Antique Bedroom Furniture
The earliest forms of bedroom furniture in Britain would mainly have been made from our native oak and the most well-known and easiest to recognise would be the bedding box and the four poster beds. Both of these items most likely originated in continental Europe and brought to Britain in medieval times.
The four poster beds were strictly the reserve of the wealthy and as we moved through the 16th + 17th century the styles became increasingly decorative starting with a more simple gothic design through to linenfold carving. Elizabethan carved baluster and on to a combination of floral inlays and carvings in the Stuart period. Great attention would be given to the pelmets and drapes which would have been made from woven tapestries and imported silks.
By the time the 18th Century arrived the catalogue of bedroom furniture had greatly multiplied with the arrival of the chest of drawers, chest on stand, dressing chest with a kneehole and a variety of mirrors, including the swivel toilet mirror which prevails even today.
This century was to be the peak of design and craftsmanship in Britain from the beautiful simple lines of the Queen Anne period which was married to wonderful walnut veneers, then on to the introduction of mahogany in George 1st period with Thomas Chippendale founding his workshops in the mid-18th century to be joined by Robert Adam, Thomas Sheraton and George Hepplewhite, a group of designers and cabinet makers that proved to be unsurpassed before or since.
Bedroom furniture was not to be neglected with wardrobes now playing a major part, night commodes proved a popular addition and the styles of all furniture had moved from the heavy carved oak of the 17th century to the restrained elegance of most 18th century designs. This was added to with the introduction of a greater variety of timbers, rosewood and satinwood strongly flavoured.
As Britain moved into the 19th century and the industrial revolution took hold, bedroom furniture started to arrive for the working classes, that said, the principle items of bedroom furniture remained the same with the half tester bed more popular than the four poster and later came the advent of the more simple bed ends with iron side rails. Bedside cupboards became much more popular which enabled the chamber pot to be housed, poorer families would push to pot under the bed. Another addition came in the mid-19th century, this being the marble topped wash stand. Water was still being brought into the bedrooms in large pitchers/jugs and the introduction of marble tops with matching or tiled backs would have been much easier to keep clean. Most late Victorian washstands were fitted with towel rails to the sides which put paid to the free standing towel rail that was extremely popular from 1860-1890. As popular and welcome as the washstand was, its days were also numbered as internal plumbing became the norm. That might have been the end as a bedroom piece, but nowadays they have found many alternative uses such as drinks cabinets, telephone tables etc.
Antique bedroom furniture is still a very popular and well regarded, with most pieces still serving their original purpose. It is testament to their quality of materials and craftsmanship that they can more than hold their own in any company of today’s offerings. Many people preferring their free standing nature that can allow removal, opposed to the modern fitted varieties of today.