Furniture design has been a part of the human experience since the beginning of history. Evidence of furniture survives from as far back as the Neolithic Period in the form of paintings, wall Murals discovered at Pompeii, in sculpture and examples have also been excavated in Egyptian Pyramids and found in tombs in Ghiordes (modern day Turkey). These notes will track the main advancements, developments, styles and materials in furniture design highlighting the identifying features of each period, the materials used and show images of some of the most significant pieces of furniture ever designed. The furniture design timeline below outlines just some of the different periods of furniture design and gives you a basic overview of the timeline of furniture design history. Choose from the menu below to look at one furniture design period in more depth.
This post discusses the following historical periods of furniture design…
- Ancient Egyptian
- Ancient Greek
- Art Nouveau
- Art Deco
English Period Furniture
Throughout the history of furniture, the changing styles have arrived by the conditions ruling at any one time. These conditions may have been the result of:
- The Limits of Knowledge, wood expansion and contraction
- The limits of equipment, only tools and saws
- The Availability of Timber, Local supply, only solid timber
- Economic Conditions, wealthy or not, changes
- Peace or War, determine furniture, immobile, security
- Overseas Influences, trade agreements, incentives
- Reigning Monarch
- A Movement
- A Generic influence
- A Religious Group
Britain had Oak and Beech as it’s native timber for furniture production, but with the discovery of new land and the establishment of overseas trade, other timber species suddenly became available:
- Oak 1500-1600
- Walnut 1660-1723
- Mahogany 1715
- Satinwood 1765
Prior to 1500, the Gothic Period, teaching and learning of craftsmanship was mostly overseen by the church. Therefore, most ornamentation on Gothic furniture follows the lines of ornamental stonework from the Gothic Churches and buildings.
The carpenter, blacksmith and the turner made the furniture. It consisted of tables, forms, stools and chests. The chest was the principal piece as it served not only as storage, but also a seat or table. Tables generally were loose boards on top of trestles.
Henry VII, came to the throne following the war of the roses in 1485, and was the first Tudor monarch. During this time Britain had found peace and order not previously known.
Henry VIII succeeded his father in 1509, and inherited his accumulated treasures. He continued to change the Gothic style by keeping up his father’s interest in foreign artists and craftsmen. More economical printing materials were available which allowed for pattern books from the continent.
The wealth of the country increased under the stable Tudor government and a new middle class was formed creating a demand for a new form of furniture.
Therefore the 16th Century can be divided into two halves. The first part, furniture consisted of carving on gothic framework, stools and forms were the only form of seating available. English Period Furniture
- Tudor Gothic C16th
- Elizabethan 1558- 1603
- Jacobean 1603-1660
- Commonwealth 1649-1660
- Restoration 1660- 1688
- William & Mary 1689-1702
- Queen Anne 1702-1714
- Georgian 1714- 1806
- Regency 1774- 1793
- Victorian 1830-1901
FRENCH PERIOD FURNITURE
- 1643-1715 Louis 14th
- 1715- 1774 Louis 15th
From the start…
Neolithic Period Furniture:
|Neolithic Period Furniture
A excavated site dating from 3100-2500 BC in Skara Brae, Orkney uncovered a range of stone furniture. Due to a shortage of wood in Orkney, the people of Skara Brae were forced to build with stone, a readily available material that could be turned into items for use within the household. Each house was equipped with an extensive assortment of stone furniture, ranging from cupboards, dressers and beds to shelves and stone seats. The stone dresser was regarded as the most important as it symbolically faced the entrance in each house and is therefore the first item that was seen when entering a house.
Ancient Egyptian Furniture:
|Ancient Egyptian Furniture
The hyperarid climatic conditions of Egypt since the third millennium BC are perfect for the preservation of organic material. Thanks to these conditions Ancient Egyptian furniture has been excavated and various sites and includes 3rd millennium BC beds, discovered at Tarkhan, a 2550 BC gilded bed and chairs from the tomb of Queen Hetepheres, and boxes, beds and chairs from Thebes. There were two severe sides to the furniture excavated, the intricate gold gilded ornate furniture found in the tombs of the Pharaohs and the simple chairs, tables and baskets of the ordinary Egyptians.
