Short History of Design

BY GRAHAM BLACKBURN

It is in the very nature of furniture design to evolve, ... taking a little from here and a little from there, sometimes making a large leap until ... a new technique or a new material.

INCI FlSl W(X)DWORKI\G'S inception 27 years ago, a vast range of furniture from virions periods lias appeared in its pages. What follows is a condensed overview describing many of these various styles. I've tried to put them into a historical pe spective based on their defining characteristics, but the process of design is continual and unending. I lepplewhite and Sheraton styles, for instance, were made during the Mahogany Period in England but weren't prevalent in the United States until after the Revolution, during the Federal Period.

Any attempt to categorize definitively the products of a given period is bound to be inexact. It is in the very nature of furniture design to evolve, often haphazardly, taking a little from here and a little from there, sometimes making a large leap with the invention of a new technique or a new material.

British furniture is most often described in terms of the

various monarchs during whose reigns it was made, but for a more familiar division of furniture design in America, I've chosen more local names. Nevertheless, it remains true that most American furniture is very similar to the contemporaneous British styles. A great deal of furniture from tilt-early periods made in the United States was built by craftsmen either imined in Britain or who used British patterns. By the 20th century the differences had more to do with individual makers than with national styles.

GRAHAM BLACKBURN is a furniture maker, author, illustrator and the publisher of Blackburn Books (www.blackburnbooks.com).

  • Framed construction, pinned for strength
  • Bold turnings
  • Heavily carved
  • Stout stretchers
  • Less heavily carved chairs of the same construction are common
  • Reminiscent of eatlier British chairs in the Gothic style
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