German biedermeier cupboard
German biedermeier cupboard

Empire style furniture (and Regency in England) was largely made for the aristocracy. But the period after the Napoleonic period in the Austro-Hungarian Empire saw the rise of the middle classes, culminating in a series of revolutions in 1848. The style of furniture developed for the newly influential middle class became known as “Biedermeier” (originally a derogatory term similar in meaning to the English “plain Jane”.).

The style was a simplified form of neo-classical, retaining the symmetry and proportion but with more restrained decoration. Columns and cornices were less used but the lyre motif became common. Much use was made of lighter coloured veneers, such as walnut, maple, birch and ash, in contract with the dark mahogany and rosewood used elsewhere. Inlays of contrasting woods and, later, brass, were often used. Early pieces tend to be simpler and more classical in style; later pieces after about 1840) were more curved and decorated.

By this time the centrepiece of a well-furnished parlour was the piano and, often, the china cabinet. Furniture designers focused on providing comfortable seating with well-upholstered sofas , deep armchairs and a variety of side chairs and small tables.

In northern Germany, the Biedermeier style was interpreted with less colour and variety than in the south. Mahogany timber and black upholstery were most often used.

After about 1860, the Biedermeier merged into the Eclectic Victorian style although it continued to be influential, particularly in Scandinavia.

Austrian biedermeier divan (1828)
Austrian biedermeier divan (1828)

Biedermeier furniture available now (at eBay US)
(Clicking on an item of interest will open a new window)