Monthly Archives: July 2013

Victorian Style Era (1840-1910)

Last time on The History of American Made Furniture, we discussed the Shaker style known for its simple and conservative style of design.  The basic look had many straight lines and very simple knobs and other elements and was originally produced by a religious group in the United States. Today we’ll take a look at what followed the Shaker style – the Victorian style era.

The Victorian style was named after Queen Victoria of England who ruled in the late 1800s and as popularized from 1840 to 1910.  Victorian furniture was known for having darker finishes and very elaborate and ornate designs.  In fact, the Victorian age furniture draws its influence from gothic forms with heavy proportions, dark finish, elaborate carving, and ornamentation. Victorian age furniture has a strong Rococo and Louis XV influence. Exaggerated curves, lush upholstery and decorative carvings are featured.  Below you’ll find a Victorian bedroom and sitting room.

800px-The_Victorian_Bedroom_at_Dalgarven

800px-The_Victorian_Miller's_sittingroom

During this era, manufacturing of furniture due to the industrial revolution and changes in technology, became easier. Mass production was now viable.  Because of these changes in production, Victorian style furniture was more readily available to consumers.

If you’d like to learn more about the specifics and details of the Victorian Style, you can visit Connected Lines.  And if you’re looking for furniture of your very own, stop by our shop or visit us online today!

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Shaker Furniture 1820-1860

Continuing our look at the history of American made furniture, today we’ll look at Shaker furniture which came about in the same era as Empire style.  The Shaker style is a simple, utilitarian style characterized by straight tapered legs, woven chair seats, and mushroom-shaped wooden knobs. It was produced by the religious group the United Society of Believers in self-contained communities in the United States.

The Shakers came to America from Manchester, England in 1774 and Shaker designs were inspired by the ascetic religious beliefs of the Society. Shakers made furniture for their own use, as well as for sale to the general public. Many examples of Shaker furniture survive and are preserved today, including such popular forms as Shaker tables, chairs, rocking chairs (made in several sizes), and cabinets. Collections of Shaker furniture are maintained by many art and historical museums in the United States and England, as well as in numerous private collections. The underlying principles of Shaker design have given inspiration to some of the finest designers of modern furniture. Also many ideals of furniture formed around the common Shaker furniture construction.

Below you’ll find some examples of Shaker furniture that you may have seen before:

ShakerClock ShakerDrawersShakerRocking

 

 

And if you’re really interested in the Shaker movement, you can visit this website to see a style guide that goes into detail about each aspect of the Shaker styles!

 

Empire Style

We hope you’re having as much as we are exploring the history of American furniture!  We last took a look at the Federal/Neoclassical era which featured such rooms as the Haverhill Room.  The clean lines, delicate forms, geometric shapes, contrasting veneers, and decorative inlays of Federal-period furniture represent a dramatic shift away from the sinuous Rococo carving that had typified American decorative arts for the previous thirty years and found in period rooms from the second half of the eighteenth century.  Today we’ll look at American Empire which was a French-inspired Neoclassical style of American furniture and decoration that takes its name and originates from the Empire style introduced during the First French Empire period under Napoleon’s rule.

American Empire style gained its greatest popularity in the United States after 1810 and is technically considered a more robust version of the Neoclassical period.  As an early-19th-century design movement in the United States, it encompassed architecture, furniture and other decorative arts, as well as the visual arts.  The Empire style was most notably exemplified by the work of New York cabinetmakers Duncan Phyfe and Paris-trained Charles-Honoré Lannuier. Other major furniture centers renowned for regional interpretations of the American Empire style were Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.

Characteristics of the American Empire style cabinet making include antiquities-inspired carving, gilt-brass furniture mounts, and decorative inlays such as stamped-brass banding with egg-and-dart, diamond, or Greek-key patterns, or individual shapes such as stars or circles.  As time passed, this style became more elaborate, particularly between 1815 and 1825, and grew to include columns with rope-twist carving, animal-paw feet, anthemion, stars, and acanthus-leaf ornamentation, sometimes in combination with gilding and vert antique (antique green, simulating aged bronze). The Red Room at the White House is a great example of this.

