Early Modern Furniture – From the Fifteenth Century to Today
The word furniture dates back to the days of ancient Greece and Rome. Some of the earliest known furniture dates from about 3000 BC, which includes a wooden hutch from the Mycenaean civilization. Ancient civilizations eventually replaced wooden furniture with more durable metals such as bronze and iron. Bronze was used for weapons and tools but later on wood was used because it is cheaper.
Furniture dates back to the early Medieval Times in Europe, when ruling emperors and royalty would often send their officials to spend time at castles or manor houses, which were constructed with expensive and lavish furniture. During the Early Middle Ages, wealthier families would also furnish their homes, usually consisting of a large amount of rich wood furniture. In Europe, the wealthy would often dress like monks and draw their veils over their faces. Because of this extravagance, furniture became associated with status. This is evident by the French word, haute monde, which means “hundred thousand pieces” or “a million pieces”.
During the Regency Period, the furniture design style was largely influenced by the Chinese influence. During this period, Britain became involved in the importation of Chinese wooden ornaments and furniture designs. By the eighteenth century, there were furniture designs coming from both the European and the Chinese countries. The nineteenth century brought the Great Exhibition in London, which showcased a variety of imported furniture including Chinese tables and cabinets. This furniture was often highly decorated, which explains why many wealthy homeowners chose to decorate their entire homes with these ornaments and furnishings.
In addition to being seen as highly decorative, Chinese furniture for the table included a wide array of different materials. The most common materials for the tables in the cabinets were walnut, cherry, mahogany, oak, birch, bamboo, and walnut. Other popular materials used for making the cabinet were metal, iron, glass, wood, paper, or porcelain. Because of the variety of materials, it was not always easy to find the right ones for the table. It is important to choose the right materials, because some materials are more durable than others, depending on the use. There are various styles of chairs that include the Chinese box seat or the umbrella seat, which helped to increase the variety of furniture available.
Furniture for the seating of the sitting room was often created from wood or wicker. For example, benches, footstools, lounge seats, armchairs, and day chairs often had cushions or padded seats. As the sitting room grew in popularity, wicker became more popular and it became possible to create such items as day beds or sun loungers. Many of these types of furniture have become hallmarks of classic English style architecture.
Furniture for the storage of articles or for displaying things was made in the same way as the wicker chairs and chest. The storage spaces were normally created with drawers that were attached to the side of the furniture. These kinds of chests or racks were called “midsummer chests” in the middle ages. In addition to the storage space, there were also hooks or brackets that could be attached to the walls of the furniture to make the display of small articles easier.
The styles of the tables and the chests varied greatly during the Middle Ages. In addition to wood being the primary material, other expensive decorative woods were used, such as gold leaf, abalone, and the like. Many of these wood ornaments had precious stones and metals put into them or were crafted into shapes that incorporated the design of the decoration into the piece. This practice increased the wealth of the wealthy, since more expensive woods were used to make these ornaments.
During the fifteenth century, the practice of using precious woods to make ornaments decreased. Demand for cheaper metals created a new market for the decorative items, and this created the “chaise lounge” as we know it today. While the furniture on the floor around tables and chests was often replaced by the more decorative pieces, the style remained. The style became popular in Europe during the Renaissance, and from there it travelled to other parts of Europe, including the Italian peninsula, French province of Provence, and even Spain. A unique type of chair called “the chaise longue” was created in the Italian city of Florence in the sixteenth century to use as a recliner with a footstool, which allowed people to sit longer in the chairs and take longer walks.