A Brief Tour of Antique Furniture Styles
The period from which a piece of furniture hails can be determined by studying the peculiarities of a piece. For instance, closely analyzing high-quality furniture legs and feet for specific design elements might reveal that the piece is from the Gothic period.
To help you understand how to determine what time period a certain piece of furniture is from, today, we will take a brief tour through the different styles of antique furniture.
Let’s get started.
This period, stretching from 1640-1700, is often defined by its focus on functionality over aesthetics. However, as time went on, the craftsmen of the era began to incorporate chipped carvings of scrolls, leaves, florals and similar shapes.
Some of the defining features of this era include turned table and chair legs, finials and the aforementioned chipped carvings, typically chiseled into woods like pine, oak, maple or cherry.
If you find yourself before a boxy piece of oversized antique furniture laden with ornate ornamentation, there is a good chance you are looking at something from the Louis XIV furniture period, dating between the 1660’s to 1690’s.
Some other key features of this era are the use of exotic woods, ivory and mother-of-pearl inlays.
The Queen Anne furniture style, popular from 1720 to 1760, is easily spotted due to its signature trademark: The curved cabriole leg.
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However, given that this style of furniture leg is also associated with the Chippendale era (which came much later), it is also wise to look out for cushioned seats covered with tapestry fabrics, minimal ornamentation and modest shell shapes.
Beginning in the 1730s and stretching into the early 1800s, the Louis XVI style of furniture replaced the bold, ornate designs of its predecessor with column-shaped legs and fluted legs and armrests that curled into elegant scrolls.
Popular motifs of the time included oak and laurel leaves, acanthus scrolls and Greek keys.
Rococo furniture designs, which ran parallel to Louis XVI in their timing, are highly recognizable due to their heavy carvings, ornamentation and S-curves.
Some of the more popular ornaments of the time included large C-scrolls, ribbons, floral arrangements, curved rosettes and the like.
The Chippendale era is unique in that it took various aspects from previous periods and blended them together into one beautiful design.
Employing the S-curves from the Rococo era, the cabriole leg found in the Queen Anne time period, stunning Gothic arches and Chinese design elements such as wood lattices and ball and claw feet, the Chippendale period is quite distinctive.
Additionally, Chippendale designs can be spotted by the use of fretwork on the legs and backs of chairs and the edges of tables.
Characterized by its round, tapered legs juxtaposed against straight lines, contrasting veneer inlays and stunning furniture hardware made of brass, Sheraton furniture designs were inspired by the piece created in the style of Louis XVI. Common motifs used in this era include carved flutings and festoons. Some of the most frequently used woods include mahogany, sycamore and rosewood.
The Hepplewhite period features lots of curves, symmetrical designs and inlays creating seashells and bellflowers. However, in contrast to some earlier periods, there is little in the way of ornamental carvings.
The chairs of the time featured curved arms, straight legs and shield-shaped backs. The feet on various pieces of furniture were usually tapered or a rectangular spade shape.
The type of wood used in the Hepplewhite era was mostly mahogany.
While the Gothic Revival period stretched for quite a period of time (1740-1900), the furniture era of the same name only spanned from 1840 to 1876.
Gothic Revival pieces are typically large and grand, including cabinets, storage chests and massive four-post beds, all typically made of oak.
The design of Gothic Revival furniture is often reminiscent of cathedral spires and the ornate designs of the period overall. Commonly used motifs for the era included grooved panels, five-arched shapes, four petal flowers and the like.
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The Victorian era of furniture, which stretched from 1830-1890, is likely to be the one familiar to most people.
The chairs for this period often included low arms or none at all so as to accommodate the wide skirts of the time. Additionally, deep seats and balloon backs are also commonplace among Victorian furniture design.
The wood was often intricately carved and was carried over the top of couches and chairs, as well as along the arms.
Victorian furniture features a panoply of different motifs, including fruits, leaves, cherubs, ribbons, bows, vines and more.
The Furniture Designs of Yesteryear
There are a wide array of antique furniture eras and styles. Believe it or not, this piece only scratches the surface of the topic and the intricacies of the furniture designs.
However, this should serve as a solid foundation for your antique furniture knowledge. From here, you can continue to grow and mature in your ability to identify furniture from across the ages.