Edwardian Furniture (1901-1910) - A Brief Overview
Still reaping the rewards from the industrial revolution Britain was in full flow, with large scale residential building in evidence and with it all furnishings and accessories being manufactured to put within.
A great many timbers were being used for furniture at this time, sourced from all around the world. The rarer or more exotic variables tended to be used for decoration, I.E. Ebony a very dark dense timber would be used for string inlay or maybe finely turned drawer knobs. The predominant woods of the day were oak, mahogany and walnut although the likes of rosewood, birch, ash and beech strongly featured.
The styles of furniture took many forms but variables of Sheraton, Hepplewhite, Adam and Chippendale were much in use. That said, there was also a place for 'modern' of the day, with a continuation of the over the top Victorian designs such as those given to the popular mirror back sideboards, not to mention the tail end of the Arts and Crafts movement, Aesthetic designs and the very popular Art Nouveau flamboyance having great popularity. It was a time of variety, with no fear of mixing and matching. Finding the strange twist of mixing one or more style. To give a simple example, a dining chair could be made with a Chippendale (Mid 18th Century) designed cabriole leg with ball and claw foot. The seat could be in the Queen Anne (Early 18th Century) style termed as saddle shaped. Whilst the back could be more of a Hepplewhite(Late 18th Century) shieldback design. If only to confuse matters more you might see a Sheraton(Late 18th Century) geometric inlaid cartouche in the centre of the back rail.
Love or hate any of these designs, there tended to be one overriding theme to the bulk of Edwardian furniture and that is the superb quality of the manufacture. Although, by this time in history Britain was at the forefront in mass production, with a great number of machines capable of hugely assisting in the production of furniture. E.G. machines that could produce dovetail joints and mortise and tenon joints had long been in evidence, but more inovative machinery and improvements to older designs, helped production immensely.
The very best way to understand the difference between the quality of manufacture of then and now, would be to simply open a drawer of an antique and then do the same with a modern piece. The antique will invariably be a much tighter fit, with very little side to side movement.
Just some of the more regarded cabinet makers of the day would include T Howard & Son, Lambs, Thomas Turner, Edwards & Roberts, Gillows, Shapland and Petter. Etc. These are just a few, there are a great many more that operated throughout the country and produced goods to an equally high standard. One quite remarkable thing about the majority of antique furniture is that even the very best would have a total lack of any maker’s identification. In today’s world of brand recognition this would be unheard of.
Whilst covering the main influences and product quality it would be absurd not to give a mention of the day’s fashions in furniture. Art Nouveau had arrived from Europe and was very popular, although a little extravagant for some tastes yet today you can look back and see great beauty in the flowing lines and decorative detail, still a much underrated area of antiques.
Also much in evidence, although coming to an end, was the Arts and Crafts movement. Relatively low scale through mid to late Victorian period, it still had a large following for those who appreciated its simple basic designs with little decoration and honest quality to its manufacture. Liberty was one of its main exponents in manufacture, through to opening retail outlets both at home and abroad.
All in all the era of Edwardian furniture could be generally summed up as prolific, varied, excellent quality of manufacture and yet in the scheme of things a very short period that only covered 9 years.