A Primer of Popular Traditional Furniture Styles
Whatever your individual style or taste, it is important to know how to identify each style. If your best friend brags about the “To-die-for Louis XV side chair, “dah-ling”,” would you know what the heck she was talking about? Well, here is a primer on furniture types that will help you appear to be an expert whatever your neighbor buys next!
1. English Traditional
William and Mary – A simple and comfortable style with lots of upholstery, arched cabinetry and turned legs. Elaborately carved walnut was the wood of choice
Queen Anne – This style is hallmarked by graceful and lovely S-shaped cabriole legs. This style usually has limited ornamentation, but what is there is elegant – such as the scalloped shell motif.
Chippendale – Influenced by the Chinese, this style includes a ball and claw foot and richly carved legs.
Victorian – Overstuffed chairs and elaborate and ornate woods are elements of this style. Dark woods and elegant fabrics are also indicators of this style.
2. French Traditional
Louis XIV – Very ornate and massive furniture is the hallmark of this style. But while the pieces are enormous, their lines are straight and often rectangular.
Louis XV – This style features smaller scaled furniture, although it continues to be extravagant and ornate. Curves appear instead of the straight lines of Louis XIV. This style inspired a much-used fad of the 50s and 60s called French Provincial (remember white furniture with gilt trim?).
Louis XVI – This style is more subdued or subtle that earlier French styles, It has classic, almost Grecian lines that lack decoration and carving.
Empire – This style inspired other designs around the world such as Duncan Phyfe, Sheraton and Biedermeier. The furniture was massive, but symmetrical, with gentlly bowed fronts or legs.
3. American Traditional
American Traditional was influenced by English and French styles and eventually evolved into a uniquely American style.
Contemporary Modern – With its roots traced to the Bauhaus school of art in Germany, this style was simple, clean and geometric. The hallmark of this style is the idea that “form follows function.”
Country – This casual style is and expression of our American social, ethnic and religious culture. It includes styles such as the clean and simple lines of Shaker furniture, the massive simplicity of Mission, and similar styles from artisans in the Southwest and all corners of the country.
These are the traditional styles on which most décor is based, but I know of at least two others that I have used extensively in the past – Early Thrift Shop or Late Graduate Student. Those styles feature eclectic furniture and fabric choices and a budget of, say…ten bucks! Just love those cinder block bookcases, don’t you?