The History of Furniture Header

Drawing of Ancient Greek Bed

Furniture is defined as movable equipment that is created to make a person’s office or home more suitable and comfortable for living or working. Furniture can be used for storage, seating or sleeping. The concept of furniture first developed as early as 3100-2500 B.C. The first items created for household use were made of stone, as wood was not readily available during the Neolithic time period. Dressers, cupboards and beds were amongst the first forms of furniture. The dresser was said to be the most important piece of furniture in the beginning, as they faced the entrance of each house in Neolithic society and often displayed carved artwork of symbolic objects. Over the years, especially in modern years, the concept of functional furniture in households exploded while keeping the artwork aspect that was displayed in the Neolithic period. This has made way for pieces in our culture that are both functional to our everyday lives but also a form of artwork that are pleasant to look at. The basic design of most furniture has remained the same for the most part though material and stability has become stronger and longer lasting with more of a focus on comfort and luxury in our modern lives. Chairs have become designed as more than just a place to sit, but as a place to relax with items such as recliners and rocking features. Beds are designed to comfort us as we sleep instead of providing the mere basics to keep us from lying upon the ground. The design change in furniture, in a way, shows the evolution of our society from mere survival to lives of luxury and privilege.


  • Neolithic Period – The Neolithic period, (approximately 5,500-2,500 B.C.), gave the world the first documented instances of furniture being used in ancient times; Orkney, Scotland is where stone dressers and cupboards originated for the purposes of storage.
  • The Classical World – From the 9th-8th Century B.C., in Ancient Egypt and Greece, the most popular forms of furniture were beds found within tombs of Queens and Pharaohs to rest their deceased bodies upon, as well as chairs and wooden headrests in lieu of pillows for common Ancient Egyptians.
  • Early Modern Europe – Furniture from 500-1500 A.D. (Or ‘Medieval furniture‘), was designed in European. Chairs were popular for seating and were often made of heavy oak with exquisite artistic designs.
  • 19th Century – Between the years of 1801-1900, 19th Century furniture was very artistic and detailed. Gothic styles were popular and chairs often had fancy cut-out designs. The intricate designed chairs were often used by the wealthy at dinners.
  • Early North American – Early North American furniture dates to the early 20th century in America, furniture was more basic and made of necessity versus fancy artistic and detailed designs; basic dressers for storage and simplistic chairs and stools for sitting, were often made of woods such as cherry or walnut as they were easily bent with a steaming process.
  • Modernism – In post World War II (1945 & after), simple, sleek furniture designs were influenced by artists and designers with roots in Germany (Marcel Breuer), France (Eileen Gray), Spain (Lilly Reich) and Japan (Isamu Noguchi); chairs representing basic seating needs in combination with artistic designs became very popular in this era.
  • Ecodesign – Ecodesign can be traced back to the 1920’s, in America, when people became somewhat aware of the toll some materials can take on the environment though it‘s popularity did not blossom until the 1960‘s; furniture in Ecodesign is increasingly popular in modern days as it uses resources that are quickly grown and replaced such as bamboo, bamboo tables (kitchen tables as well as simple coffee tables) are popular examples of Ecodesign furniture used for holding items, without draining Earth‘s resources.
  • Contemporary – Contemporary furniture refers to all modern or recent furniture designs, (from the 1970’s onward), from all over the world, aluminum and iron furniture are popular materials used in sleek and geometric contemporary designs; iron kitchen/dining room tables are amongst the most popular styles.
Contemporary Living Room in Modern House


Types of Furniture

Antique Rustic European Bed
  • Chair – Chairs have changed greatly throughout history. There are many different types of chairs depending on its usage. I.E. Dining table chairs, folding chairs, lawn chairs, etc. Pictures and their descriptions are included in the link.
  • Love Seat – A love seat is a smaller version of a couch that can seat two people comfortably. It became known as a “love seat” due to popularity during the Victorian Era when it was used by courting couples who wished to keep their conversation private enough without being in each others personal space.
  • Couch – A couch or sofa, is long piece of furniture designed to seat multiple people while providing both back and arm support.
  • OttomanOttomans are padded foot stools that are usually are shaped in a box-like fashion. They are often place at the end of chairs, love-seats, or even sofas/couches for added leg support. Many ottomans today have a place for storing blankets, pillows, etc.
  • Recliner – A recliner is a chair that is often upholstered and padded for maximum comfort. Recliners have the ability to lean backwards and usually feature a built-in footrest that extends from the front of the chair for optimum relaxation.
  • Watchman’s Chair – Watchman’s chairs were developed with a forward slant, versus a reclining slant, to provide comfortable seating. It was not comfortable enough to fall asleep in while men were on guard and keeping a look-out for potential danger.
  • Coffee Table – Coffee tables (or cock-tail tables) are low tables that are usually placed in front of a sofa or love seat. The purpose of a coffee table is for beverages, food, or a place to set one's feet after a long day.
  • Desk – Desks are essentially tables with flat surfaces but they have drawers and a place for an individual to sit. Desks were designed to provide a person with the most efficient means of storing office supplies and paperwork while still being able to sit at the desk and work.
  • TableTables have flat surfaces with ‘legs’ that provide stability so that items are able to steadily be placed upon it.
  • End Table – An end table refers to a very small table that is placed at the end of a sofa or love seat and is often used to hold lamps, decorative pieces or drinks.
  • Bed – A bed is made up of a mattress and frame. A bed is used for people looking to rest or sleep in a complete horizontal position. Today some beds have the ability to change lumbar support with the touch of a button.
  • Piano – A large musical instrument that is played for entertainment purposes. Often people use pianos as a decorative piece in their homes and for entertaining guests.
  • Television Set – A complicated, electronic piece of furniture used for entertainment purposes to view television broadcasts and shows. Today it has become a major communication staple for people for entertainment and news purposes.


Back to Article Library