Whether your home is modern or traditional, the right antique piece will add personality and character to your space. While there are a variety of furniture styles and types out there, most vintage furniture is defined by its era or time period. Many antiques are easily recognizable as the product of a specific time period, while others are more difficult to discern. Click To Tweet
Antique Furniture Styles: Who Wants to Know?
Most antique furniture is purchased by ordinary people, rather than antique furniture collectors. This signals that most vintage furniture is acquired for its beauty and function rather than the potential value of a piece. Whether you’re looking for an antique armchair or dresser, it’s helpful to be able to estimate the style and era of a piece of furniture you’re drawn to.
Appearing in the 1920’s, art deco style furniture features straight lines, gentle curves and expensive materials, such as veneers, lacquered woods, glass, and steel. Upholstery can be vinyl or smooth. Legs are straight or slightly tapered and chair backs are usually either very low or extremely high. This is also the timeframe when Chesterfields were viewed as the pinnacle of wealth and status.
Arts & Crafts
Wood used for Arts & Crafts furniture is primarily oak. Finishes were natural, fumed or painted. Hardware was often made in copper. Legs are straight and feet are small, if present at all, as they were often a simple extension of the leg. Some inlay of natural materials was used, such as silver, copper and abalone shells.
Dark woods, such as mahogany and walnut, were primary with some use of rosewood and ebony. Walnut veneer panels were a real favorite in the 1870s designs. Upholstery, usually of a more generous nature, was also often incorporated into this design style. Ornamentation and high relief carving included flowers, fruits, game, classical busts, acanthus scrolls, strapwork, tassels, and masks.
This era of design is fairly easy to spot due to its use of scrolling, flowers, and fruits (hence the name). More detail is spent on the leaves—so much that one can tell if they are to represent grape, rose or oak leaves. The woods used as a basis for the heavy ornamentation were mahogany, walnut, and some rosewood. Upholstery of this period is often tufted, eliminating any large flat surface.
Around 1900 technology advancements allowed more machined parts to be generated. By adding flowers, either carved or painted, the furniture pieces of this era had a softness to them. Chair backs tend to be high and narrow, having a slight back tilt. Legs vary from straight to baluster-turned forms to spindle turned. This period of furniture design saw more usage of needlework upholstery and decoratively painted surfaces.
Gothic revival furniture mirrored the common architectural themes at the time, including turrets, pointed arches and quatrefoils. The furniture shelving form known as an étagère was born in this period, allowing Victorians to have more room to display their collections. Furniture that had mechanical parts were also embraced by the Victorians of this era. Common woods used were walnut and oak, with some mahogany and rosewood. The scale ranged from large and grand to small and petite, with carved details adding interest.
The mid-1800s saw a resurgence in an ornate style, thanks in part to Queen Victoria’s love of curated clutter. The popular design included a cluttered environment, heavy furniture, heavy fabrics and lots of china and glassware. The perfect mix of masculine and feminine.
Chippendale was influenced by ancient cultures, such as the Romans, and Gothic influences. Look for Gothic arches, Chinese fretwork, columns, capitals, C-scrolls, S-scrolls, ribbons, flowers, leaves, scallop shells and acanthus leaves. The most popular woods used in this period (1750-1790) were mahogany, walnut, maple, and cherry. Claw and ball feet were commonly seen as decorative accents on furniture.
What Brings You Joy
Many of these periods overlap and influence each other, making it a bit difficult to pinpoint exact dates if you’re not an antique dealer. However, if you’re looking for an antique for your home, it doesn’t matter as much that you stay within a certain period. What matters is finding a piece that brings you joy every time you walk past it.
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