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An Introduction to Antique Furniture

Furniture has been a domestic necessity in all civilisations, ancient to modern (and in-between) and has been produced in large quantities over the centuries. Developed from humble beginnings whereby the furniture was constructed out of simple designs by and large cut straight from one section of a tree to more advanced skilfully constructed pieces made possible by more advanced construction and woodwork techniques.

The basic requirements and categories are few. We all need something to sleep on, chairs to sit on, tables and storage devices etc but it is the diversity within these sub-categories that is enormous.

Chairs and furniture for sitting extends from the very simplest wooden stools, settles and chairs to deeply upholstered sofas and settees. A wide variety of different tables can be used for dining or other domestic usage, working, recreation purposes or just for decoration.

Storage Furniture covers a multitude of varieties and uses from chests-of drawers, wardrobes, display cabinets and bookcases. Writing furniture includes bureaux, secretaires and desks.

When we come to think of it, the wide variety of furniture is never more visible than when we think of the wide variety of construction techniques used and the shape and decoration. These last categories have quite often been more affected by a region or country of origin, the maker and period of manufacture.

Much of the collectability of antique furniture comes from these very differences, but nevertheless just as important (lest we forget) are the aesthetic qualities of the timber that is used in the manufacture.

Whether this is hardwood, softwood, solid or veneered, stained and polished wooden furniture. If the furniture is well cared for it will increase in both desirability and value.

Furniture: The Basics

Over the Centuries, furniture has developed from simple designs cut from one basic section of a tree or bush, with joints held together by wooden pegs, to skilfully constructed and designed pieces made using increasingly more skilful and masterful techniques.

In many ways the 17th century was considered by many to be the golden era as far as furniture was concerned. After all in the UK this was the era of Thomas Chippendale (1718-79). From the 17th Century onwards, many items of furniture became smaller and lighter; seating became more upholstered for comfort. As wood turning skills developed and advanced, heavy, plain styles gave way to elegant designs with intricate carving and veneering. In the late 17th Century gilding and lacquering were introduced and the use of more exotic timbers and hardwoods began to increase with their import from worldwide.

In the next in this series of articles we will take amore in depth look at the basics of furniture styles and construction, woods, patination and decoration.

About the Author: Stephen Morgan is an independent journalist with an interest in Antiques ( ) Collectables ( and Memorabilia ( )

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