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Furniture Styles: A Guide

A Brief History of Traditional Furniture Styles & Types

Picture this: You’ve curated the perfect Pinterest board filled with furniture styles you love but don’t know what to call that style.
Our quick guide to traditional furniture styles and contemporary design can help you put a name to your favorites. And that can help you surround yourself with even more of what you love.

A Brief History of Traditional Furniture Styles

Furniture has been a mark of wealth and luxury for centuries, from the Jacobean style of the 1600s through the Scandinavian contemporary style of the 1900s. Here’s an overview of furniture styles — and key characteristics — leading up to the 21st century:

  • Jacobean (1600–1690): Straight lines, ornate carvings, dark finish.
  • William and Mary (1690–1735): Dutch and Chinese influences, trumpet turned legs, Spanish ball feet, Oriental lacquer work.
  • Queen Anne (1700–1755): Cabriole legs, pad or drake feet, fiddle-backed chairs, bat-wing-shaped drawer pulls.
  • Pennsylvania Dutch (1720–1830): American and Germanic influences, colorful folk painting on cases. 
  • Louis XVI (1760–1789): Neoclassical style; straight lines; classical motifs like fluting; richly carved details. See pieces inspired by this style. See pieces inspired by this style here.
  • Chippendale (1750–1790): Classified into Gothic, French, and Chinese influences; more elaborately developed from the Queen Anne style; cabriole legs; ball and claw feet; broken pediment scroll top on tall cases. 
  • Hepplewhite (1765-1800): Neoclassical style, delicate appearance, tapered legs, contrasting veneers and inlay.
  • Federal (1780–1820): Combination of Hepplewhite and Sheraton styles, gracefully straight lines, tapered legs, inlay.
  • Sheraton (1780–1820): Neoclassical style, delicately straight lines, contrasting veneers, neoclassical motifs, and ornamentation.
  • American Empire (1800–1840): Classical ornamentation, course carvings, dark finish.
  • Victorian (1840–1910): Heavy proportions, dark finish, elaborate ornamentation. See our take here.
  • Arts and Craft (1880–1910): Simple, utilitarian design. See pieces that reflect this style. See pieces that reflect this style.
  • Scandinavian Contemporary (1930–1950): Simple utilitarian design made with natural wood. See our take on this style. 

Bassett Provence

Today’s Furniture Design Styles 

While you can find historical styles in specialty stores, today’s styles are very different. Over the centuries, furniture fashion has deviated from ornate, classical looks to contemporary, bold styles that blur the lines between artistry and functionality.

A few current furniture design styles:

If you like any of the styles we just described, you might like antique furniture. Pieces must be at least 100 years old. They’re typically made from wood and have unique, ornate details that allow dealers to easily date them. Here's our inspiration.

Combining the best of Queen Anne, Chippendale, and Sheraton styles, traditional furniture typically features graceful ornamentation, straightened lines, and tapered legs. See our take.

Vintage pieces capture the best details from a certain era. Pieces are younger than antiques but may be decades old. Often bought used. Here's our take.

Rustic furniture brings warmth and coziness home. This style is typically made with timber or other natural materials, including hide, cotton, and linen. Accents are a great way to achieve this.

American Artisan 
This Bassett look has a unique, handcrafted look. Solid wood furniture with distinctive grains and stunning finishes are future heirlooms; live-edge metal, stone, and leather blend rich and rustic. See this look. See this look. 

Art Deco
Characterized by geometric and angular shapes, art deco style unites funky patterns with materials like chrome, glass, and mirrors. 

People may think retro and vintage are similar. But retro furniture is typically defined by more modern designs that imitate past fashion trends. 

Modern style came out of the early 1900s modernist movement. It’s best known for its use of monochromatic color palettes and materials like steel, vinyl, leather, and plastic. See our take on this style. See our take on this style.

Relaxed Modern
New to Bassett in fall 2018, this look has a minimalist aesthetic and a relaxed, sophisticated vibe. Sleek silhouettes pair with deep plush seating; metals like champagne brass and brushed nickel pair with oak finishes. See this look. See this look.

Contemporary style refers to furniture that is popular today. See some of our current favorites. See some of our current favorites

Casual Luxe 
This Bassett refined rustic look mixes rustic finishes and familiar country forms with sophisticated styles and neutral color palettes. Generously scaled, distinctive silhouettes convey a luxurious yet casual and approachable feel. See this look.  See this look.

Urban Collective
This look is fresh, livable take on boho chic, industrial and mid-century modern designs. Weathered finishes, reclaimed wood, and metal mix with slim silhouettes and custom upholstery. The result — layers of texture and loads of style. See this look. See our take.

Bassett Palisades

What’s Your Style?

Now that you know which styles and design elements are your faves, you can surround yourself with even more of the design you love.
Still like some help choosing the style that’s right for you? Make an appointment with a Bassett Designer right now!

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