What Is Antique Victorian Furniture?

What is antique Victorian furniture? This question talks about what is considered a Victorian antique and the build of the furniture. Victorian furniture was extremely popular in America during the 1880s....

Victorian furniture was extremely popular in America during the 1880s. According to antique mall owner Claudia Reese, who has been studying, buying, and selling antiques for 20 years and owns 2nd Time Around Antique Mall in Twin Falls, Idaho, "This furniture was extremely well built for use in fabulous homes built by very wealthy Americans and many pieces have survived for over a century."


Queen Victoria reigned in England from 1837 to 1901 and her name is given to the furniture fashionable at the time. The style was influenced by the fact that modern mechanical tools created a change in the furniture scene during this period.




The first part of the Victorian period is characterized as Rococo Revival, copied after the Rococo period in France during the early 18th century when ornate furniture was covered with carved scrolls, flowers, and animal forms. In Rococo Revival, cabriole legs, scroll feet, sculptured contours, and intricate S and C carvings returned to American furniture. There was also an emphasis on carved clusters of fruit and vegetables. It seemed as though craftsmen were eager to try out their new mechanical "toys" on everything available.

Walnut was the favorite wood, followed by mahogany and rosewood. But solid wood was not particularly conducive to such elaborate ornamentation. Lamination was devised, and this process changed the way furniture was made and the way it was ornamented. German immigrant John Henry Belter was the leading promoter of Rococo Revival design using laminated wood. The lamination procedure, which was the forerunner of plywood, involved gluing together lengthy strips of one inch thick rosewood veneer. The minimum number of strips used was 6, and elaborate pieces could have up to 18 layers of veneer.

Rococo Revival furniture was sold en suite; meaning that for the first time American furniture was sold in sets. Chairs for gentlemen and ladies, chairs and sofas, dining room suites and bedroom furnishings were sold together. Marble tops were frequently used on commodes, chests of drawers, and tables.

Great attention was given to everything in a room matching. Rooms were wallpapered in large floral prints and crowded with bric-a-brac, now referred to as art glass, as well as kerosene lamps.

By the end of the Victorian period, virtually every world historical period had been copied by American furniture makers. Years of "borrowing" styles reached its peak during the Civil War years of 1861 to 1865. Following the war, historical accuracy was sacrificed as America entered the Industrial Revolution. Furniture was now produced by factory workers performing endless repetitive tasks instead of individual skilled craftsmen. Heavy, bulky pieces of furniture with large proportions and exaggerated details were back. Oak was the favorite wood, and furniture was often in a style called Golden Oak or Mission Oak. Better furniture was made of solid wood, but veneer was used to lower the cost. You can detect veneer by looking at the edges of the furniture for the seams created by laminating the veneer.

Many American museums and historic homes contain fine examples of Victorian furniture, and it is important to study the different styles within this period before buying pieces. Watch out for pieces that have been cut down to fit smaller, modern homes, and then covered with new tops and replaced panels.

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