Ancient Greek Furniture:
|Ancient Greek Furniture
Ancient Greek furniture design can be dated back to the 2nd millennium BC, including the famous klismos chair. The furniture designs are preserved not only by the examples still in existance, but by images of them depicted in Greek vases. In 1738 and 1748 excavations of Herculaneum and Pompeii revealed perfectly preserved Roman furniture. The ashes from the eruption at Mount Vesuvius preserved the furniture from 79 A.D. right up its excavation in the eighteenth century. Characteristic of this early furniture were highly influenced by the furniture of the ancient Egyptians with a stiff, rectangular, and unflattering shape. In the 4th and 5th centuries, once the Greeks developed their own style, furniture became less square and rigid and more curved and flowing.
The medieval period was a stark and somewhat crude time, and that is reflected in the furniture styles of the era. The furniture of the medieval period is very distinctive in style. Its most notable characteristics are ornate wood carvings on the border of chairs and canopy beds, garish structural layouts and colours that are basically grey, beige or black. Forms were mainly square or rectangular with very little in the way of curved lines or circular forms.
Along with the other arts, the Italian Renaissance of the fourteenth and fifteenth century marked a rebirth in furniture design, often inspired by the Greco-Roman tradition. Starting in the fifteenth century, a similar renaissance of culture, occurred in Northern Europe, particularly in the Netherlands, Belgium and Northern France. These designs were distinctly different from that of Medieval times and were characterized by opulent, often gilded designs that frequently incorporated a profusion of floral, vegetal and scrolling ornamentation. The aim of these pieces were often to showcase the skills of the craftsmen who made them.
After the Renaissance there was a gradual change to a less ornamented, quieter style of furniture. In Britain table legs, for example became straighter and narrower than were typical of earlier pieces and instead spiral turned legs became typical of this period. In general furniture profiles became lower and more rectangular. Later Jacobean furniture, during the era of Oliver Cromwell the Protector, was very stern, square, and frugal, a suitable style for a time of relative poverty. But with the return of the monarchy under Charles II, Carolean furniture once again became more ornate, characterized by intricate carved stretchers and colourful upholstery with tasselled trim.
By the end of the period, the influence of the British William and Mary style was beginning to show. Compared to the Jacobean and Carolean pieces this style of furniture was lighter and more elegant. Inverted, cup-turned legs, bun feet, and serpentine stretchers made this a very identifiable style.
Across the water in the United States, during the early Colonial period, most furniture arrived along with the first immigrants. They brought furniture pieces typical of the Jacobean and Carolean periods in Britain with them, and then later made their own furniture in a similar style. These pieces were generally sturdy and heavily carved, many with turned legs and bun feet. In the harsher environment of some of the Colonies these pieces were simpler representatives of their parent styles, befitting the more straightforward and utilitarian life of the settlers.
Other settlers also brought their influences with them to the colonies, most notably the Dutch and French in the North east, and the Spanish in the South west. Although recognisably different from the British inspired designs, the Dutch pieces are essentially in the same tradition. However the different climate and different wood available to Spanish colonists led to a distinctly different style known as Mission or South western.
The earliest American-made piece of furniture is a chest made by Nicholas Disbrowe around 1660. Uncompromisingly rectangular, its distinctively carved frame-and-panel construction, although very reminiscent of earlier British Age of Oak pieces, is already recognizable as a distinct American style. Many other early Colonial era pieces, such as wainscot chairs and heavy joint-tables, are similarly in the Age of Oak tradition.
In the eighteenth century, furniture design began to develop rapidly, although there were some styles that belonged primarily to one nation, such as Palladianism in Great Britain or Louis Quinze in French furniture, others, such as the Rococo and Neoclassicism were commonplace throughout Western Europe. In reality the term ’18th-century furniture’ therefore refers to a wide variety of styles including William and Mary, Queen Anne, Georgian, Chippendale, Hepplewhite, Sheraton, Adam, Regency, Federal, and the French periods of the several Louis, Directoire, and Empire.
