Furniture made for comfort or grace


In every well-to-do home during the Victorian era, furniture was unquestionably either masculine or feminine.

The dining room and library were emphatically male; the drawing room, parlor and bedroom were for the ladies.

Comfort before grace was a man’s desires; the ladies preferred gracefulness. They disdained comfort in furnishings more than they disdained discomfort in their attire.

Dark wood. Most Victorian era pieces were made with dark wood types in contrast to pieces made in earlier periods.

Satin wood was popular, plus light colored mahogany in pre-Victorian times. In the early 1800s, mahogany was carefully finished due to its tendency to darken

upon varnishing or an abundance of other finishes.

Cabinet makers recognized this and perhaps surmised future fashions may demand dark woods, as occurred in the Victorian era.

At this time mahogany was further darkened with brick dust. Rosewood, black walnut and swamp oak were also popular during the Victorian era.

Oak was darkened to emulate older pieces with vivid, deep hues of age and apparently polished many times.

Carvings. Much of the furniture manufactured during this period was outstanding in appearance, abundantly enhanced with carving in high relief, including animals, flora, fruits, fictitious creatures and abstract human figures

These carvings were sometimes discordantly arranged, but with carved with expert workmanship. Even in the lower-priced furniture of this period featured expert craftsmanship.

A glance into a parlor would reveal almost all pieces were made for comfort.

Lighter style. Around 1880 the large, heavy appearance of furniture was slowly being replaced by a lighter style. Lightweight bamboo furniture was also in demand. Japanese screens, bric-a-brac, blue and white willow pattern and other Oriental similar Chinaware, large flowers and peacock feathers were popular items for home interior decor.

Reproductions. There was much interest in antiques during the Victorian era. These antiques were quite often reproductions. Even fossils and stone implements were counterfeited during the Victorian period.

The vivid crimsons of textiles and wallpaper and the varnished and lively grained woodwork was later replaced with less monotonous and more spirited color schemes. Vividly colored curtains replaced the velvet, damask or serge examples with their large tassels and ball fringes.

Wallpaper styles followed a similar pattern, plus the oversized paintings on the walls were gone. Wallpapers featured lively greens and blues, bright pink hues, deep violets and light purplish tints.

Later, these lively colors became tiresome and more somber and subdued hues became popular, including olive greens, various shades of gray and a blue resembling Dutch blue.

Cottage style. Awareness, education, better working conditions and somewhat higher incomes eventually entered into the middle class existence. These folks began to seek self government, either as individuals or as a community, and a new order of thought and deed was established.

The middle class, which could then possess things of comfort and enjoyment were attracted with a catalog to the new trends in home furnishing titled Cottage.

The catalog’s name undoubtedly was due to the smaller size of most middle class homes compared to their well-to-do neighbors..

With inexpensive furniture advertised and marketed under the name Cottage plus its rather simple, plain appearance, not overly elegant like previous Victorian pieces found in well-to-do homes, a feeling of independence came into being.

The cottage style was duplicated in England, where the name first appeared, and it followed traces of some earlier classic traditions similar to the French Empire furniture era.

Country houses and pleasure cottages of the wealthy were also furnished with simplicity. The idea was to suggest ease and relaxation to the guests who were usually interested in the dazzle and display of a wealthy family’s manor.

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