With the burgeoning Industrial Revolution, machine-made furniture replaced hand-made. In the 1830’s machines were invented to cut veneer and to press designs, which would previously been carved, into timber. At the same time, improved transportation meant that a wide variety of imported timbers, including mahogany, rosewood, teak and ebony, become available,

As a result the typical Victorian item was a reproduction of something from an earlier period, such as Victorian Gothic and Renaissance Revival with reproductions of Queen Anne furniture being the most popular.

Gothic Revival chest
Gothic Revival chest

Elizabethan furniture designs, with their panels of open decoration and strapwork and profusion of knobs were well suited to mechanical reproduction. At the same time, Elizabethan styles were associated with romantic notions of “Merrie England” and, so, became popular in the early Victorian period.

The Gothic style, also associated with romantic “olden times”  rose in popularity in the 1840s, particularly as a result of the work of the architect and interior designer A. V. N. Pugin who designed furniture for the House of Lords.

“Louis Quartoaze” or “Louis” Revival furniture actually borrowed elements from the French Louis XIV, Louis XV and Rococo. including curvaceous ornament (often gilded), cabriolle legs scrolled borders. Some pieces were exact copies of 18th century French pieces. 

By 1850, English furniture was a lavishly decorated pastiche of elements borrowed from other periods and styles. During the following decade, however, a plainer “Old English” style gained favour. This was followed by a revival of the Queen Anne style. Throughout this period, French reproductions and furniture in the Chippendale, Hepplewhite and Sheraton styles continued to be produced.

Late in the Victorian era, the Arts and Crafts Movement revolted against the mass-produced furniture and other goods that had flooded the country. The argued for a return to the traditions of the artisans and craftsmen of the past and of Japan, which up to then had remained isolated from Western industrial influence.

By 1901, the Arts and Crafts Movement had merged into the international Art Nouveau style.


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