Victorian Furniture – Circa 1837 -1901

 

The 64 year reign of Queen Victoria encompassed a number of different styles, woods and degrees of craftsmanship. Britain was in its prime with a growing empire and the industrial revolution in full flow. Much more machinery was developed and improved to give assistance to furniture manufacturers and cabinet makers. This brought about a much greater output and for the first time, the masses enjoyed the luxury of dining and bedroom furniture.

 

Although there were a great many fringe designers throughout this era, a pattern can be seen of general design changes starting in the 1840’s with mahogany and rosewood the main timbers in use and the style of furniture being a much heavier version of previously elegant Georgian/Regency periods.

 

Examples of this would be the slender reeded leg of the late Georgian period (1800) changed to the much heavier fluted leg that was first seen through the William 4th period 1830-7 and was in fashion up to the 1850’s. Variations of the ballroom back chair was very much expanded upon, but once again most of the production was of a heavier looking nature.

 

Come the mid 19th century and a completely different style came to fore, namely a strong French Louis XV influence and with it a change to a more elegant couple of decades and a dramatic shift to walnut as the main timber of choice. The straight turned and fluted leg gave way to the curved cabriole style so popular in 18th century France. Burr walnut veneers came very much in evidence and were usually accompanied by boxwood and ebony inlays. Sideboards gave way to credenzas and simple pedestal desks were joined with bonheur du jour’s decorative gilded brass mounts and porcelain plaques were de regour.

 

All in all this short period of time was probably the best of Victorian furniture and is still popular today 150 years later. Whilst this was the mainstay of furniture production, the revival of oak being used to promote both Gothic and Baroque styles was starting to take hold as Britain started to move into the latter part of the 19th century. Carved oak was becoming increasingly evident and a great many pieces from the 18th century were given the added adornation of previously plain panels.

 

Come 1870 and once again elegance gave way to the heavier looking designs of the late 19th century and timbers, again reverted to a predominance of mahogany with oak, pine and figured walnut also playing a large part. The later into the century the greater the assemblage of different styles were in production with arts and crafts, art nouveau joining the fray. At this same time another revival in Chippendale, Hepplewhite and Sheraton were taking hold again.

 

The Victorian era was one of great variety and manufacturing on a much greater scale than ever seen before. Whilst others may argue differently, the 18th century was really the heyday of Britain design in both architecture and furnishings and unlikely to be surpassed any time soon. Amazingly its been out of fashion this past 15 years and never has there been a better time to acquire furniture from the 18th century.