American Colonial Style
Colonial homes in North America were similar to 18th Century European Country houses. This was due to the early settlers
immigrating with their previous countries decoration ideas. Their style was different in the fact that they simplified the look
and made things more practical, honesty in design and simple lifestyles reflected these early settlers. Rustic furniture, simple
timber panelling, no clutter, plain unadorned walls and natural earthy colours are the distinguishable decoration features of
the American Colonial Style
The simplicity of it all created a light and airy interior with simple clean lines. This was important, as most early colonial houses were often small
with tiny windows and low ceilings.These early houses often had whitewashed walls and sometimes stencils imitating borders, which were for the
wealthier.The grander colonial homes had painted lining papered walls, often with borders and garlands.These usually were in the form of natural
motifs of fruit and flowers.
These simple interiors provided a good backdrop for collections. / Ceramics were popular and often displayed on a high shelf around the room.
Quilting was a popular hobby and the finished works were often hung on the wall, used as cushion covers, bed covers and displayed with pride.
Original fabrics and hand painted furniture inspired the interior colours prevalent. / These were earthy tones, greens, browns, subtle blues and
cool whites. /
The early colonial furniture was originally made of softer timbers, pine, birch and maple, sometimes walnut and cherry.
It was of honest construction and design, stool seats, solid timber boards as table tops with square legs (peg) made from straight grained logs.
It was strong and functional. Later colonial furniture used mortise and tenon and dovetail joints, the cyma recta shapes, turned shapes and legs
the design was more refined but still continued the honest construction
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