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Collections / Antiques / Furniture / Furniture Styles
Furniture Styles

Antique furniture
Furniture Glossary
Furniture Styles
Taking Care of Furniture

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Italian Renaissance
Characteristics of this 15th century style include simple outlines and details such as architectural profiles with classic mouldings, ornamentation of acanthus, Rinceau, and animal forms.

This style, popular between 1603 and 1649, is the earliest work from the Americas. It is also referred to as Pilgrim furniture. It is characterized by heavy turnings used as legs and spindles. At times, turned legs are split in half and applied to panels for decoration. Oak or pine is common and the ornamentation is sometimes painted.

Japanese domestic usage required little furniture. The chief requirement for the few forms that were developed was that they be easily movable. Chests and cupboards were built in with sliding doors. Usually finished with highly polished lacquer flecked with gold and decorated with fine-scaled flower, animal, and landscape motives. Thin mats made of rice straw called tatami covered the floors and were used for sitting. Cloth cushions were also used, as were small tables of wood or lacquer, either folding or rigid. Dressing tables and writing tables were specialized forms that evolved from the simple table. The folding screen was an indispensable adjunct to the other furnishings as it could be moved to change the entire aspect of the room. Japanese furniture forms have changed little for centuries.

Late Renaissance
Features 17th century Italian classic ornamentations of columns, pilasters, and geometric shapes. Traces of Gothic influences are present. The beauty of line and mass appear more important than surface enrichment.

Louis XV
The period from 1715 to 1774, also known as the Regence, marked a shift from the weighty character of earlier rococo styles to embrace a more light-hearted, somewhat simpler feel. Carvings and marquetry were simplified and contributed more to the overall motif of the piece than in the prior period.

Middle Ages
Early Middle Ages: With the collapse of the Roman Empire during the 4th-5th centuries, Europe sank into a period in which little furniture, except the most basic, was used: chairs, stools, benches, and primitive chests were the most common items. There is evidence that certain ancient traditions of furniture making, particularly that of turnery, influenced early medieval craftsmen. Turnery was used in making chairs, stools, and couches in Byzantium, and it seems that this technique was known across Europe as far north as Scandinavia. Later Middle Ages (14th and 15th centuries): Folding chairs and stools, trestle tables with removable tops, and beds with collapsible frameworks were usual. The religious houses were an exception to this in that they enjoyed a certain security denied to the outside world. Much of the best furniture of this period was therefore made for use in churches and monasteries, and many of the ideas and developments that were later to add to the domestic comfort of Europe originated in the cloister. Household furnishings were frequently crude in design and roughly constructed. Other forms of carved decoration on furniture became more common during the 15th century, when surfaces were carved with tracery and other Gothic motifs. During the Middle Ages a great many pieces of furniture, including those with carved decoration, were painted and sometimes gilded, a practice that continued well into the Renaissance. The chest was the basic type of medieval furniture, serving as cupboard, trunk, seat, and, if necessary, as a simple form of table and desk.

Middle Renaissance
Ranging in time from 1550 to 1610, Middle Renaissance furniture was characterized by broken pediments, colonnettes, pilasters, flat strapwork, and cartouche ornamentation. Stars and diamonds were used in bold relief.

The Mission style, from the early 20th century but enjoying a resurgence today, is inspired by the mission furniture of the Southwest that was made of rough-sawn lumber and pegs and dowels. It is a very popular offshoot of the Arts and Crafts period. The style is characterized by simple, functional designs made of oak and stained wood with minimal ornamentation. Leather and Native American designs are often the motif of the coverings.

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