Antique Furniture History – Part One


Collecting antique furniture can be a very expensive hobby, however if you love the finer things in life and have money to spend, there is no reason why you should prevent yourself from buying antique furniture for your personal use.

If you are an investor, antique furniture, when carefully preserved and cared for, can also be a good investment, especially if the items you have are extremely rare.

Whatever your purpose for collecting and buying antique furniture, it is important that you have some knowledge, or at least access to knowledge through an expert, of the pieces that you are interested in. If you are a new collector, it is often advisable to visit a dealer or furniture maker so that you can seek some appropriate advice and guidance, which most experts would be more than willing to do.

It is widely believed that English antique furniture was largely influenced by European furniture design, although you will still see subtle differences between the two styles. This article will cover English furniture styles and designs starting from the Renaissance period, up until the Baroque period.

The Renaissance Period

Arguably the most popular style of furniture during this era was Tudor furniture, which was influenced by European style. Tudor pieces were generally made from oak and were greatly influenced by both Medieval and Gothic designs. Most pieces of antique furniture produced during this period tended to be beds, chests, dining tables, stools, benches and chairs. Carvings that are found on pieces of Tudor furniture are usually Gothic-inspired designs.

Another style of furniture that emerged during this particular era was the Elizabethan style. Many believe that furniture makers in England during the time of Queen Elizabeth were greatly influenced by their Italian counterparts. Apart from using the ever popular oak, another type of wood that was favoured and commonly used during this period was walnut.

The furniture during this period was almost unadorned and somewhat bare in appearance. Instead of having really ornate chairs and tables with pretty designs and great detail, people preferred to show their opulence and extravagance through their tapestries and carpets. This meant that fine linen, needlework, embroidered cushions and silk hangings were more of a focal point, as were brass and pewter cups too. Salvation Army Pickup

Fast forwarding through to the latter part of the Renaissance period, so this would have been around 1602-1649, another style would emerge. This style would be known as Jacobean.

This marked yet another subtle change in design as furniture became simpler and restrained in comparison to how it was during the Elizabethan period. In the United States, this type of furniture is often referred to as Pilgrim furniture.

After the Elizabethan period where tapestries and fine linen were the eye catching items, during the early part of the Jacobean era, wood would once again dominate the furniture scene. Oak antique furniture as well as walnut were once again popular. During the time of Charles I however, padded upholstery and more intricate embroidery did become more en vogue. Some experts also believe that the Moorish influence can also be seen in furniture styles during this period.

Pieces of antique furniture that were made during the renaissance period are nowadays very rare, valuable and often very sought after. In fact many pieces of furniture that were made during this period are preserved and can only be seen in museums.

The Baroque Period

The style of furniture during the early part of the Baroque period was called Restoration or Carolean and was the period when Charles II regained the throne. This also signalled a change in preference as instead of the ever popular oak, people tended to prefer mahogany and walnut for their furniture.

During this interesting period both French and Dutch art greatly influenced the style of pieces of furniture. This meant that canned seats, twisted legs, veneering and engraved scrolls were all evident in the furniture pieces during this time.

The latter part of the Baroque period was considered by some as the golden era of English antique furniture. During this period England was under the rule of William and Mary, and Queen Anne. This lead to ebony and walnut veneers, as well as fine cabinetmaking becoming very popular. Detail and designs such as trumpet-shaped legs also emerged for the first time.

This is widely considered to be quite an interesting time in the history of English antique furniture, as it was also the time when English craftsmen who had studied foreign styles intensely, began to experiment with their own individual styles and design.


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