Antique Furniture, Furnishings Global Information Resources
Gothic: Medieval church architecture influences this
style-characterized by pointed arches, counterbalancing buttresses,
open tracery and vertical grandiose emphasis.
Sheraton: Thomas Sheraton's "Cabinet Maker's & Upholsterer's
Drawing Book" is published 1791. Turned Corinthian column legs
supplant tapered legs. Square shapes round out.
Elizabethan: Elizabeth I Reign 1558-1603 England's Renaissance
Renaissance: Derived from Italian Renaissance style-mainly oak
functional furniture with scroll & arabesque carving, etc. with
horizontal emphasis. A "pendulumatic" reaction to Gothic
Pilgrim: Spartan utilitarian American furniture reflecting 17th C.
English country styles
Jacobean: Roughly spanning James I (1602-25) & Charles I (1625-49)
reigns. Restrained ornament, Moorish influence.
Louis XIII: King reigned (1589-1643), Baroque style including cherubs,
cartouches, gilding, and spiral turning.
Cromwellian: Also known as Carolean era. Probably alluding to Irish
influence in the era roughly surrounding Charles I.
Louis XIV: The Sun King's reign (1643-1715) noted for splendor of
courts in Versailles and Paris. Marquetry inlaid furniture
distinguished by opulence and grandiose size.
Baroque: Flamboyant, heavy, decorative rectilinear style derived from
17th C. Italian architecture.
Commonwealth: Unadorned style that flourished under protectorate of
Oliver Cromwell (1649-60) in a revolt against aristocracy.
Restoration: Restoration of kingly Charles II 1660 to the abdication
of James II 1688, walnut replaces oak, C and S scroll supports
introduced. Not as restrained as the Common man style preceding.
Early Colonial: With some wealth attained, carved oak Hadley chests
and turned Great Chairs start making their way into American homes.
Rococo: An exuberant curvaceous style characterized by asymmetrical
lines and shell, floral and foliate motifs.
William & Mary: Roughly influenced by William III reign 1689-1702,
heightened English style and cabinetry introducing: domed cresting,
the American highboy, lacquer work, ball & bun Spanish feet;
strong Dutch influence.
Queen Anne: Reign (1702-1714) Along with Chippendale, the finest hour
of English and American cabinetry. Feminine petite lines, beautiful
proportioning and balance, restrained use of ornament. The cabriole
leg and cyma curve are prevalent.
Regence: Transitional melding of baroque into rococo. Romantic
elements supplant heroic.
Louis XV: Continuance of the rejection of weighty forms. Rococo
exuberance replaces angularity in flowing curves and elaborate
scrollwork. Gilded cabriole leg fauteuils are introduced.
Chippendale: Masculinity supplants femininity in furniture.
Cabinetmakers like Thomas Chippendale take lead over monarchs in
design. Queen Anne form puts on a bowtie and goes rococo, mahogany
rules. Oriental influence comes to shore.
Neo Classic: Inspired by continuing excavations and discoveries at
Pompeii and Herculaneum (begun 1738) classic Greek and Roman
decorative motifs like dolphins, guilloches, lyres and urns emerge
everywhere. Straight lines and swags supplant rococo curves.
Hepplewhite: Neo Classicism influences English and American design.
Tapered rectilinear legs supplant the cabriole leg. George
Hepplewhite's, "Cabinet Makers and Upholsterer's Guide" is
published in 1788.
Louis XVI: Beginning before 1774, 18th Century French Art climaxes
under King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and exuberant neoclassic style.
Directoire: Transitional phase from Rococo to Neo Classic. Soft
painted surfaces supplant ostentatious gilt. Rectilinear columnar
design replaces curves and cabriole legs.
American Federal Period: The new, emancipated country's beautiful
interpretation of graceful lines and form over excessive ornament.
Eagles emerge in great numbers.
Empire: Beautiful at first, then severe in treatment-especially in
America-of Classical forms. Surrounded by wreaths, Napoleonic ormolu
bronze mounts highlight mahogany.
Regency: Several styles emerge in Britain based on a blending of
traditional English lines with Gothic and Neo Classic influences.
great German reaction against English and French rococo style.
Generally rectilinear or slightly draping lines. Beautiful woods,
generally with little or no ornament. Comfort and common sense
Victorian: The machine age takes hold. Ornament and busyness supplant
the weightiness of Empire in its last days. More is better.
Arts & Crafts: Rebellion against the Victorian Industrialism.
Objects that appear to be made by hand are in again. In America,
Gustav Stickley spearheads the Mission Oak furniture movement
featuring mortise & tendon joining and rectilinear lines.
Jugendstil: Germany's brilliant Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau
movement. Strongly influenced the path toward modern art developments.
Art Nouveau: Probably born in a Parisian art shop (Samuel Bing c.
1895) the new "Moderne" kind of art and design influenced by
nature, Japanese style and flowing feminine lines. A continued
reaction against the Victorian era of the "machine."
Art Moderne: Art Nouveau gives way to technology. NYC's Chrysler
building is a standing testament.
Art Deco: Who needs humanistic/naturalistic lines and earthy tones?