While seperate, all 18th-century furniture, whether American, British, or French shared a similar style of construction that is distinct from the subsequent mass-produced furniture of the 19th century. Eighteenth-century furniture is commonly thought of as representing the golden age of the highly trained master cabinetmaker, trained in the craft of furniture design which manifests in highly finished, sophisticated designs.
The 19th century was marked by the Industrial Revolution, which caused profound changes in society. With increasing working populations in cities, the rise of a new class of wealthy of furniture buyers, together with the arrival of mass-production and the demise of the individual craftsman-designer, the gradual progression of furniture styles that had developed through the previous centuries was replaced by a raft of imitation or revival styles. These concurrent revival styles, including Gothic revival, Neoclassicism and Rococo revival became easy and inexpensive to manufacture as technology developed during the industrial revolution.
With mass-production technology in place it was a simple matter to graft historically correct ornaments onto all sorts of furniture, thereby making possible for the creation of a continual stream of revival styles to meet the demands of the public. The result was a century of furniture whose common denominator was excessive ornamentation in the form of applied metal or wood carvings, inlays or stencils.
Art Nouveau Furniture:
|Art Noveau Furniture
The name “Art Nouveau” is French for ‘new art’, and it emerged in the late 19th century in Paris. The style was said to be influenced strongly by the lithographs of Czech artist Alphonse Mucha, whose flat imagery with strong curved lines was seen as a move away from the academic art of the time. Art Nouveau furniture used lines and curves as graphical ornamentation and hard woods and iron were commonly used to provide strong yet slim supporting structures to a furniture pieces.
Because of the greater availability of a wider array of materials than ever before, and because of an ever-expanding awareness of historical and cross-cultural aesthetics, 20th-century furniture is perhaps more diverse, in terms of style, than all the centuries that preceded it. The first three-quarters of the twentieth century saw styles such as Art Deco, De Stijl, Bauhaus, Wiener Werkstatte, and Vienna all work to some degree within the Modernist idiom. The Bauhaus school was founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar in 1919. In spite of its name, and the fact that its founder was an architect, the Bauhaus was founded with the idea of creating a ‘total’ work of art in which all arts, including furniture would eventually be brought together. The furniture designs that emerged from the Bauhaus became some of the most influential designs in modern design.
Art Deco Furniture:
|Art Deco Furniture
The Art Deco movement began in Paris in the 1920s and it represented elegance, glamour, functionality and modernity. Art deco’s linear symmetry was a distinct departure from the flowing asymmetrical organic curves of its predecessor style art nouveau. Art deco experienced a decline in popularity during the late 1930s and early 1940s when it began to be derided as presenting a false image of luxury, eventually the style was ended by the austerities of World War II.
20th century Fashion History Timeline
- 1890’s • Age of Optimism • Ragtime • Men’s Fashions – Winged shirt collars – Sack Coat – Waistcoat (Vest) – Ascot Tie
- 1890-1900 What influenced Fashion? • Victorian Era Fashion Trends • Corset • Bustle • Gibson Girl – From mid 1890’s to the early 1920’s symbolized the Ideal American Woman Silhouette Exaggerated Hourglass Silhouette
- 1900’s • Edwardian Era • Automobile • Electricity • Men’s Fashions – 1st 3 Piece Suit – Creased and cuffed trousers
- 1900-1910 What Influenced Fashion? • Industrial Revolution Era Fashion Trends • Shirtwaist • Leg O’Mutton Sleeves • Dustcoast – Protect clothing while riding in the automobile Silhouette • S Curve Silhouette
