History of FUrniture

American furniture styles vary with their place in American history. Some furniture styles have an association with the period in history during which they originated, and other styles have an association with the person who originated the furniture design. Some furniture designs continue their popularity in current styles, and other furniture designs were passing fads that did not remain popular.


Pilgrim Period

The Pilgrim period spanned from 1640 to 1690. During this period, furniture was made out of either oak or pine. Furniture tended to be heavy and simple, with joints fastened by wooden pegs. Some furniture features carving into the wood. The Jacobean style is one example of furniture from this period. Jacobean-style furniture is made from oak and is generally large and sturdy. The furniture may have been upholstered with leather, silk, wool, or linen.


Early English and Colonial Period

The early English and colonial period of furniture design existed between 1620 and 1730. During this period, furniture styles such as 17th century, William and Mary, Queen Anne, and Chippendale originated. Furniture continued to be over-sized with simple lines. Furniture-makers added decor to wood pieces with low-relief carvings. Slowly over this period, furniture became more slender, as exhibited by the William and Mary, Queen Anne, and Chippendale styles.

Post-Colonial Period

The post-colonial period spanned from 1780 to 1840. During this time, American nationalism was strong as the new nation moved forward independent of England. The Federal, Empire, and Shaker styles were predominant during this era. The Federal furniture style features smooth surfaces and straight lines. Empire furniture style showcases more ornamentation, borrowed from ancient Greece and Rome. The Shaker style is simple and understated with straight lines and a distinct lack of ornamentation.

Victorian Period

The Victorian period existed between 1840 and 1900. During this era, furniture styles were heavy, dark, and elaborate. Furniture pieces featured heavy upholstery and distinctive carvings.

  • Furniture Styles: Read descriptions and pictures of various furniture styles on this page.
  • Victorian Age Furniture: An overview and pictures of Victorian furniture are available here.
  • The Victorian Parlour: This book, available here online, is a comprehensive guide to Victorian furniture styles and arrangements.
  • Victorian Furniture: Images of a Victorian furniture museum exhibit are shown on this site.

Mission Style

Arts and Crafts Period

The Arts and Crafts period was prominent between the years of 1900 and 1916. During this time, people concentrated on eliminating the clutter of the Victorian period to create more simple surroundings. The Mission style is representative of this period in history.

Modern Period

Modern furniture styles cover the past hundred years. These furniture designs include styles such as Art Deco and environmentally conscious styles made from labor processes and materials that do not impact the environment negatively. Art Deco focuses on geometric designs and color.

Art Deco