One of the great joys of having a brand new home is that it is a tabula rasa, waiting to be dressed up in whatever style or styles the owners see fit. Over the years, styles can be changed, modified, tossed out altogether and replaced with new ones. Antiques from the Victorian era can look surprisingly good next to a piece of furniture made of injection molded polypropylene. Here are some essential design styles for a new home:
The French Styles
The French styles most people are familiar with are named after kings, though the style called French provincial is known for furniture built in styles simpler and more practical than those named after the monarchs. Decor of the Louis XIV style has rich and heavy ornamentation, with gilt placed on nearly every surface. The just slightly less grand Louis XV stressed S-shapes and asymmetry, and furniture was often lacquered and painted. This decor is known for its femininity, as the period was much influenced by the King’s mistress, Madame de Pompadour. The style of Louis XVI is less elaborate still, and features a revival of forms such as classical orders, symmetry, straight lines and compass curves.
Refers to the style that appeared while Napoleon was dominant in France. Because of his campaigns in Egypt and Italy, Directoire furniture is full of such embellishments as sphinxes, swans and fasces. Chairs were notable for their saber legs and tables often have lion’s paw feet. The Empire style arose when Napoleon declared himself emperor. It was very popular and even influenced decor in the United States. The furnishings were massive and often gilded. Mahogany was one of the preferred woods.
English furniture of the 18th and 19th centuries also emphasized ornament, beautiful lines and exotic woods. It was also made to be comfortable and not just to impress. Bookcases became popular as more people had time to read actual books, and china cabinets were build to hold porcelain. Some styles of English decor have American counterparts.
Remains a popular English style of furniture. It features graceful curved legs called cabriole legs, shell carvings and S-scrolls. More and more, furniture was made for comfort, so side chairs had slats to support the back and wingchairs had wings to protect against drafts. American Queen Anne furnishings were smaller and used less veneer, but they tended to be more durable.
There were also several styles so distinctive that they were named after their creators instead of the monarch of the time. One was George Hepplewhite. Hepplewhite’s work is known for graceful curves and chairs with backs shaped like shields, ovals or hearts.
The production of furniture in the Scandinavian countries took off after World War II. The craftsmen created furniture that was simple and refined even as they updated traditional styles. The furniture, whether it be a chair or a sideboard, often featured tapered legs, and the wood was often sumptuous teak or oak. There is almost no embellishment and the hardware is simple and functional while being esthetically pleasing.