How to Identify Victorian Furniture Styles

For centuries, furniture has remained one thing that makes our homes look beautiful. People love to decorate their homes with different styles of furniture. Nevertheless, every era has its specific furniture style. Among them, the Victorian era is the most prominent. 

Even in today’s era, many people want to purchase Victorian furniture, and some want to collect it. However, there were different styles of Victorian furniture too, and not everyone knows about them. Moreover, Victorian furniture is appealing and can also be valuable as it is antique. 

Are you also searching for Victorian furniture but unable to recognize the original piece? Well, this article will answer all of your questions. In this post, we have mentioned how you can identify Victorian furniture styles and other relevant information about Victorian furniture. Let’s check out the details.

A Brief History of Victorian Furniture

The period of Victorian furniture style was from 1830 to 1890, and it had its roots in England. It is known by the name “Victorian” because of Queen Victoria, who ruled England from 1837 to 1890. The Queen’s reign was not only restricted to political or ideological movements, but it was an “aesthetic” period.

Queen Victoria was known as a trendsetter and a woman of the people. She loved the decoration, which one could see in her choice of royal decor. Around the 19th century, England became a place of prosperity, where primarily wealthy people lived due to the advancements in production and manufacturing.

The new wealthy people, who belonged to the middle class before, loved to show off their wealth and taste in decoration. For this, they used to decorate their homes with top-notch furniture, and the designs were remarkable.

The newly rich people wanted to look better than the already rich people. Therefore, expensive furniture became a way to show off their wealth.

In addition, the Victorian era was the age of the Industrial Revolution due to industrialization. With this, it became easier to produce more furniture in less time as machines replaced human labor.

When machines started producing furniture, a new genre emerged: machine-made furniture. Nevertheless, many people did not like it because of its cheap materials and lack of craftsmanship.

Revivals of Furniture During the Victorian Era

During the time of the Victorian era, numerous old furniture styles came back with many changes. The most popular furniture styles of that time are as below:

1. Gothic Revival

The first design which influenced Victorian furniture was the Gothic Revival. The Gothic era started in the 12th century and ended in the 15th century. In the early 12th century, it originated from French Gothic architecture.

Apart from the furniture, there was also an influence of Gothic architecture in Europe in the 19th century. The Gothic revival in Victorian-era furniture focused on detailed carving and geometric form, which became well-known in 19th-century Europe.

The thing that makes the Gothic revival stand out from other Victorian-style furniture is its complex carving. Moreover, the makers used wood, such as oak, walnut, and rosewood, to make the furniture.

In addition, to make the furniture look more attractive, they used heavy fabrics, for example, leather and velvet. Furthermore, they used foliate motifs, quatrefoils, spires, trefoils, crockets, and pointed arches for furniture decoration.

Gothic Revival
Image Source: Pinterest(pinimg)

2. Rococo Revival

The Rococo style emerged in the period of Louis XV. This design was the opposite of the Baroque style, which included classical forms. It had a French influence and is famous for its love of the natural world. Furthermore, the designers used fruit motifs, flora, and shells.

The materials that they used were mahogany and rosewood. In addition, they sometimes used gold finishes on the furniture for decorative purposes. For padding, they often preferred tufting. One can easily identify those pieces as they have rounded corners and curved shapes.

The period of Rococo revival furniture was the longest of any other revival period in the Victorian era. Moreover, this type of furniture is still famous today.

Rococo Revival
Image Source: Pinterest (google)

3. Renaissance Revival

During the 1850s, people started to develop an interest in the Renaissance and classical art. Due to this reason, the furniture makers were also influenced by the idea and started to design furniture according to the Renaissance style.

The prominent characteristics of the Renaissance revival furniture included heavy pieces and bold features. These qualities were a contrast to the Rococo revival furniture, which was more feminine.

In addition, in the Renaissance revival style, the makers used human and animal figures. Also, they had masculine arches. The design mixed colored marbles and wood to make impressive furniture. Also, Renaissance furniture had straighter lines instead of curves.

Renaissance Revival
Image Source: Incollect(incollect)

4. Neo-Classical Revival

Neo-classical revival furniture is famous for its simplicity. This period occurred during the same period when the Renaissance revival happened. The design of this revival was not as detailed as in the older periods.

In addition, the furniture had more curved lines and was not highly ornamented. The designers only added motifs that were inspired by the classical world. Furthermore, the materials that they used were walnut, mahogany, and oak. For upholstery, they frequently used satin.

Neo-Classical Revival
Image Source: 1stDibs(1stdibscdn)

5. Jacobean Revival

The period of Jacobean revival furniture started in the 1870s. The furniture design was taken from the 17th-century strapwork of the Jacobean era. Moreover, this revival period combined the high furniture production due to the Industrial Revolution.

