Period Furniture: A 17th Century Introduction

People, over the ages, have always tried to meet the needs and desires that their minds and heart have created for them. That is how they have come to evolve and at the same time, that is the way their artifacts evolve. We can clearly see the reflection of the socio-economic conditions, the natural environment and the aesthetic sensibilities of a particular age in their art and artifacts. So, how have the people of the United States of America evolved? What can be taken as the yardstick for their growth from the colonized states to the Superpower that the USA is today?

Furniture in America can stack up against the way the society has grown. Let us explore that growth. When the immigrants from Europe came to America in the 17th century, they brought with them the various traditions of their regions, thus making America a rich storehouse.

17th century America is also referred to as Colonial America. The furniture, then, was simple – by choice as well as by necessity. Turning to the lathe was the simplest form of articulation, as it was easier and less time-consuming. The furniture was made of solid wood from the trees of Oak, Birch, Maple, and Walnut, the only finishes being waxing and staining. The states of Pennsylvania and Delaware, settled by the colonists of Swedish and German descent along with the English colonists, where we can see the motifs from the European peasant art.

In the later years, when the trade with the Orient grew, the textile patterns were heavily influenced. The colors from India, Persia, and China crept into the native textiles. The conventional color palate consisted of gold, red, blue and natural gray. The English aristocrats who settled in the south led a lavish lifestyle and most of their furniture was imported from England.

Early colonial furniture, while being sturdy, was not subtle. The cupboards and drawers were relieved by the paneling, the fronts of which were embellished by heavy brass and wrought iron hardware. The craftsmen were influenced by the memoirs the colonists had brought from their homeland, the Dutch being the most influential amongst all. Hollander king, William of Orange, along with his queen Mary, gave quite many styles and forms to the American furniture, scrolled legs being the most important contribution. Even today scrolled legs are amongst the important feature in antique furniture.

The most common furniture found were armchairs, side chairs, cabinets, dressers, chests, drawers, highboys, lowboys, night tables, and stools. Corner tables, pedestals, and fireplaces were the additional elements one can find in the early colonial American residence of the 17th century.

With the current rage of period furniture, knowing how to arrange the furniture in your home to create the most authentic settings becomes the most important aspect. This series of posts will introduce you to the characteristic settings of each period. The next post ahead will be decorating your living room the colonial style!!!

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