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How to identify antique furniture (using popular styles)

Antique furniture is beautiful, classic, and often very valuable. However, it can sometimes be difficult to determine whether or not a piece of furniture is actually antique or just old. That being said, the easiest way to identify antique furniture is typically to compare it to common antique furniture styles. To help get you started, we’ve laid out 4 styles that can help you better identify antique furniture.

The Chippendale Style

The Chippendale style originated in England during the reign of King George III. During this time, a new class of wealthy middle-class citizens was emerging, and they were looking for fashionable yet affordable furniture to fill their homes. Common characteristics of this style include:

Characteristics of the Style:

  • Straight lines and sharp corners: Unlike some other styles of furniture which feature curved lines and soft edges, Chippendale furniture is known for its straight lines and sharp corners. This gives it a distinctly modern look, even though the style actually dates back to the 18th century.
  • Use of dark woods: Another hallmark of Chippendale furniture is its use of dark woods, such as mahogany and walnut. These woods are often highly polished, which gives them a sleek and sophisticated look.
  • Carved decorations: One of the most easily recognizable features of Chippendale furniture is its carved decorations (Rococo ornamentation was common) and its rounded ball and claw feet.

Keep Reading: How to care for antique wood furniture

The Victorian Style

Today, Victorian style furniture is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Thanks to its timeless beauty and craftsmanship, more and more people are looking to add a touch of class to their homes with Victorian style pieces. But what exactly is Victorian style furniture, and what sets it apart from other styles? 

Characteristics of the Style:

  • Heaviness: Victorian furniture is often very heavy and robust. This was partly for practical reasons – houses in the Victorian era were generally smaller than today, so heavier pieces helped to fill up space and make rooms appear larger. 
  • Carving: Ornate carving was another common feature of Victorian furniture. Carved details were often added to legs, arm rests, headboards, and other exposed areas of the piece. 
  • Upholstery: Velvet, damask, and other luxurious fabrics were commonly used to upholster Victorian style furniture. Bright colors were also popular during this era. 
  • Metalwork: Gold, silver, and brass were often used in the creation of Victoria style furniture. Metals were used for things like handles, feet, trim, and inlays.

Keep Reading: Tips on how to sell antique furniture

The Hepplewhite Style

The Hepplewhite style is a neoclassical style of furniture that emerged in England and the United States in the late 18th century. Characterized by simple, clean lines and light, elegant decoration, Hepplewhite furniture is some of the most sought-after by collectors and enthusiasts today. Let’s take a closer look at this beautiful style of furniture and explore some of its defining characteristics.

Characteristics of the Style:

  • Light colors: One of the defining characteristics of Hepplewhite furniture is its use of light, contrasting colors. Hepplewhite tables and chairs are often made from light-colored woods such as birch or poplar, which are then painted or stained in contrasting colors such as white and black. This creates a stark visual contrast that helps to highlight the delicate curves and lines of the furniture.
  • Inlay work: One of the defining characteristics of Hepplewhite style furniture is its use of inlay work. This type of decoration involves inserting pieces of wood or other materials into grooves that have been cut into the surface of the piece. This decoration is often used to create geometric patterns or other designs.
  • Tapered legs: Hepplewhite style furniture is also characterized by its use of tapered legs. This feature helps to give the pieces a lighter and more graceful appearance. Another key characteristic is the use of planks instead of solid boards for the tops of tables and other pieces. This gives the furniture a more refined look.

Looking for a specific piece of antique furniture? Create a post on Do U Have.

The Georgian Style

Georgian style antique furniture is some of the most beautiful and sought-after furniture in the world. This type of furniture is known for its elegant lines, intricate carving, and use of expensive woods and veneers. If you’re lucky enough to own a piece of Georgian furniture, you have a true treasure on your hands.

Characteristics of the Style:

  • Type of wood: Georgian style antique furniture is typically made from mahogany, walnut, or cherry wood. 
  • Intricate motifs: This style furniture is often heavily carved with intricate designs, and pieces are often decorated with inlays of different woods or mother-of-pearl. Some common motifs used in Georgian carving include acanthus leaves, scrolls, shells, urns, and animals. gilding was also popular during the Georgian period, so many pieces of furniture are adorned with gold leaf or paint.
  • Shapes and curves: Pieces often have Cabriole legs (legs that curve outward at the knee before curving inward again at the ankle) and S-shaped stretchers (supports that run between the legs of a chair or table). These design elements give Georgian furniture a distinctive look that is instantly recognizable.

While many of these styles can overlap, it can at least give you a starting point on how to identify antique furniture. That being said, there are a variety of other styles of antique furniture. If you’re ever confused as to whether or not you’re dealing with antique furniture, you can consult with a local antique dealer or browse forums or groups dedicated to antique furniture.

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