The features of the Jacobean revival were marked by wider and flat furniture. Apart from this, they also used decorated molding as well. The fabrics they used were dramatic, having natural scenes with flower designs. Nevertheless, the dominant Jacobean design was solid-looking and rigid furniture pieces. They also had complex carvings.

Jacobean Revival
Image Source: Pinterest(pinimg)

6. Arts and Crafts

Another revival period in the Victorian era was the Arts and Crafts movement. It is one of the most notable movements of the 19th century that aimed at simple designs. The Victorian furniture makers stopped machine-made furniture production and focused on handmade furniture.

Moreover, they did not include extra décor in their furniture. The significant features of the Arts and Crafts revival included natural upholstery and straight lines. Also, the furniture of this period was influenced by Japanese, Chinese, Indian, and Turkish styles.

The followers of this movement wanted to emphasize craftsmanship. The most vital makers and designers of the Arts and Crafts revival were Phillip Webb, Edward Barnsley, and William Morris.

Arts and Crafts
Image Source: Incollect(incollect)

Identification of Victorian Furniture

Since you now know about the revivals in Victorian furniture, the next step is to learn about how you can identify a piece of original Victorian furniture. Victorian furniture makers were mostly influenced by furniture designs from the previous eras. Therefore, it is difficult to differentiate between older furniture pieces and Victorian furniture styles.

However, in this section, you will find all the tips that you can use to identify authentic Victorian furniture. Let’s have a look at them.

Identify the Material

The first thing you should check is the material of the furniture. The furniture pieces of the Victorian era were embellished and of the highest quality. The reason why it was decorated was Queen Victoria herself, as she had superior taste in royal decor. Therefore, the furniture of that time was also according to her liking.

The most significant material that the makers used at that time was wood. Nevertheless, the type of wood varied, as it depended on the furniture size and the kind of ornament. They used walnut, rosewood, or mahogany. For instance, a plain dining table could be made of mahogany. On the other hand, a tabletop that has motifs could be made of walnut.

Nevertheless, the people who had a lower budget bought furniture made of economical alternatives such as oak and pine. Although the material was different, the furniture had similar designs.

Identify the Craftsmanship Method

If you can identify the craftsmanship method, it would be easier to know about the era when the furniture was made. For instance, in the arts and crafts movement, furniture makers aimed at creating hand-made furniture. Therefore, any handmade piece of furniture from that time is difficult to remake.

Nevertheless, in the Victorian era, it was easier for the makers to produce furniture in mass quantities due to industrialization. However, it is the opposite of the arts and crafts movement, but the furniture design makes the Victorian furniture style different from others.

Apart from this, the garden furniture that was made during the Victorian era had bound and rivets. Therefore, if you find someone selling welded Victorian garden furniture, make sure that it is not the original piece.

Identify the Furniture Design

Due to the various revivals in the Victorian era, the furniture design varied from the start until the end of the Queen’s reign. Nevertheless, there were some characteristics of Victorian furniture that could help you identify the original piece among the fake ones.

Spoon Back Armchairs

The Spoon Back armchairs were usually used in the study or parlor. They had upholstered back, which could be plain or have buttons. Moreover, the chair’s legs were carved and had curved feet with scrolled arms.

Spoon Back Armchairs
Image Source: 1stDibs(1stdibscdn)

Balloon Back Chairs

The Balloon Back chairs were used occasionally or in dining rooms. Also, you can easily identify them as they had an open circular back, which was similar to the shape of a balloon. Moreover, there was upholstery only on the base of the chair.

Balloon Back Chairs
Image Source: Pamono(google)

Nursing Chairs

The nursing chairs were similar to the Spoon Back armchairs, except for the arms. In addition, they had a lower stature. They had buttoned or plain upholstered backs. Since they were used in the nursery, they were known as “nursing chairs.”

The makers used soft materials for the upholstery of all these three chairs to provide comfort. Mostly, the material was velvet, which also made the chairs look attractive.

Nursing Chairs
Image Source: Pamono(pamono)

Chest of Drawers

The easiest piece of Victorian furniture to identify is the chest of drawers. If the chest of drawers belonged to the Victorian era, it must have a simple square shape with round edges. Moreover, it can be bow-fronted.

In addition to this, they also had raised feet on metal or block buns. To pull the drawers out, they also featured knobs. Also, the material that the makers used was usually mahogany. Nevertheless, you can also find a few pine pieces, but this material was less common for making the chest of drawers.  

Chest of Drawers
Image Source: Pamono(pamono)

Scottish Chest

The Scottish chest got its name from Scotland. However, it was not so common. It was taller than other Victorian furniture and had a curved and shaped drawer.

