Furniture Styles: A to Z

by HFM Team on May 7, 2012

Furniture styles and preferences vary with each individual.  These days, it is becoming more acceptable to mix and match one or more furniture styles within your home environment.  Following are characteristics of some of the more commonly recognized styles and periods of home furnishings. 

 American Colonial:  Large-proportioned, sturdy, yet simple; often made of maple, oak or pine; featuring hutches, cupboards and dry sinks.

 Art Deco:  From the 1920s, neoclassical style featuring disciplined decoration with exotic-looking materials; generous filling, incorporating bright lacquers and colors.

 Arts and Crafts:  A style marked by beauty and quality in superior design and execution applied to utilitarian objects.  Influential exponents included architect Frank Lloyd Wright and furniture designer Gustav Stickley.  The Arts and Crafts movement ushered in the age of Art Nouveau.

 Asian:  Sometimes called Oriental, showcases cultures of prominent Eastern countries.  Uses carved wooden designs with hand-painted details or simplistic, clean lines with low styling.

 Chippendale:  Well-proportioned; curved; richly carved, usually in mahogany; claw-and-ball foot distinctive on cabriole chairs and table legs.  Gothic and Chinese styles use straight leg, extensive fretwork and carvings.

 Contemporary:  Clean, simple and controlled; utility featured; frequently makes use of chrome, brass-plate, glass, wood, veneers, lacquers, laminates, plastic and leather.

 Country:  Often weighty in appearance, in categories including Early American, French, English; sometimes called “provincial.”

 Early American:  Antique or reproduction, reflecting European influences; chiefly English; sturdy, simple design; local woods, particularly maple, oak, pine.

 Mission:  Simple, strong style with clean lines; tongue and groove design.  Often has a square look with wooden slates; predominately oak and cherry woods used.

 Modern:  Broad category of unique designs not imitative of classic tradition; simple, easy to maintain, functional.

 Oriental:  Generally simple design; highly finished, often lacquered; hand-painted (chinoiserie) detail; prominent hardware; some periods heavily ornamented.

 Rustic:  Emphasis on natural and unrefined sources such as whole tree logs and branches; distressed woods and wrought iron.  Natural fabrics include leather, wool or cotton.

 Shabby Chic:  Somewhat rustic, woods painted using a distressed, aged look.  Casual, comfortable upholstery; overstuffed or slipcovered designs.

 Shaker:  Simple, well-proportioned, lightweight furniture; soundly constructed from local woods such as pine, walnut, maple and furitwoods; virtually unornamented; sometimes painted or color-stained.

 Traditional:  European-influenced, especially 18th and 19th centuries; named for reigning rulers or originators; decoration includes gilt, fretwork, carvings, ball-and-claw feet and luxurious fabrics.

 Transitional:  A blend of traditional and contemporary styles.  A comfortable, timeless design; furniture lines are simple yet sophisticated featuring either straight lines or rounded profiles.

 Tuscan:  Inspired by country homes of Italy; charming, rustic, farmhouse designs.  Mismatched, clean lined pieces provide a simple elegance.

 Victorian:  Substantial styles with dark finishes; heavy carvings often feature fruit and flowers.

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