Definition of Traditional Furniture

By Linda Stamberger

Traditional furniture is formal furniture made up until the end of the Victorian period, right before the modernist movement took hold. It is quality furniture made by old-world craftsmanship, with hand-carved dark wood both elaborate and formal in setting. The furniture is characteristic from the various eras when it was made and had a Gothic look with carved animal heads, claw-foot legs on tables and ornate marbles and hardware.

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Victorian-era chair

History

Traditional style furniture making began in Europe. The King Louis IV era began in 1643 and lasted until 1715. The most significant European contribution to traditional furniture was Chippendale furnishings from England. The Chippendale type chairs still famous today and other furnishings began in 1740 and lasted until 1790. Queen Anne style furniture was graceful and made for comfort. War often meant production of items were at a standstill. Traditional furniture styles were the mainstay of many homes. Some pieces of traditional furniture were symbolic. In America, European styles were gaining in popularity, yet the Federal style furniture just after the Revolutionary War was distinctly American, with the carved American eagle motif symbolizing freedom.

Features

Traditional style furniture was made from deeply carved, thick wood, often stained dark, with elaborate hand-carved scrolls and with ball or claw feet. There were elaborate inlaid sections to the furniture pieces, in solid brass and exotic materials, such as bone or ivory. Fabrics were often made from silk in sophisticated patterns, solid colors or tapestries.

Significance

Traditional furniture is most know for its regal style. The pieces were meant to mimic what the royal monarchies of the time used in their sitting rooms, parlors and dining rooms. This opulence was allotted to the general class and substantially altered the appearance of the most simple of dwellings by affording them the same style of furniture that the regal set had, even if not identically elaborate.

Function

There were various pieces that both European and American furniture designers incorporated to adapt to the times. For instance, there were comfortable and decorative day beds, used for reading. Many women gave birth from their homes with the help of midwives. The beds had to be both decorative and built for comfort. The wood was quality, thick and meant to last for generations.

Identification

Queen Anne chairs had scalloped or shell designs carved into the wood on top of chairs, trunks and settees. The Federal style furniture is most recognizable by the carved eagle design. Chippendale style chairs are sleeker in design and elegant. King Louis IV furniture often had elaborate claw and ball-foot legs or marble tops.