Neoclassicism is serious, studious, and stately. Furniture in this style replaced the curvaceous legs and lines of the earlier furnishings with straighter lines, right angles, and restrained features. During the making of the neoclassic furniture, artisans were imitating furniture styles designed by earlier Roman and Greek artisans. Because of this, furniture from the neoclassic period employed the use of fluted columns. In this style of furniture, you will also see carved decorations like oak leaves, laurel leaves, wreaths, and the Greek bands.
Straight Lines and Right Angles
During the crafting of neoclassical furniture, artisans were moving away from the delicate curved lines towards more straight lines and right angles. The furniture of this period appears more masculine, more stately, and less frivolous than earlier productions.
It is commonly believed that one of the biggest influences on neoclassical furniture design were the preferences of the famous Marie Antoinette. The choices she made in the pieces she had crafted for her apartment in Versailles were often duplicated and became a part of the neoclassic style.
Frequently Used Woods
Cherry is one of the most popular woods used during the neoclassic furniture era. Cherry wood and veneers were used to create amazing pieces that were rustic and had the deep tones that can only be found in cherry wood. Cherry wood was selected because it made the pieces look richer than any other wood. The woods were usually dark, and the upholstery leather would likely be a medium to dark brown.
Rich leathers were chosen to cover the padding placed on armchairs and other pieces during this time. The leathers were of natural shades and had none of the bright color variations that would later be seen in furniture collections. The colors chosen for the pieces were dark in hue and tone in keeping with the rustic and natural look the artisans were attempting to create. Although these pieces looked manly, the leather would be buttery soft. The leathers were rich and elegant and added a luxurious touch to the furniture. When seated in one of these armchairs, one would say that they were enveloped by the chair.
As for size, chairs created during this period were constructed with high backs and high arms because they were designed to appeal to and accommodate men of size and stature. The pieces were masculine in appearance, and they looked rugged and sturdy.
During this period of furniture design, the wood was left without as many ornate carvings and embellishments as the earlier items had. When you saw carvings, you often saw natural designs like oak and laurel leaves carved into the wood to give the pieces a semblance of Greek and Roman style. Curved legs are seen on many of the tables, sideboards, and chairs, but the curved legs do not lend an air of delicacy. On the contrary, they add to the look of sturdy craftsmanship.
The hardware used during this era was commonly burnished brass. The coloration and availability of the brass made it the perfect choice for all drawer pulls and hardware used on the pieces of this era.
Glass inserts on armoire doors created a new look that allowed the display of treasured collectibles and royal stemware. The glass panels make the rustic wooden frames of the armoire look slightly more sophisticated and elegant.
The Downfall of Neoclassical furniture
When Louis XVI lost the throne during the French Revolution of 1789 the popularity of French furniture, including the neoclassical designs, started to lose public favor. This type of furniture no longer dominated the market, but the style was not lost. The popularity of these amazing pieces would resurge a few years later.