Traditional Indian homes have very little furniture by European standards – carpets and cushions are spread on the floor, small tables also served as stools and chests were used to store clothes.
European colonists brought with the a demand for European style furniture and Indian craftsmen began producing items based on English, Dutch and Portuguese models.
Indian woods, such as teak, rosewood and sandalwood were used with metal or ivory mounts. Since glue dried out in the tropical heat, wood or ivory pegs were used to assemble the pieces. Cane was often used rather than cushions because it is cooler.
Various regional specialities developed including the Vizagapatam style from the Madras area which features patterns of white ivory and black lacquer. Many small boxes in this style were made as souvenirs. Bengal specialised in the use of turned and carved ivory. Goa was known for teak inlaid with ebony, bone or ivory. Sri Lanka was famous for marquetry work.
Because veneers tended to lift in the hot, humid climate, carving and turning were more often used for decoration. Rekief carving was applied to all available surfaced while elaborately turned slender legs are characteristic of Indian chairs and tables.
The one unique contribution of India to furniture design id the planter’s chair which has a sloping back and flat arms with an extension that pivots through a full circle so that they can be used for glasses, plates and even as a foot rest.