Comprehensive Guide to Identify the Era of Your Furniture
When it comes to home decoration, furniture holds a significant importance. It adds to the sitting comfort and values your home by matching your interior theme and portraying a look of your choice.
However, at times, individuals find it difficult to talk about their antique or modern furniture. As they cannot identify the style and era of their furniture items, it may also confuse the owner of the furniture store about what kind of items you need for your home.
For your convenience, the blog below helps you identify your specific furniture items. Firstly, it discusses some eras of furniture, then some famous furniture-makers and later discusses helpful guidelines to identify your furniture.
First of all comes the Elizabeth era, dating between 1558 and 1603. It was the era of Queen Elizabeth I. These rare furniture items are usually found in museums or grand stately homes.
These furniture pieces were mainly made of oak. They were heavy with elaborative designs to look at pomp. Strapwork was commonly used on those furniture items, whereas the chairs were wainscoted with turns and a high back. Grotesques, fruit and vine leaves are a few examples of famous designs of the Elizabeth Era.
This era marks the reign of James I and Charles I and extends from 1603 to 1649.
Jacobean furniture items were heavy and uncomfortable. Various geometric shapes, deeply ingrained straight lines, and intricate ornamentation are common signs of furniture items of this era. The chairs had high, strictly perpendicular backs with leather-rectangular seats. Dark wood was preferably used in that era to make furniture items.
Cromwellian (Commonwealth) Era
This era spread from 1649 to 1660, in which Cromwell and his Puritans affected every aspect of life and furniture styles.
The furniture makers of this era focused on functionality rather than creating complicated, luxurious items. Those furniture pieces had simple geometric patterns, whereas beds, tables, cabinets, etc, had severely sharp edges.
The Restoration Era expanded from 1660 to 1689 after the downfall of Cromwell. The craftsmen in this era started following European styles for making their furniture items.
The furniture of this era is marked by elaborate colour and decoration. Shining up the outer surfaces of oak furniture with walnut veneer was common. Chair frames were upholstered with silver, gold or fine fabrics. Also, bookcases became popular in these times.
William And Mary Period
This era is one of the most famous eras in furniture history. It mentions the reigns of Queen Mary and King William. This period lasted from 1689 to 1702.
Tall and elegant pieces became prominent in this era. Likewise, the furniture pieces at this time were lightweight and thinner. French, Flemish, Dutch, and Oriental designs became prominent in that era. This time, trumpet-turned legs with claws and ball feet appear, whereas lacquer was used to introduce a sense of luxury in furniture items.
Queen Anne Era
Also known as Late Baroque, this reign is from 1702 to 1714. It is also an influential era in British furniture history.
Lighter, thinner and more comfortable furniture items became popular among the masses. Rococo design elements became visible, whereas ornamentation was limited. Walnut, cherry, maple, and poplar were preferably used than oak.
This era consisted of four monarchs: George I, George II, George III and George IV, in which George IV was a Regent.
Delicate and finely proportioned furniture was found in this reign. Satinwood inlay, ebony, and tulipwood were used in furniture making, whereas acanthus leaves, laurel wreaths, garlands, and ribbons were common designs. The chairs used to be much lower. Dutch influence declined as French Rococo, Gothic, Chinese, and Louis XVI styles became popular.
It is a sub-period of the Georgian era dating from 1795 to 1830. During this era, George IV stood as Regent from 1811 -1820.
Ancient Egyptian and Greek styles became apparent in furniture pieces. The lion head motif was prevalent, while most pieces had straight legs. To ensure a smooth and shiny surface, French polishing was preferred around 1810. Marquetry and elaborately carved decoration were limited in the Regency period.
William IV Era
Although not a prominent era, it highlights when William took over the throne from his brother, George IV.
Laurel leaves, crowns, mythological creatures, lions and torches were common motifs. Exotic woods, brass or bronze, were used, whereas tables and chairs had straight legs. Likewise, dining chairs were designed with sabre legs at the back and turned legs at the front. Compared to Regency furniture, this furniture had a clumsier look.
The Victorian period expands from 1837 -1901. Queen Victoria affected every other daily use item, from furniture to clothes. Many furniture styles were common in her era, while heavy furniture and a cluttered environment were symbols of the Victorian era.
Walnut, rosewood, and mahogany were used in furniture making. Early furniture items followed the Regency trend, while later furniture pieces were modern. Revivalist and romantic themes and luxurious, heavy fabrics became prominent. Drawers and tables used to have round corners.
Edwardian furniture extends from 1890 to 1911. Similar to its predecessor, this era holds a variety of styles for furniture.
The furniture items of this era copied many earlier styles along with the introduction of electricity-based functions. For example, lampstands were introduced in this era. The dark wood was specifically used in furniture making. Rather than making their rooms cluttered with wooden items, people preferred a free-spirited style with lighter colours and materials.
The Furniture Makers
Although the furniture items had their characteristic looks and shapes in certain eras, the furniture makers were the founders of these artistic items. Below are some of the famous furniture makers of the past
George Hepplewhite 1727 –1786: Although he was a great furniture designer, little is known about him. Well-balanced and curvy features represent his designs. Lacking any carving, his items were distinctive. Shield-back chairs with curved and shorter arms and straight legs also speak about his furniture-making taste and art.
Thomas Sheraton 1751 – 1806: A well-known furniture designer who influenced the artistry of the early 1900s. He is one of the three historic British furniture designers, the other two being George Hepplewhite and Thomas Chippendale. His designs are famous for tapered legs, contrasting veneers, and fluting.
Thomas Chippendale 1718 -1779: His astonishing skills can be estimated by his art pieces being known worldwide. His famous book "The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker's Director" is his famous book that influenced several eras from the Georgian era onwards.
How to Identify Your Art of Piece?
Identifying furniture is an art demanding extensive knowledge that enables you to mark out the specific era of the furniture. Below are some helpful guidelines for this
Check the Joinery: Joineries are the most prominent sign determining your furniture's age. If you find a large dovetail joint with imperfections in the cut below or at the back of the furniture, that item is from the 18th Century. Contrarily, small dovetails with perfectly smooth appearance mean that the certain item is from Victorian furniture of 1860 and beyond or post-Industrial Revolution.
Check for Slight Differences: Earlier furniture items were crafted from the hands; therefore, their feet, knobs, handles, and other minute parts were not identical. If you find them identical, then your furniture item is beyond 1860.
Screws and Nails: Screws are another sign to spot the era of furniture. Before 1790, hand-made nails were common with a square rose head and end flattened with a hammer.
They were variable in their sizes and shapes, with slight differences. Machine-made screws appeared in 1856 with uniform size and appearance. Unlike blunt and less tapered earlier screws, they are also tapered to a sharp point. With these clues, you can identify the era of your furniture.