- 1904 – 1910’s • Women’s Movement • Men’s Fashions – Military Influence – Trench Coat What Influenced Fashion? • World War I 1910’s Fashion Trends • Hobble skirts • Bathing Suit • Bloomers 1910’s Silhouette • Elongated Inverted Triangle
- 1920’s • Prohibition • Age of Jazz • Men’s Fashions – Pin Stripe Suits – Fedoras – Sweaters – Knickers – Raccoon Coat • Roaring 20’s Fashion Trends • Flapper – Long beads, loose fitting dresses with shorter hemlines • Costume Jewelry • Cloche’ Hat Silhouette • Tubular
- 1930’s • Movie Star Influence • Men’s Fashions – Straight wide leg trousers – Sweater Vests • Depression Era Fashion Trends • Hand-me Downs • Flour Sack Clothing – Children wore clothing made from flour and sugar sacks • Bias cut Dresses • Waistline Restored • Hemlines Dropped Silhouette • Elongated Hourglass
- 1930’s – 1940’s • Rationing • Couture leaves Paris • New York Gains importance • Men’s Fashion’s – Military Influence – Bomber Jacket • World War II • Military Influence Fashion Trends • Convertible Suit • Slacks • Eisenhower Jacket • Padded shoulders Silhouette • Inverted Triangle Silhouette
- 1950’s • Baby Boom • Cold War • Teenager Emerges • Men’s Fashions – Flannel suit in charcoal gray, navy , or brown – Cardigan sweaters – Hats • Teenage Boy – Chinos, button down shirts, & loafers OR – Tight Jeans, t- shirts, leather jackets, Converse • Rock and Roll Fashion Trends • Teenage Girls – Poodle Skirts – Saddle Shoes – Capri Pants • Women – The New Look (Christian Dior) Silhouette • Hourglass Silhouette with accented lower half
- 1960’s • Vietnam Conflict • ‘British Invasion’ • Men’s Fashions – Bright Colors – Nehru Jackets – Turtlenecks What influenced Fashion? • Civil Rights Fashion Trends • Mini Skirts • Pantsuits for Women • Pillbox hat Silhouette • Tubular Silhouette
- 1970’s • Energy Crisis • Watergate • Women’s – African culture influence – Hemlines drop – Punk emerges – Elegance contrast/ Laura Ashley • Men’s Fashions – Leisure Suits – Bold Neckties – Flared Pants What Influenced Fashion? • Hippy to Disco Era Fashion Trends • Unisex • Bold Flower Prints • Platform Shoes • Flared Pants Silhouette • A-Line Silhouette
- 1980’s • Men’s Fashions – Return to the Pinstripe – Narrow Lapels – Skinny Ties • Me Generation • Conservatism • Conspicuous consumption What influenced Fashion? • Yuppie Movement – Young Urban Professional – Young upwardly- mobile Professional Fashion Trends • Exercise Wear • Logo wear • Designer Jeans • Power Dressing • Preppie • Business Suits • Shoulder Pads • Khaki • Sweaters • Logo Wear • Designer Jeans • Material Girl/Valley Girl • Flounced Skirts • Polka dotted crinolines • Exercise Wear Silhouette • European “V” Inverted Triangle Silhouette
- 1990’s • Age of Electronics • Technology • Internet • Women – Minimalism – Retro 60-70’s – Street Fashion • Men’s Fashions – Hip Hop Influence – Grunge/ Oversize fit What influenced Fashion? • Technology Era Fashion Trends • Bare Midriff • Two Piece Formal • Grunge Silhouette • A-line Silhouette
- Fashion trends repeat every 20- 30 years
- Coco Chanel Christian Dior • 2 Designers credited with Major Fashion Looks in the 20th Century • Fashion Influence from 1920’s until World War II • Resurfaces in 1954 • Little black dress • Costume Jewelry • Revolution in Women’s Clothing
- Christian Dior • New Look • Full bust lines • Tiny waists • Full skirts
What you need to do:
- Select one of the historical periods/fashion decades listed in the post
- Write about the key points about it (300+ words)
- Source min 6 images related to the post
- Acknowledge the sources of info at the end of the post
- Tick the Categories&Tags Category “Historical Furniture / Costume Styles” before publishing
- Prepare a short (2-3 min) presentation about your post
- Note the post is due on the 30th of March 2017, presentation is due next session
- Post min two comments (100+ words) on this posts from min two students from your group