It's All in the Details

19th century furniture were designed to last many lifetimes. The legs and spindles were often turned on a lathe to create intricate pieces of distinction that were unique from all other pieces. The woods used were solid and heavy hardwoods, and the upholstery was of the finest quality linen and leathers.

Turned Feet

Turned feet are a type of leg on furniture that has been created using a lathe. In ordinary circumstances when people are working with wood, the wood is stationary and the cutting implements are moved. In woodturning the wood is in motion while the cutting and shaping is performed. Intricate shapes and patterns can be created using a lathe and woodturning techniques.

Three Drawer Desk with Fluted Woodturned Legs

Spindle turning and faceplate turning are the names of the two specific woodturning techniques, and which one will be implemented depends on how the grain of the wood is oriented to the axis of the lathe being used.

Many people refer to the type of feet traditionally seen on these pieces of furniture as "bun feet" due to their shape and size. The feet add a classic look to the pieces that give a sense of completion.

Tabletop Shapes

19th century tabletop styles were not just limited to one shape. Circular tabletops, ovals, squares, rectangles, oblong, and even some interesting heart shapes were used to create unique end tables, accent tables, and coffee tables during this period.

Cane Decking

Cane decking was used on chair seats and on lower shelves of coffee tables to create interesting pieces with unique style. The natural coloration of the cane added great depth to the tables and chairs. This style appealed to many as both humble, yet strong.

Antique Black Distressed Entryway Bench with Woven Cane Back and Arms

Woods

Select hardwoods were used to create the furniture during this period. Some of the most popular were:

1) Cherry for its beautiful colors and strength.

2) Walnut for its strength.

3) Maple for its smooth texture.

4) Oaks for their splendid variety of colors and wood grains.

5) Mahogany for its depth of color and unique wood grains.

Linen Upholstered Headboards

In this period of furniture craftsmanship you saw the beginning of drastic changes in headboards and footboards. Linen covered headboards with quilted padding were introduced. Frames to these unique designs would usually be crafted from hardwoods such as cherry, and the linen would be nailed on and left exposed to become a part of the finished aesthetic. The linens were generally neutral or natural in color, softening the look of the sturdy pieces of furniture, and making the pieces more acceptable to the highborn ladies of the time period.

Embellishment

The embellishments that are carved into the wooden legs, the trim pieces, and the decorative backs on chairs were all distinctive through each specific era of furniture creation. So many furniture styles came and went throughout the 19th century alone. In early colonial times there were minimalist styles such as Federal and Sheraton that were unadorned as a statement of humility, equality and balance. There were fantastically ornate embellishments featured in both the Rococo and Gothic Revival periods feature hand carved acanthus scrollwork and clawfeet. The 19th century ended with Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau Periods which featured stylized geometric (Arts and Crafts) and flowing botanical (Art Nouveau) designs.

 Black Fossil Stone Pedestal with Turned Acanthus Accented Base

Antique brass was often used for the hardware that was required for the chests and metal pieces of this time. During this period, you could even find nail heads that were made of brass. The colorization of the brass brings a depth of character to the pieces that could not otherwise be achieved.

Sturdy Construction

During this time, furniture was built to last. The chairs were well braced rather than delicate, and the tightly fitted dovetailed drawers were so well constructed that they did not easily pull apart. People expected to be able to use the furniture and move the pieces around without any worry that they would damage them. When a family had furniture constructed for their homes they knew that they would leave that furniture to their heirs when they passed on, and they expected their heirs to be able to leave the furniture to their heirs.