Furniture Guide

Explore the Furniture Guide to learn about the Archive’s terminology, from types of furniture to decorative elements.

Style

Art Nouveau

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Peak popularity in America between 1896 and 1914. Characteristics include an emphasis on curved lines in structure and ornamentation and the use of bentwood construction. Decoration emphasizes forms inspired by nature, especially plants, and may be asymmetrical.

Arts and Crafts

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Peak popularity in America between 1885 and 1915. Characteristics include straight lines and flat surfaces, exposed joinery, and subdued decoration. Surface finishes are usually clear so the grain of the wood remains visible.

Chippendale

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Peak popularity in America between 1755 and 1790. Characteristics include exuberant, playful decoration and visual motifs derived from French, Chinese, and Gothic design sources. Decoration employs contrasts in texture through carving and piercing; design elements may be asymmetrical. Named for Thomas Chippendale, a London furniture maker who published a book of his designs in 1754.

Also called Rococo style.

Colonial Revival

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Popular in America between 1860 and the present. Characteristics include forms and decoration inspired by seventeenth- through early nineteenth-century American furniture and construction techniques developed after the mid-nineteenth century.

Eastlake

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Peak popularity in America between 1870 and 1890. Characteristics include crisp, rectangular forms; an emphasis on straight lines rather than curves; and relatively smooth surfaces. Decoration includes marquetry, inlay, and shallow carving, and may include abstracted or stylized naturalistic interpretations of Asian design motifs. Named for Charles Eastlake, whose 1868 book on decorating included furniture designs.

Also called Reform, Reformed Gothic, Modern Gothic, Aesthetic, or Art Furniture style.

Elizabethan Revival

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Peak popularity in America between 1835 and 1860. Characteristics include spiral- or spool-turned structural and decorative elements and the use of pierced or openwork surfaces. Mass-produced and painted examples of this type of furniture were promoted for use in cottage interiors.

Also called Jacobean Revival or Cottage style.

Empire

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Peak popularity in America between 1815 and 1840. Characteristics include heavy, bold forms inspired by Greco-Roman architecture and objects and the use of metal, glass, and stone in construction and ornamentation. Decoration includes bold carving and ornament that references classical motifs such as acanthus leaves and animal forms.

Also called Grecian, Late Classical Revival, Greco-Roman, Regency, Archeological Classicism, or Late Federal style.

Federal

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Peak popularity in America between 1790 and 1815. Characteristics include an appearance of balance and lightness with an emphasis on the proportions and details favored by classical civilizations, straight lines that meet at right angles, and smooth surfaces. Decoration emphasizes color and contrast in flat surfaces. Veneer and decorative inlays are frequently used to create geometric patterns or figures such as eagles, urns, and swags.

Also called Early Classical Revival, Louis XVI, Adam, Sheraton, or Hepplewhite style.

Gothic Revival

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Peak popularity in America between 1835 and 1860. Characteristics include the application of Gothic architectural elements to nineteenth-century furniture forms and the use of pierced or openwork surfaces. Objects made in this style were frequently intended to match interior architecture. Decoration includes pointed arches, rosettes, finials, and heraldic devices.

Pillar and Scroll

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Peak popularity in America between 1835 and 1850. Characteristics include heavy, bold forms; the use of C- and S-scroll supports and decorations; and smooth surfaces. Objects made in this style are frequently constructed of relatively inexpensive woods and veneered with mahogany; the development of the band saw enabled efficient cutting of scrolled shapes.

Also called Restauration, Restoration, or American Empire style.

Queen Anne

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Peak popularity in America between 1720 and 1755. Characteristics include an emphasis on verticality and overall form; the use of curved lines, especially the S-curve, in structural components as well as ornamentation; and relatively plain surface finishes. Blocking, the use of alternating raised and depressed profiles, is used in some case furniture. Decoration is generally limited; one exception is the use of japanning to simulate the appearance of Asian lacquer. Named for Queen Anne of England, who ruled from 1702 to 1714.

Also called Late Baroque or Georgian style.

Renaissance Revival

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Peak popularity in America between 1855 and 1885. Characteristics include massive, rectangular forms inspired by French Renaissance carving and architecture. Decoration includes incised lines cut with machine-powered tools; bold, sculptural carving; applied medallions; and acorn forms.

Also called Neo-Grec or Victorian Renaissance style.

Rococo Revival

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Peak popularity in America between 1835 and 1870. Characteristics include bold interpretations of rococo forms; the use of new construction techniques such as bentwood, laminated wood, and doweled joinery; and the use of spring upholstery, tufting, and cushioning for comfort. Decoration emphasizes curved lines; C- and S-scrolls; and elaborate, deeply-cut, naturalistic carving depicting birds, shells, and plants.

Also called French Modern, Louis XV Revival, French Antique, Belter, or Louis Philippe style.

Seventeenth-Century

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Peak popularity in America between 1650 and 1700. Characteristics include low, box-like forms; straight lines that meet at right angles; and the use of mortise-and-tenon construction. Lathe-turned elements are used as structural components in objects such as turned chairs. Decoration is generally abstract and frequently includes painted or carved floral or strapwork designs. Lathe-turned elements may be painted to resemble ebony or other exotic woods.

Also called Jacobean or Mannerist style.

William and Mary

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Peak popularity in America between 1680 and 1720. Characteristics include an emphasis on verticality and an appearance of lightness, straight lines in structural components, and the use of dovetail joinery. Decoration emphasizes curved lines, textures, and contrasts between light and dark; veneers are used to create high-contrast surfaces. Brass hardware, such as handles and drawer pulls, comes into general use.

Also called Early Baroque style.

Windsor

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Popular in America between 1750 and the present. Characteristics include turned legs or spindles driven into a plank seat; the absence of nails, screws, or other hardware; and the use of several types of wood. Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century examples are typically painted; many early twentieth-century examples are stained so the grain of the wood remains visible.

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