Popular Furniture Styles
Made popular in the 19th century, the Queen Anne style of furniture is known to have a lighter and more feminine appearance. It is most commonly noted for its curving shapes, cabriole legs (a leg that has both an upper and lower curve) and cushioned seats. Padded feet (sometimes claw feet) are a signature feature on many Queen Anne pieces. Another feature to look for is carved scroll and shell motifs typically found on the crest and knees of chairs. Queen Anne furniture is crafted from a variety of woods with brass or wooden hardware.
Originating in Rome at the beginning of the 17th century, this style of furniture is characterized by dramatic effects, grand design and details to impress. Some pieces are similar to the Queen Anne style, with curvy lines and cabriole legs. However, the majority of pieces are over-the-top with features such as gold, marble, cherubs, angels and mirrors. Intricate design details also tend to cover the arms, legs and any other open spaces along the furniture.
Mission style furniture is plain and simple in design. A strong emphasis is placed on vertical and horizontal lines. The pieces have no extra detail work and are known for their basic straight line construction. Most pieces are created in wood with a dark or medium stain. If the piece is for sitting, it is typically covered in leather material. Very basic iron, steel or copper is used as the hardware.
Very similar to the Queen Anne style, you'll find these pieces are slightly more elaborate. The Chippendale style can be classified into three types: French influence, Chinese influence and Gothic influence. Many Chippendale pieces have cabriole legs with padded claws, but with much more scroll work and fancy ornamentation. High quality mahogany wood and fine upholstered fabric are two key characteristics. Pieces for sitting are usually in horseshoe, square or trapezoid shapes and are upholstered in leather, silk, tapestry, velvet, needlepoint, hair cloth or brocade.
Sheraton is a neoclassical style characterized by delicate straight lines, light construction, contrasting veneers and ornamentation. At one time it was the most reproduced style in the United States. In contrast to Chippendale or Queen Anne styles, Sheraton pieces usually have straight or tapered legs, sometimes joined with stretchers. Many pieces often have more than one type of wood (satin, beech and mahogany being the most popular). Common details on these pieces include drapery swags, lyres, ribbons, fans, feathers, urns and flowers. Lion heads, stamped plates, rosettes and urns are typically found on the hardware. The majority of Sheraton pieces are square or rectangular. Sofas are noted for a clean flow without a noticeable break and exposed arms.
The elements of modern design include both curved and horizontal lines. Pieces such as shelves, tables and cases often have an appearance of "floating" with hidden support. Modern pieces are often asymmetrical, unembellished and are known to be longer and lower to the ground. Materials like molded plywood, plastic and metal are very common in modern furniture. The majority of modern pieces have slender legs that contribute to an open and airy atmosphere. You'll also find the furniture often has a bright pop of color to offset a bland room.
Contemporary style pieces stick with the theme that less is more. You'll find asymmetrical shapes with straight and simple lines and no decoration or ornament detail. Sofas, chairs and ottomans have exposed legs. Beds and chairs usually have no skirt, trim, fringe or other enhancements. The furniture is typically designed in neutral colors. What is considered to be contemporary furniture is always changing and is truly of the moment.
Victorian style furniture draws its influence from Queen Victoria and generally contains elaborate detailing like carvings and applied ornaments. Constructed to be long lasting, the wood used is very heavy in nature (such as mahogany, burr walnut, rosewood or ebony). Buttoned upholstery is a key standard in armchairs and sofas. Cabriole legs are found on tables, beds, chairs, desks and cabinets. Dark finishes on all pieces help to create a formal appearance.
Rustic furniture pieces appear to have a “worn in” look. They don't have a lacquered shine or contain any plastic. Many of the pieces are scratched and nicked to enhance their appearance. Often times real parts of tree branches and trunks are used to create a functional piece of furniture. For example, bed posts, chair legs, tabletops and lamp legs can be created from thick branches or tree trunks. Elements of wood and nature are present throughout rustic pieces.
Scandinavian contemporary pieces can be described as furniture that adds function. Concealed storage compartments, slide out tables and trundle beds are unique characteristics that set this style apart from others. You'll find that these pieces are made out of a variety of sturdy wood including ash, birch, black walnut, elm, hickory, mahogany, maple, oak and teak. They feature straight lines with a simple design and have very little ornamentation. The idea is function versus appearance. Hardware is typically made of wood and upholstery covers most seating pieces, chair arms and backs.