RedRoom

There was also a simplified version of the American Empire style referred to as the Grecian style.  This style plainer surfaces in curved forms, highly figured mahogany veneers, and sometimes gilt-stencilled decorations. Many examples of this style survive, exemplified by massive chests of drawers with scroll pillars and glass pulls, work tables with scroll feet and ‘fiddleback’ chairs. Elements of the style enjoyed a brief revival in the 1890s with, particularly, chests of drawers and vanities or dressing tables, usually executed in oak and oak veneers.

Stay tuned for more furniture facts and fun and if there’s anything you’d like to learn more about, leave us a comment or email and let us know!  Remember you can always drop by our website or come by our store anytime to find the perfect set of furniture for yourself!

The Continuation of the History of American Furniture

In our last blog we discussed the Queen Anne and Chippendale styles that were popular in America during the 1700s.  Now we’re onto the next phase of American furniture history, the Neoclassical or Federal Era.  The three decades that followed the formation of the United States are referred to as the Federal era in recognition of the early development of the national government. The style of houses and furnishings created during this period was heavily influenced by the Neoclassical designs favored in Great Britain since the 1760s, which stemmed from a renewed interest in classical Greece and Rome.

The Neoclassical style varied from region to region but drew from common sources such as architectural designs introduced abroad then disseminated in America through various publications.  The clean lines, delicate forms, geometric shapes, contrasting veneers, and decorative inlays of Federal-period furniture represent a dramatic shift away from the sinuous Rococo carving that had typified American decorative arts for the previous thirty years and found in period rooms from the second half of the eighteenth century.  The best way to get an accurate representation of what this era held is to look at three famous rooms.

The Haverhill Room

Haverhill Room

The Haverhill Room is from a house built for James Duncan Jr. in 1805 in Haverhill, Massachusetts.  Financial success allowed Duncan to build an elegant house representative of the variant of Neoclassical style that prevailed in eastern Massachusetts. The delicate composition ornament and mahogany pilasters on the mantel are important signifiers of this architectural mode. There are also echoes of ancient Greece and Rome in such decorative motifs as urns draped with fabric, festoons of flowers, and Etruscan scrolls.

 The Baltimore Room

Baltimore Room

This room comes from a townhouse built between 1810 and 1811 in Baltimore, Maryland for merchant and shipowner, Henry Craig. The geometric shapes found in the interior woodwork are excellent examples of the adoption and adaptation of the English Neoclassical style in the Federal period. Unlike the elaborate, fully paneled fireplace walls of eighteenth-century homes, decorative woodwork in the Baltimore Room is limited to the mantel, the door and window surrounds, and the dado in the recessed alcoves. All of the elements were crafted entirely from pine.  Large two- or three-piece dining tables came into vogue in the United States toward the close of the eighteenth century. Unlike a bulky sideboard that tended to remain in one location, a dining table with drop leaves could be conveniently stored against the wall when not in use. The inlaid eagle in an oval reserve seen at the top of each table leg is a motif common to Baltimore furniture in the Neoclassical style.

 The Richmond Room

Richmond Room

From a house built between 1810 and 1811 for the Richmond lawyer William Clayton Williams, the Richmond room’s most notable features are its rich mahogany woodwork and blue-and-gray King of Prussia marble baseboards.  Most of the furnishings in the Richmond Room were made in New York City. The tables and seating furniture on view follow patterns in an archaeologically correct antique taste that superseded the Neoclassical style and was strongly influenced by French design. Furnishings continued to feature motifs from ancient Greece and Rome, but they were incorporated as three-dimensional elements such as carved wood figures or applied brass ornament rather than the two-dimensional inlay that typified the Federal style.

The curule shape of the legs of the sofa and chairs—also called a “Grecian cross” frame—found in the Richmond Room is based on an ancient Roman magistrate’s folding chair. Formed by two intersecting S-curves, the curule appeared in many early nineteenth-century design sources and price books, which were the guides published to establish how much a journeyman cabinetmaker was paid to produce a particular piece of furniture.

This room has been described as “a revelation to the creative taste and genius of the craftsmen of the Federal Period in America”.

Stay tuned next week for more interesting furniture facts you might not yet know!  And remember to stop by our showroom or website to see what’s happening in the latest American styles!