The Colonial Style Furniture that graced the homes of early settlers throughout the years of 1620-1780 embraced a variety of styles including Early American, Jacobean, William and Mary, Queen Anne and Chippendale, with each lending a hand to the one that came before it.
The earliest settlers came to America with only the most basic provisions. With timber plentiful, they built their own furniture by hand, resulting in an emphasis on the wood and other natural materials, with simple lines and modest colors incorporated within the design. Early American furniture was unembellished and practical with little ornamentation.
Elements of the Jacobean style offered more ornate carvings featured within the solid construction. Furnishings were large in size and built to be durable. As colonial style furniture evolved further, elements of the William and Mary style were added.
Named after the King and Queen of England, William & Mary characteristics added French, Chinese and Dutch influences to the design. This style broke away from the massive forms and furnishings becoming more slender and vertically oriented with tall backs and gracefully turned legs.
Queen Anne furniture influences further refined the Colonial design, bringing the sleek cabriole style into the picture with curving legs that ended in a pad, ball or claw foot replacing the heavy ball foot. Broad but delicate features with curved parts were popular. Queen Anne embraced gracefully curved outlines and very little ornamentation.
Toward the end of the colonial era, cabinetmaker Thomas Chippendale introduced some French, Gothic and Chinese influences that leaned toward straight and square seat frames and sharp edges yet still resisted a heavy, formal design.
Characteristics of these furniture styles all contributed to American Colonial furniture with some elements overlapping throughout the time period. From casual to country style to the traditional, the Colonial style represents a graceful, refined and elegant style.