Styles of Furniture in History
Welcome to the Furniture Styles's collection of essays and pictures on the history and development of the enduring traditions, periods and eras of home furniture styles from around the world, both major and minor.
Uses and Meaning
The American Heritage Dictionary defines "furniture" as "movable articles in a room.... that render it fit for living or working". It's basic uses are:
- sitting or reclining;
- to provide flat surfaces on which to dine, write, etc.
In the multitude of design styles for furniture from chairs to sofas to desks, however, since ancient times to the contemporary era, furniture design and making has been an expression of culture and civilisation, of how we view the world and how we think it should be ordered, moving it above and beyond the merely functional aspect.
Furniture is all around us, taken for granted, and its real meaning can be obscured and then lost. This site seeks to open the eye and reveal furniture once again to us as one of the fine arts, as an expression of human genius and beauty.
The European & American Traditions
European furniture design styles and North American furniture styles generally follow the main splits and divisions in European and American culture, principally the historic interaction and struggle between the Classical view of life and the Romantic as can be seen in the history of English furniture.
Classicism & Romanticism
Most period or pre-modern furniture can be defined as either Classical or Romantic in design and meaning.
Classicism, rooted in ancient furniture times and echoed weakly in the medieval furniture period, in relation to the history of furniture design, is symmetrical in lines, serious and grand in aspect, rigorous and balanced in construction. The archetypal Classical furniture is that of the seventeenth century Baroque style.
Romanticism, in contrast, urges on us joyfulness, passion, humor, and movement. The eighteenth century Rococo style of furniture is the finest expression of the Romantic view in the realm of home decor.
The story of the Asian furniture world is in sharp distinction to the European. Over a great many centuries styles of design changed little until contact with the Western world ensued.
Chinese & Japanese
Overwhelmimgly dominant in importance here are the Japanese, minimalist, and the Chinese, ornate, traditions and styles which have had considerable influence on Western designers.
This historical look at furniture making, art and design is an attempt to relate the meaning of furniture styles and history to the present day needs of home furnishings and decor, to acquaint the reader with the knowledge and understanding required to accurately express her own tastes in furniture. We hope you enjoy it.