American Antique Era's

American Antique Era's

Antique Era's in America

Previously I wrote a blog about the difference between vintage and antique furniture and how you differentiate between the two.  While doing my research for that article I stumbled onto the 12 era's or periods of American furniture and thought I needed to research further and learn more about these time periods.  So here goes to sharing. 

Early American - 1640 to 1700

First, let me state, this was almost 400 years ago.  I am not sure I can even trace my genealogy back that far at least not on my maternal grandmothers side.  I mean my mother, grandmother and I are all still vintage.  In all seriousness this era was noted as the first period where distinct style appeared within furniture pieces that was beyond practicality.   You began to see ornamental carvings, finials, raised panels and woodturnings.  Previously I talked about dovetails joining furniture, during this era you saw the mortise and tenon style and the varieties of wood used were cherry, maple, oak, and pine.   

Mortise and Tenon Joint


Colonial - 1700 to 1780

English style furniture influenced this era.  The American settlers mirrored the William and Mary, Queen Anne and the Chippendale style, however they were far more conservative with the ornamental designs.  Here is where you start to see the dovetail joint in the craftsmanship.  Additional woods were introduced and you could find furniture made with mahogany, elm and walnut.


Pennsylvania Dutch - 1720 to 1830

Here we experience the German influence, a simple and utilitarian style.  The decoration on the furniture was colorful and provided hand-painted scenes.  You will see straight lines, tapered legs and the prominent wood was walnut, oak and pine.  

Federal - 1780 to 1820

The Federal period had a French and English influence.  You saw contrasting woods that helped create shapes and design. Banding with contrasting veneers provided decorative borders and brass hardware was used to add a variety of shapes.


Sheraton - 1780 to 1820

This period was named after Thomas Sheraton, he was a famous London, England furniture designer who trained as a cabinet maker.  This furniture went heavy on veneers and rich upholstery and was widely reproduced.  If you saw carvings the were most likely conservative, the hardware was brass and the joints were dovetail.  

American Empire - 1800 to 1840

This period was influenced predominantly by the French.  The influence shows in the curved arms, cabriole legs and the paw or claw foot.  Furniture pieces were crafted in a way that felt heavy and substantial. For instance, thick columns, pillars, heavy drawers, shelves and sturdy feet. You will see rich dark woods like mahogany and walnut, glass panels on doors, inlaid brass along with veneers of fine woods to create more affordable pieces.

Shaker - 1820 to 1860

The United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing also known as the Shakers influenced this era with their minimalist design.  You will see straight lines, woven or cane material, basic hardware and locking joinery.  

Victoria - 1840 to 1910

Let me introduce the furniture period inspired by Queen Victoria, the Queen of England.  This elaborate and formal furniture was certainly different than the simple Shaker period it followed. Needlepoint and tapestry adorned the most intricate pieces.  The wood was ornate, the upholstery matched the ornateness of the wood, which was often black walnut, oak, maple and ash.  Rosewood inlays were introduced for contrast.  

Arts and Craft - 1880 to 1920

This movement was not about grabbing your glue, scissors and crayons, it was about the emphasis on quality and hand craftsmanship.  We have William Morris an author, artist and designer to thank for this era.  The style was an alternative to cheaply designed, mass-produced furniture, with a simpler, more basic look than the popular ornate Victorian design. 




Art Nouveau  - 1890 to 1910

Art Nouveau is an ornamental style that is characterized by its use of curved lines, and themes found in nature with extensive references to flowers and trees.  Furniture was crafted with Brazilian mahogany, oak, walnut, pearwood, iron, steel, bronze and cast iron.  This style of furniture was expensive to produce because it took a great deal of skill to produce all the curves which often meant the furniture was crafted by hand.  

Traditional Revival - 1920 to 1950

After reading several articles on this period there is not much to say.  The traditional revival period was a revival of the Colonial and the Federal periods.  The period relied on intricate inlays, veneers and shapely turnings to decorate what were primarily straight lines. 


Modern and Post Modern - 1950 to Present

 There is not more English and French influence.  Instead you will see Asian and African influences.  Furniture is being built from mass-produced materials such as molded plywood, metals and plastics. 

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