18th Century English Furniture
From William and Mary through to the late Georgian period, 18th century English furniture continues to appeal —so why is furniture from this period valued so highly?
William and Mary furniture
The William and Mary period, which extended into the start of the 18th century, marked some important changes in English furniture design.
With the new Dutch king William of Orange and the arrival of skilled Dutch refugees, as well as French Protestants, English furniture design received new influences. Veneering and other decorative effects, including parquetry, lacquer and marquetry, began to be used. Dovetailing was also introduced, enabling furniture makers to use thinner, lighter wood.
Queen Anne design features
During Queen Anne’s reign, from 1702 to 1714, furniture made from walnut continued to become lighter in design, Queen Anne furniture is often described as elegant and graceful.
The cabriole leg is the most distinctive feature of this period. Other style elements include the carved cockle or scallop shell and the scroll motif.
The Georgian period began in the first quarter of the 18th century, lasted just over 100 years and comprises the reigns of George I, George II, George III and George IV.
One of the first major changes during this period was the replacement of walnut, which remained popular through the reigns of Queen Anne and George I, with strong and durable mahogany.
Palladian design, which was influenced by the art and architecture of Italy, characterises the style of early Georgian furniture with elaborate pediments, masks and sphinxes. By the mid-Georgian period, rococo design elements had become popular, while the third quarter of the century saw the introduction of the neo-classical style.
Chippendale’s celebrated style combines Rococo influences with Gothic and Chinese elements. Distinctive features include cabriole legs, elaborate carving, curved lines and upholstery in fine fabrics. The other major names from the Georgian period include Robert and James Adam, George Hepplewhite and Thomas Sheraton.
Demand for 18th century furniture
Furniture from the 18th century is prized, and exceptional pieces may command high prices. While would-be buyers should be aware that some items purporting to be genuine 18th century English furniture are in fact Victorian reproductions, the good news is there are still a considerable number of bona fide antiques available in good condition, thanks to the craftsmanship of that era.
*Image on the left:
An unusual and highly decorative tole jardiniere painted to simulate rouge marble; with shaped sides and original detachable liner. With ormolu lions mask and anthemion mounts and paw feet.