We are now arriving at the 19th century in our history of furniture series. Back in the 19th-century Victorian furniture refers to the style of antique furniture that was made during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901). This era is also known for the “Revival Furniture”. Revival furniture simply refers to a furniture designer’s recovery of styles of the past. The furniture and interior business of the 19th century saw an unprecedented series of revivals which brought back to the styles characteristic of different historical periods. It was creating huge waves of revivals with nostalgic nods to the past. Victorian furniture pieces are valued for their opulence and elegance. Queen Victoria’s taste for grandeur shaped the period enormously, and grand and elaborate furniture was in fashion for much of her reign.
There is a rich variety within Victorian furniture, each piece having been influenced by its individual revival. Pieces can be identified via their iconic features which make them authentic to their time. In this article, we explore some of these different styles. And take a look at what aspects of Victorian furniture you should look out for to identify them when purchasing pieces.
Due to the fact that the Victorians copied older designs when creating furniture, identifying whether a piece is Victorian or older can be tricky. However, the below tips should give you some pointers about how to identify Victorian furniture.
Key identifiers of Victorian furniture:
Victorian furniture was usually made from Walnut for smaller pieces such as small tables. Meanwhile from Mahogany for large pieces such as wardrobes, dining tables, and bookcases. Sometimes these pieces featured Flame Mahogany veneers and used walnut and rosewood for decoration of, for example, tabletops.
Chairs were more curved in design than earlier pieces and usually of 3 main styles. The Spoon back armchair with a buttoned or plain upholstered backrest with scrolled arms and toes, with carved legs; the nursing chair with the same style of backrest but much lower and without arms; and the balloon back chair used around a dining room table with an open circular backrest, with just the base upholstered and an open back. The next typically Victorian chair is the Nursing chair. Much like the Spoon Back, it has the same style of backrest but doesn’t include arms. It is much lower in stature, getting its name from being used to cradle or feed a newborn during this era.
Balloon Back Chair
The last example is the Balloon back chair. This chair’s primary use was as a dining or occasional chair. It is easily recognized for its open circular backrest, much like a balloon in shape. Unlike the Spoon Back and Nursing chair, only the base of the Balloon back was generally upholstered, with armchairs in this design usually being reserved for the head of a grand dining table.
The Victorian era was a period of increasing wealth, an expanding middle class, and a boom in mass production facilitated by the Industrial Revolution. Victorian-era housing was built to accommodate people from all walks of society and income levels. This meant everything from close rows of terraced houses built for factory workers on crowded narrow streets that didn’t include gardens or sanitation to semi-detached and detached houses that by the end of the Victorian era featured modern conveniences like running hot and cold water, sanitation, and gas.
Most Victorian furniture is a mixture of many other styles including Gothic, Tudor, Elizabethan, Rococo, and Neoclassic, with Gothic and Rococo being the most common. True Victorian furniture is difficult to recognize because of this mixing of styles. The Victorian look was typically cluttered with dark furniture, heavy fabrics, and lots of china and glassware as accessories.
The Industrial Revolution transformed manufacturing processes and made the middle class more prosperous. The new wealth required a means of showcasing this new status in homes. The manufacturing capabilities of the Industrial Revolution caused Victorian furniture to be the first style of furniture to be mass-produced in order to fulfill the decorating needs of the newly prosperous. Direct contact between the individual craftsmen and the purchaser no longer existed. Furniture pieces were made by multiple persons, rather than a single craftsman creating an entire piece, which eventually cheapened the quality of craftsmanship. Victorian furniture was a precursor to other styles such as Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts. In Kaliuda Gallery, you can find several of our antique furniture collections and you can definitely order custom revival furniture depending on your needs.