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The style is named for the English King William of Orange and his consort, Mary. As the colonist moved to America, they brought them their English furniture styles. Their furniture was practical, sturdy and made of whatever native woods were at hand including maple, walnut and pine.
Lines of this furniture style tend to be crisp, while facades might be decorated with bold grains of walnut or maple veneers, framed by inlaid bands with large moldings and other decorations.
Turnings were frequently seen as decoration and were baluster-shaped and the use of C-shaped scrolls were commonly seen. One type of decoration that begins in the William and Mary period and extends through to Queen Anne and Chippendale styles is known as "japanning," referring to a lacquering process done bu combining ashes with the varnish.
Queen Anne, 1720-1760
As the colonies matured, so did their style furnishings. Inspired by Queen Anne’s court, this style of furniture is much more delicate than the practical, sturdy designed first produced in the colonies. The most popular woods were walnut, poplar, cherry, and maple.
Each area of colonies brough their own unique touches to this tradition, such traits as elegantly curned legs, padded chairs and winged back chairs are hallmarks of this period. A new item seen in this era was the titling tea table. The influence of this style is still heavily seen today.
Inspired by gthic, Chinese and French Designs, this style of design is also referred to as rococo. Pieces from this period may be call "busy" as their design frequently included many decorative elements such as intricately carved patterns, the curved cabriole leg and the ball-and-claw feet. Columns, capitals, C-scrolls, S-scrolls, ribbons, flowers, leaves, scallop shells, gadrooning and acanthus leaves were also common design elements. Common wood types included mahogany, walnut, maple and cherry.
The English cabinetmake Thomas Chippendale is the same sake for this period of design. His widely read book, Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director, became source of deisgn inspiration for many of the day's furniture makers. The chippendale style has enjoyed any resurgences in popularity since it's original introduction.
In the period following the American Revolution, the young states were developing their own unique style which became known as Federalist Style. Reflected in both buildings of the era as well as furnishings, balance and symmery were the most important elements. Straight legs leading to a simple tapered foot were common design elements as were inlaid bands and carvings of bellflowers, urns, festoons, acanthus leaves and pilasters. Sideboards were a new item seen during the Federal Period.
Woods used included whatever native species was at hand such as maple, birch and satinwood but the most common were mahogany and mahogany veneers,
The Sheraton and Federal Styles are very similar in style. What sets the Sheraton style apart is that the lines tend to be straighter and the designs were plainer. This style tended to be made more in rural, less affluent areas. Again, mahogany and other native woods were used.
Empire or Classical, 1805-1830
Ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt heavily influenced designs during this period. Moving from simpler, straighter lines, furniture makers started to incorporate more flowing lines, arches and elaborate carvings in their designs. These highly ornate designs frequenly incorporated patriotic motifs such as eagles with spread wings as well as gilt highlights.
Mahogany again was a commonly used wood. This was an era when a number of new items were introduced including the sleigh bed, the sofa table as well as other sizes and styles of tables.
The term "Victorian" conjurs up a multitude of images. Extremely ornate styles, lots of embelishments as well as large pieces of furniture are only a few. The "Victorian Style" is actually not a single style but a collection of several different styles. Below is a brief description of each.
French Restoration, 1830-1850
This is the first sub-category of the Victoria era is also the plainest. Finding it's roots in the French revolution, this style shows sweeping, elegant curve. French restoration tends to lack the extreme ornatmentation of other Victorian-era styles. The influence of ancient Greece and Egypt canstill be seen during thistime.
The Gothic Revival, 1840-1860
Turrets, pointed arches and quatrefoils are all design elements that are found in gothic revival pieces. They directly reflect the gothic architecture of the day. Also like the architecture, the furnishings inlcluded carved details and was frequenly large and imposing.
This design style features the use of scrolls, either in a "C" shape or the more fluid "S" shape. Carved decoration in the form of scallop shells, leaves and flowers, particularly roses, and acanthus further add to the ornamentation of this style of furniture. Legs and feet of this form are cabriole or scrolling. Other than what might be needed structurally, it is often difficult to find a straight element in Rococo Revival furniture. The use of marble for tabletops was quite popular, but expect to find the corners shaped to conform to the overall scrolling form. To accomplish all this carving, walnut, rosewood, and mahogany were common choices. When lesser woods were used, they were often painted to reflect these more expensive woods. Some cast-iron elements can be found on furniture from this period, especially if it was cast as scrolls. The style began in France and England, but eventually migrated to America where it evolved into two other furniture styles, Naturalistic and Renaissance Revival.
Louis XVI, 1850-1914:One period of the Victorian era that flies away with straight lines is Louis XVI. However, this furniture style is not austere; it is adorned with ovals, arches, applied medallions, wreaths, garlands, urns and other Victorian flourishes. As the period aged, more ornamentation became present on the finished furniture styles. Furniture of this time was made from more expensive woods, such as ebony or rosewood. Walnut was popular around the 1890s. Other dark woods were featured, often to contrast the lighter ornaments. Expect to find straight legs or fluted and slightly tapered legs. This sub-category of the Victorian era is probably the most feminine-influenced style. It also makes use of the new machine-turned spools and spiral profiles that were fast becoming popular with furniture makers. New 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.Rococo Revival, 1845-1870
Federal or Hepplewhite, 1790-1815William and Mary, 1690-1730