Here's the List of Furniture Styles You Need to Know
The design, role, and composition of popular home furniture has changed much over the last several centuries, but certain styles remain important when it comes to interior design. These styles are marked by their timelessness, beauty, and historical impact, as many are still known and used today.
What styles of furniture should you know? It’s important to understand the dominant styles of today, such as modern, contemporary, and minimalism, as well as some pioneering trends of yesteryear, including the William and Mary, Art Deco, and Jacobean styles.
In this guide, we’ll examine a brief history of furniture styles and break the major styles down by time period and their characteristics to give you a better idea of what they are. Keep reading to find out more!
Furniture Styles: A History
The furniture of today has inevitably been shaped by the designs that came before it—either by directly building off them and incorporating some of their chief elements or more indirectly by rejecting the principles of earlier styles.
For this reason, the best way to understand the significance and philosophy undergirding current popular styles is to take a look at some of the dominant trends of previous eras.
Many of the styles popular today draw from influences as far back as the 1600s, when furniture makers in Europe and the Americas began diversifying their crafts. Pre-Industrial Revolution styles, in particular, emphasized ornate designs, dark finishes, and elegance, with most modern styles emphasizing just the opposite: minimalism, light, and functionality.
Furniture Styles by Period
With this brief bit of context out of the way, let’s take a closer look at some major furniture styles that you should get to know. For the purposes of evaluation, we’ll break these styles into two larger categories: “traditional,” or styles that are largely historical, and “modern,” or styles that remain relevant today.
1. Traditional Furniture Styles
While a number of traditional furniture styles exist, including popular options such as Louis XVI (1760-1789), Hepplewhite (1765-1800), and American Empire (1800-1840), we’ll focus on some popular and influential styles that saw great favor in their day:
- Jacobean (1600-1690)
Easily distinguished by its straight lines, dark finish, and elaborate carvings, Jacobean furniture grew out of the Early English Renaissance during the reign of King James.
Jacobean wood pieces were deeply carved and highly three-dimensional and often featured high-end metal embellishment in the form of gold and silver.
- William and Mary (1690-1735)
Immediately following the Jacobean era, William and Mary style furniture bore heavy influences from both Chinese and Dutch designs, with East Asian lacquer work common on pieces, as well as Spanish ball feet and trumpet turned legs.
Like Jacobean furniture, William and Mary pieces featured ornate carvings and emphasized straight lines, as well as curves.
- Victorian (1840-1910)
The first manufactured furniture style, Victorian furniture grew out of Victorian era England as a product of the Industrial Revolution.
This popular and iconic furniture style is dark, heavy, and elaborate, often featuring elements of Romantic Influence.
- Arts and Craft (1880-1910)
A response to the mechanical pieces of the Victorian era, Arts and Craft style furniture harkened back to earlier days with handmade craftsmanship.
The designs are intentionally simple and utilitarian in their function.
- Art Deco (1910-1939)
A product of Pre-WWI-France, Art Deco countered the Arts and Craft movement with flashy colors, elaborate geometric designs, and shiny surfaces.
2. Modern Furniture Styles
Against this backdrop, let’s now look at some popular modern furniture styles you’ll want to be aware of.
As you’ll see, some of them pull directly from the traditional styles already mentioned, while others resulted from the rejection of the traditionalism associated with the aforementioned styles.
Some of the most popular modern styles of furniture you’ll need to know are:
What’s old is new—or, in the case of vintage furniture, stylish at the very least. Vintage furniture is generally regarded as furniture from the past 50-100 years, meaning that certain traditional styles such as Arts and Craft and Art Deco are still considered hot on the market today.
Vintage pieces tend to be associated with art, refinement, and a nostalgic sort of elegance.
It’s more likely, however, that you’ll encounter modern pieces when designing your home. Originating from the early 20th century, modern style furniture emphasizes straight lines, minimalist design, warm, monochromatic colors, and materials such as wood and metal.
Modern furniture pieces tend to focus on functionality and efficiency rather than on eye-catching designs.
Utilitarian by nature, minimalist furniture emphasizes open spaces, round curves, and a “clean” look.
The style draws from both Arts and Craft and modern designs and is often mixed with contemporary and post-modern designs.
Unlike the other styles on this list, contemporary furniture is ever evolving, simply by definition.
Contemporary furniture refers to whatever furniture is vogue at the moment, meaning two pieces of contemporary furniture may be largely dissimilar if created in different decades.
Saying this, however, contemporary designs draw heavily from the modern and minimalist traditions, emphasizing neutral color palettes, smooth textures, bright light, sleek lines, and open spaces.
What Is the Most Popular Furniture Style in 2021?
If you’re a fan of interior design catalogues, blogs, and channels, it may come as no surprise that the most popular furniture style in 2021 is the modern style.
Functional, efficient, and “authentic,” modern furniture emphasizes utility and minimalism, allowing for wide open and convenient rooms. Other styles related to modernism, including minimalism and contemporary, are also popular today, given their efficiency and “de-cluttered” visual appeal.
An understanding of interior design can help you find the right furniture for your home. In this guide, we went over some of the most popular styles of furniture from both yesteryear and today to give you a better idea of the different furniture styles out there and their philosophical and historical significance.
If you’re looking to find a furniture style that matches your self-expression and artistic vision, make sure to use this guide as a reference.
With the information here, you’ll be able to find the designs that best help your home take on your personality.