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Victorian Furniture Style Guide

Victorian is an intricate furniture style. It embodies the elegance and dark beauty of rich furnishings. It distinguishes itself with its dark finish, elaborate carvings, and decorations, and is visually and physically heavy.

This style emerged during the reign of Queen Victoria of England, hence the term Victorian. This style applies to furniture made from 1840 to 1910. This period marked the rise of the English middle class, so there was a greater demand for furniture. As a result, Victorian furniture became the first furniture type which was mass-produced.

Wood used includes ash, black walnut, maple, oak, rosewood, and butternut. Victorian furniture mostly has a finish of oil varnish and chair seats are mostly upholstered. Chair seats are usually curved, square, or horseshoe shaped with a rounded or serpentine front.

With the various influences from earlier periods and art furniture movements, there arose different Victorian styles. The following are the more popular ones.

Gothic Revival. This is a style that was prevalent from 1830 to 1860. This design takes influence from church art. Its elements include arches, spires, quatrefoils, trefoils, and crockets. High-back chairs, some with upholstery and with straight legs, became popular during this period. Furniture design borrowed ideas from Gothic architecture, which became evident in chairs that have splats forming pointed arches. This kind of style is usually for libraries and even the dining room.

Earlier Victorian style derived influence from earlier periods such as English Rococo, Renaissance, and Gothic. Carvings and ornamentation were extensive. The latter Victorian style is characterized by less ornamentation, darker stains, and straight lines. 

Rococo Revival. This furniture style was used to make furniture from 1840-1865. It has a French influence and furniture of this style is usually used for drawing rooms or parlors, which explains its feminine touch as these rooms are mostly used by women. It is characterized by designs of flowers, fruit, shells, C-scrolls, and S-scrolls as well as curved lines. Rococo revival furniture is elaborately carved and the chairs are mostly upholstered.

Renaissance Revival. From 1860 to 1890, this style flourished. This has a more masculine influence as evidenced by arches, columns, rosettes, inlaid and burl panels, gilt incising, animal and human figures, and ormolu mounts and uses rectilinear shapes. Renaissance revival furniture can be used to furnish bedrooms and reception rooms. It uses walnut as well as ash or pine. Most of the chairs and sofas from this period are upholstered. There are sub-genres in this style; some of them are Egyptian revival, Modern Gothic, and Neo-Grec.

Eastlake and Aesthetic Movement. This style shows a departure from the intricate and complicated designs of the previous periods. This was from 1880 to 1900. The characteristics of this Victorian style are natural elements such as flowers and leaves, rectangular forms, shallow turnings, and on some pieces, inlays and veneering. Furniture designers became more innovative and depended less on established furniture designs. Styles were no longer strictly prescribed for a particular room.

Whatever style you choose, Victorian furniture gives an antique, luxurious, and opulent look to your home. It brings the beauty and regal air of a rich period into your 21st century home.

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