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1600-1700

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Imported Oriental cabinet on English carved wood stand built around 1670. Furniture: a Concise History, Edward Lucie-Smith, Oxford University Press, New York and Toronto, 1979
Much of the furniture of the seventeenth century seems to be more familiar to us today than of the sixteenth century. Furniture built in this century began to escape the influence of fashion and richness for the principle of practicality and function. It was difficult for some, especially the wealthy and members of nobility, to stray very far from the most exquisite and exotic furniture. The growth of trade allowed for importing of exotic furniture and materials from India and adjacent countries. Lacquering and japanning were very popular methods of finishing furniture. Oak was still used but walnut was being used even more as well as other imported exotic woods. The cabinet on a stand and framed wall mirror and table ensemble were very popular for displaying collectibles.
 

 

 

1700-1800

 Many furniture types evolved during the 18th century and many of these styles are considered current even today. Furniture styles of this century reflected ideas of comfort and luxury. More people were able to own furniture because of the growth of the middle class. Furniture in the first half of the 18th century evolved in reaction against the formal, elaborate period of Baroque furniture of the 17th century. Rococo furniture was characterized by asymmetrical scrollwork, decorative motifs with informality and comfort in mind and originated in France. In the later half of the 18th century, Rococo furniture caused a reaction and return to Neoclassical furniture. Neoclassical furniture was characterized by the use of classic designs from ancient Greece and Roman art and architecture. Some of the more recognizable styles of furniture from this era include: Traditional, Queen Anne, Chippendale, Hepplewhite, Adams Brothers and Sheraton. Walnut was the predominant material used in this era. Mahogany and other imported woods like ebony and satinwood were also used.

 

 

Which chair is older? The chair on the left was built in the first half of the 18th century during the Rococo period. The chair on the right looks as if it was built in ancient Greece or Rome. The chair on the right was built in the later part of the 18th century during the Neoclassical period. The History of Furniture, William Morrow & Company, INC. New York City, 1976

 

 

 

1800-1850

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A tabouret stool. Military motifs became very popular after Napoleon's victories. Furniture early in the 19th century was of Neoclassical Roman influence.
 

Changes in furniture in the first half of the 19th century were greater than the previous 200 years. Not only were the changes of style, but technological as well. Technological changes however; occurred more slowly. French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte had a tremendous influence on furniture style during his reign in the early part of the 19th century. Primary materials used were mahogany solids and veneers. After the fall of Napoleon's Empire, several styles of furniture evolved in reaction against the Neoclassical design. Even though new styles of furniture were desired, many retained familiar details of furniture from Gothic, Rococo and Renaissance furniture. One note worthy designer of this time period was Duncan Phyfe. Phyfe was the only American cabinetmaker for which a period or style of furniture was named. His designs are still popular today. Near the middle of the 19th century many innovations took place in furniture construction. Coil springs in upholstered furniture, metal furniture, laminated and bentwood furniture and even paper mache were utilized in furniture construction. These innovations along with poorly manufactured furniture, led to yet another movement in furniture in the later part of the 19th century and into the 20th century.

 

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Metal beds first appeared near the middle of the 19th century and provided a welcome hygienic alternative to traditional wooden beds which were often infested with bugs. These beds were usually made of brass or iron and continued to be popular well into the 20th century.

 

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