Chrome and plastic supplant wood. Bon Voyage, Art Nouveau. The rocket
age is born and furniture, art and design are going for the ride!
helpful furniture info and links
and Construction in Antique Furniture
Studying nails and screws
can frequently help you date a piece of antique furniture. Antique furniture
made before 1790 will include "rose-head nails"; hand crafted by
blacksmiths; which can be identified by irregular, rose shaped heads.
"Square head nails", used from 1790 to 1830, machine cut and finished
off by a blacksmith, generally squaring the heads. 1830 to 1890 cabinetmakers
used headless, machine cut nails, tapered and rectangular in shape. Around 1890,
more modernly used nails. brad and penny nails, were introduced. Screws were
used from time to time and before the machine era. Examples crafted by
blacksmiths can be identified by checking for thin and slightly off centered
slots and off-round heads.
- The "circular saw" invented in
the 18th century, did not come into wide usage until after 1830.
Thus, boards displaying "circular saw marks" will not be found
on furniture pre-dating the "Empire Period" (1830-1850).
Unfinished pre-1830 boards cut from vertical motion "ripsaws"
will often display small, somewhat parallel, saw lines.
- Before the introduction of power driven
woodworking machinery in the mid 19th century, lumber was worked by hand.
After hand-sawing, cabinet makers dressed their boards with a jack plane
and draw knives. On authentic furnishings pre-dating the "Victorian
Period," (1850-1910) unfinished non-visible "secondary"
surfaces like backboards and drawer bottoms will show evidence of
"hand-planing" by feeling for subtle undulating rows in the
- Small wooden pins known as dowels can be
helpful in authenticating age. Machine era pins will be perfectly
circular and flush to the surface. Antique dowels are non-round and
will protrude slightly from the surface because of shrinkage in the wood
they are securing.
- Wood shrinks in a direction opposite the
grain. The degree is determined by softness of the lumber, age, and
environment. Therefore, authentic antique furniture can be discerned
by inspecting for evidence of: gapping between boards, shrinkage cracking,
buckling veneer, protruding pegs and breadboard ends, and legs extending
slightly beyond the frame or "skirt." Early circular tabletops
will measure somewhat oval, 1/8" to 1/2" longer in the direction
of the grain.
- Outline and thickness on early
hand-wrought iron and brass hinges will be non-uniform.
- The top rail on early 19th century chairs
will be joined with non-round tenons that can be viewed by slightly
pulling the yoke from the stile. Circular dowels are evidence of
- Visible surface planks (primary wood) on
genuine antique furniture will be wide, varying in thickness, and
relatively free of blemishes. Knotty pine was not employed by olden
- Although it has been stripped and
refinished back to the original wood, much old-time non-mahogany furniture
was originally painted. Analysis of wood pores and fissures with a
jeweler's loop will often show several layers of paint residue. This
"paint history" can help authentic a piece and determine whether
individual components-the feet, the top, etc.-are original or undesirable
|Furniture Styles and Periods
Furniture of the Nineteenth and
Talk's Guide to Western Furniture Styles–Major furniture
period or style definitions.
History–at Interiordezine.com, where features of each
period are highlighted to provide an understanding of the
style and how it was derived.
from ArtLex Visual Dictionary-Furniture design with
illustrations of examples from throughout history. Link to
periods in art history.
History of Furniture, by Frederick Litchfield, is now
available online as an e-book, from Case Western Reserve
University Preservation Department Digital Library. Chapters
available in .pdf format, so you must have Adobe Acrobat to
Timeline–Presented by the Maltwood Art Museum &
Gallery at the University of Victoria in British Columbia,
this timeline of styles from the 16th through 20th centuries
shows the furniture period, prominent furniture makers and
designers, design influences, typical timbers, design
introductions, and decoration details.
Furniture Style Guide from Connected Lines describes and
dates nineteen popular furniture styles and their distinctive
components, beginning with Jacobean style of the 1600s through
Scandinavian Contemporary of the 1950s.
Reading Room at Portobello.com.au offers an overview of
the styles of European, English, American, Australian and
Scandinavian furniture. For each style, exemplary photographs
of furniture pieces are provided.
and 20th Century Architecture and Design–links to sites
that illustrate the work of architects and artists of the
1870s to the 1930s.
Decorative Arts–20th century modern furniture.
Nouveau, Art Deco and Functionalism (1889-1939)–as
presented by the Bröhan Museum of Berlin.
Arts & Crafts Home–A design source for home
decoration, this excellent and comprehensive British site has
numerous photographs of Arts & Crafts furniture,
decoration and accessories. Its Research section
includes information on books, antiques, architecture,
biographies, interiors, movement histories, societies, places
of interest, plus a chronology of the movement.
& Crafts Museum–from the Cheltenham Art Gallery
& Museum, this site features furniture and objects of the
British Arts and Crafts Movement. Included are sections on
techniques, style, and the Arts & Crafts today as well as
a taster of the extensive archives, drawings and designs not
normally on view. The site provides a reading list, and
details of events, exhibitions, places to visit, and
Arts & Crafts Society Home Page–includes an events
calendar, a searchable bibliography of A&C related
resources, a forum for interactive discussion with experts,
researchers and collectors, and a marketplace for services and
"meeting place for twentieth century design
connoisseurs," this French site features
furniture, lighting, and decorative objects, with nearly all
color images. Look for their virtual exhibition featuring More
than 500 designers and manufacturers.
Furniture Dictionaries and