The Victorian furniture style was named after England’s monarch from 1837 to 1901. It is a decorative style that is known for its excessive ornamentation. It revived historic styles through eclecticism or the combination of different styles and brought in influences from Asia and the Middle East.
In the 18th and 19th Centuries, Britain enjoyed the fruits of the Agricultural Revolution which in turn fueled the Industrial Revolution. With increasing wealth, the British middle class grew in number and with the increased wealth came an appetite for a new style to decorate homes with.
The Grecian lines were too simplistic and Georgian furniture did not ape their new taste. They wanted furniture that was grand, glossy, and curvaceous. They desired pieces that had intricate ornamentations and rounded corners. The furniture designers combined motifs and design elements from different periods using mahogany, rosewood, and the readily available oak as the preferred materials.
Iron had its place in the Victorian bedroom. This was during the onset of the Industrial Revolution, so furniture makers made their furniture by hand rather than machines and relied on pin hinges, dovetail joints, turned handles, and turned bun feet to put the pieces together.
The Victorian style turned furniture more feminine and graceful. Comfort was a significant consideration in the design and produced sofas, easy chairs, and padded dining chairs. In the 1880s, reproductions of Chippendale, Sheraton, and Tudor styles became in demand.
Curved backs, some scrolls and reed decorative elements were the distinctive features of Early Victorian Era furniture. They were influenced by the Regency and the short William IV Period. To entertain, card game tables were popular. Military campaign furniture which can easily be folded up and carried away, were likewise popular.
Middle Victorian Era furniture was more glossy and curvaceous. Upholstery was a main feature as the emphasis was on comfort. They were characterized by scrolled backs, turned knobs, and simpler moldings. Carved decorations were kept at a minimal.
The Late Victorian Era furniture were characterized by their plumpness and carved ornamentations. Furthermore, new styles such as Art Nouveau and Arts and Craft emerged. Eclecticism was evident in medieval and Gothic decorative elements in heavy furniture pieces made of dark oak and mahogany were well-liked.
Arts and Crafts Style which focused on simplicity and honesty of design came in vogue by the middle up to the end of the Victorian Era. They were handcrafted, sturdy, and had little ornamentation. The makers left the wood unvarnished and used solid wood pieces that had no veneer coatings. The end product was furniture that looked plain but sensible. One of the famed cabinet makers of that time, Morris and Co. made cabinets with simple designs but added side panels that were painted with whimsical scenes from the medieval era. The Arts and Crafts Style movement wanted to express that handmade furniture can be very stylish and yet reasonably priced.
Towards the end of the Victorian Era, Britain saw the birth of the art nouveau style that also influenced furniture design such as those made by Hugh Baillie Scott and Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Art nouveau flourished and exerted influence even up to furniture made during the Edwardian times.
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