Scottish Chest
Image Source: Lowfields Barn Antiques – Antique Shop(shopify)

Tables

Victorian tables were difficult to identify because there were many table designs in this era. Also, the makers used different types of wood to make the tables, depending on the type of table they were making.

For example, if they made a washstand table, they used a material that is better suited to water, such as pine or oak. The makers used mahogany for writing desks and hall tables as it concealed little marks.

Furthermore, the makers used top-quality wood, such as Rosewood, Walnut, or even Amboyna, for the game and center tables. However, they were not so common and were only found in wealthy people’s homes. These tables had heavily carved supports. Lastly, Victorian furniture had decorated carved bases, with or without gilding.

Tables
Image Source: Museum Furniture(museumfurniture)

Value of Victorian Furniture

The following are the most valuable Victorian furniture pieces:

1. Victorian Carved Dark Oak Library Writing Table

This Victorian writing table is made of oak, and its place of origin is France. It belongs to the late 19th century, and its estimated price is $8,137 – $10,579.

Victorian Carved Dark Oak Library Writing Table
Image Source: Live Auctioneers(liveauctioneers)

2. American Late Victorian Renaissance Revival Parlor Sofa & Chair set

The Renaissance Revival Sofa and Chair Set originated in North America in 1880. The material of this parlor set is walnut, and the estimated cost of this set is $7,084 – $9,210.

American Late Victorian Renaissance Revival Parlor Sofa & Chair set
Image Source: Live Auctioneers(liveauctioneers)

3. Walnut Marble Top Oval Victorian Table

This Victorian table had white marble on top and was oval. It was made in 1880 and had mild stains. Nevertheless, its condition was excellent, and it was sold for $575 in 2008.

Walnut Marble Top Oval Victorian Table
Image Source: Morphy Auctions(morphyauctions)

4. Victorian Mahogany Davenport

This Victorian Davenport is handmade, and the material used in this piece is mahogany. Since its condition is fair and 3 of its handles are missing, the price of this Victorian Mahogany Davenport is $404.62.

Victorian Mahogany Davenport
Image Source: Etsy(etsystatic)

5. Victorian Mahogany and Button Upholstered Armchair

The maker of this Victorian upholstered armchair is Charles Hindley & Sons. It has a shallow back and arms with a shaped front seat. It was made in 1880 and is made up of mahogany. The estimated price of the Victorian Armchair is 200 – 300 GBP.

Victorian Mahogany and Button Upholstered Armchair
Image Source: Bhandl Auctions(azureedge)

Determining the Value of Victorian Furniture

The value of furniture from the Victorian era depends upon some essential factors, such as material, condition, and manufacturer. Moreover, whether or not it is something to be collected affects its value.

Material

The material affects the price of the furniture piece. If the makers used top-quality materials like Walnut, Rosewood, or Amboyna, the furniture would have a higher price.

Condition

If the furniture has scratches, marks, or wears out, the price would be decreased. Nevertheless, if it is in good condition, it will have more value.

Manufacturer

The manufacturer can also affect the price of the furniture piece. Two of the most prominent Victorian furniture makers were Mitchell & Rammerlsnerg and John Henry Belter.

Victorian Furniture Identification and Value Guides

Even after checking the material, condition, and manufacturer of the furniture, it is a daunting task to determine the real piece of Victorian furniture, especially for a beginner antique furniture collector. Due to this reason, you should opt for a price guide that will make it easier for you to determine the cost of victorian furniture when you sell or buy it.

One of the most famous authors of furniture guides is John Andrews, and many antique furniture collectors follow his books to learn about furniture. Below are the names of three of his guides that are related to Victorian Furniture:

  1. Victorian and Edwardian Furniture: Price Guide and Reason for Value.
  2. The Price Guide to Victorian Furniture.
  3. The Price Guide to Victorian, Edwardian, and 1920s Furniture 1860-1930.

Victorian Furniture Value Guide Websites

Apart from value guides, you can also look up online websites to find information about your Victorian furniture value and other related details. Following are the two websites that will be helpful for you:

1. Invaluable

Invaluable is an auction site where people sell their antique items. Also, it gives the details of sold items’ value for free. You just have to mention the manufacturer’s name, and you will find all its product value information.

2. Kovels

Kovels lets you search the price guide of antique items for free. However, you have to register yourself on it first to get access to the information.

Conclusion

Victorian furniture is regarded as the most elegant furniture in history. Not only do they include Queen Victoria’s royal taste in the furniture designs, but they also involve many revivals. The major revivals, for instance, Gothic, Rococo, Renaissance, Neoclassic, Jacobean, and arts & crafts, redefined the concept of impressive furniture.

Each revival had its style, but they all played a vital role in making Victorian furniture stand out from other furniture designs. Furthermore, it would be best if you went through this guide to identify Victorian furniture, as we have mentioned all the essential features of Victorian furniture in this article.

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