Over the last few weeks, we’ve covered a very brief history of furniture styles, starting way back in the Stone Age and making our way through distinct cultures and eras like Ancient Egypt and the Dark Ages all the way to the end of the Renaissance across Europe! Toward the waning end of the Renaissance, the Jacobean era began in Britain with the crowning of King James VI of Scotland and I of England. Let’s take a look at the Jacobean era of furniture and what followed.
The Jacobean era is named such because “Jacobus” is the Latin version of the name James, in reference to the king of the era. Jacobean furniture took a distinctive turn away from the curved legs and soft angles of the Renaissance and instead chairs and tables became straighter, with a greater reliance on right angles. Especially toward the end of the Jacobean era in the Cromwell years, furniture became squarer with bolder lines and fewer curves. However spiral legs did also become popular during this time and were often the only curves found on chairs.
The Colonial Era saw the combination of several regional European furniture styles exported and combined in the new world of the Americas. Curvy designs had begun seeing a comeback and so turned legs and knobbly feet were a common sight! The earliest known piece of American made furniture was crafted around 1660 and was a carved chest created by Nicholas Disbrowe. Early pieces were very reminiscent of British Age of Oak furniture, but did carry a distinctive colonial style. Dutch and French settlers also brought influences to Colonial era furniture and Spanish colonists in the South brought with them such distinctive designs that their styles led to its own branch of Colonial furniture known as Southwestern or Mission style.
Rococo furniture was the primary design of the 18th century and was widespread throughout Western Europe and North America. Rococo design represented a turn away from more simplistic and sturdy styles of the less affluent eras prior and toward more curvy, decorative, and fanciful designs. Exquisitely carved chairs, tables, and beds with floral designs or other patterning spread across the entire piece were common, and this era is commonly considered the golden era of high-quality carpentry and master cabinetmakers. The craft of furniture design would soon undergo a huge industrialisation process and cheaper mass-produced furniture would overtake the market. So, Rococo design represents one of the last design eras before the decline of hand-carved furniture! Next week we’ll look at how this affected future designs in part 5!