Colonial Furniture: A Particular Style and Place

You might have heard of Colonial furniture and maybe even bought some. But what is it exactly? That’s what we’ll explore today.

Colonial furniture refers to the interesting furniture style that emerged in the British colonies of North America between the mid 1600s and mid 1700s. The industrious colonists of America developed their own designs of furniture that reflected their values of simplicity, functionality and mobility.

Colonial styled dresser (reproduction)

Although inspired in English design (Queen Anne and Georgian styles), Colonial furniture departs from the Old Continent for being more basic, multi-functional and light. With this, an elegant style emerged.

Queen Anne styled chair (reproduction)

Free from the heavy and opulent school of their European Baroque counterparts, the craftsmen were using predominantly pine and oak timbers and leaving the wood in its natural finish, or applying clear finishes like varnish or wax. With the passage of time, the furniture pieces would slowly change color and develop a unique patina.

We witness the frequent use of straight lines, S curves and of the interesting and iconic “Cabriole” legs and curved arms.

Colonial style American cabinet (reproduction)

Although simple in its essence, Colonial furniture sought to give comfort to its users. For example, the padding of chairs with fabric, crewel or damask was a mark of Colonial furniture. This also enhanced its aesthetic dimension.

In essence, the styles were borrowed from England but were “americanized” to satisfy particular the particular appetites of the colonists. And revolutionary designs would actually live far beyond colonial America.

Revivals and reproductions of Colonial furniture can still be purchased today in specialized antique shops and outlets in the UK and United States. And as with everything furniture, other colonial powerhouses developed their own undercurrent of this style.


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