Antique Furniture Glossary

ADAM STYLE FURNITURE - This is the British neoclassical style that predominated from about 1760 to 1790. It was established by architect Robert Adam and his brother, James. Its characteristics are slender, graceful lines, refined shapes, and restrained ornamentation.

ART DECO FURNITURE - This furniture style was derived from an historic Paris exposition in 1925 that celebrated the marriage of art and industry in rejection of Art Nouveau. It introduced simple, streamlined forms that were interpreted in exotic woods and materials. American designers of the 1930s took this look further, using asymmetry, arcs, sleek lines, and geometric shapes not only in furniture, but also in architecture and a wide range of household objects.

ART NOUVEAU FURNITURE-  This style is based on the "new art" of Europe in about 1875. Flowing, nearly freeform shapes from nature were carved and painted on furniture. An elongated, slightly curved line that ends in a more abrupt second curve is its most characteristic design.

ARTS AND CRAFTS FURNITURE-  This is a furniture style and a movement that emerged in England toward the end of the 19th century in reaction to the excesses of the Victorian era and the Gay Nineties. Its craftsmanship has deliberately simple shapes with exposed joinery and spare ornamentation. William Morris and John Ruskin were among its proponents in England. 

FEDERAL FURNITURE-   This American furniture style is from 1780, following the Revolution, to 1830. It began by echoing the neoclassical  styles of such English masters as Adam, Hepplewhite and Sheraton.  It later took on influences from France. Duncan Phyfe is among its most notable craftsmen. Federal style furniture is refined and rectilinear, often with veneering and inlay. Brass feet and casters and brass-ring drawer and door pulls are common.

GEORGIAN FURNITURE- Refers to furniture styles that evolved during the long reign of England's three Georges, I, II, and III, from 1714 to 1795. Popular motifs were eagles' heads and claws, leaves, satyrs' masks, and lions' heads and claws.

VICTORIAN FURNITURE-  This style was named for England's Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837 to 1901. This style applied to English and American furniture of that time, particularly in the mid-years of her reign. That furniture elaborates on Rococo and Louis XV style, with exaggerated curves and size, lush upholstery, spools, and carvings. A characteristic is horsehair cushioning.

MISSION STYLE FURNITURE-  The Mission style grew out of England’s late 19th Century Arts & Crafts movement, most closely identified with philosopher/ designer William Morris (whose wallpaper and fabric designs remain popular and in production).  Morris and his allies believed England’s Industrial Revolution was undermining not only traditional craftsmanship, but the quality of everyday life. They struck out against cheap materials, shoddy workmanship and the excessive ornamentation of late Victorian furniture. 

QUEEN ANNE FURNITURE- This style of furniture arose in England during the reign of Queen Anne, from 1702 to 1714, in a break from French influences. Walnut veneering was popular, and gentle, subtle curves added grace. This period marked the development of secretaries and china cupboards with serpentine arms, and soft, rounded frames and shapes.