American Colonial Furniture – A Style from the Revolutionary War Era
There are many types of Colonial furniture, including British Colonial furniture, French Colonial furniture, and Spanish Colonial furniture. However, in the United States, when we talk about furniture from the “Colonial” era, we are usually referring to the furniture that was created around the time colonists settled in America, and the period of time before and after the Revolutionary war.
Colonial furniture is characterized by the word “practicality.” Pieces from the Colonial era, which encompassed the years just before and just after the American Revolution, are typically made of basic types of wood, are comfortable, and are described as conservative-looking.
When the American colonists built furniture, they did so with comfort in mind. They were more concerned with how easily a piece of furniture could be used than how elaborate it looked. Because early American settlers did not arrive in the new country with a large amount of furniture, they were tasked with making their own pieces from the wood that was available near their new homes.
When the colonists began to build their own furniture, they typically started with the basics – tables, chairs, bookcases, shelves, cabinets, and kitchen cupboards, and these pieces were generally made of wood found in the forests on the eastern seaboard – maple, cherry and oak. However, some American-Colonial furniture was also made of walnut, elm, mahogany, and several other common woods.
Some of the typical types of hardware that were incorporated in American Colonial style furniture include hinges made of brass and iron and knobs made of wood. Many chairs had cushions that were covered in hand-made needle-pointed fabric.
Northern and Southern Colonies
Typically, American Colonists used woods and materials that were easy to acquire to build their furniture. Also, the specific styles that they created were adapted to meet the needs of their citizens at the time. In the North during the Colonial era, there was a heavy religious influence, so their furniture styles tended to more plain-looking and non-decorative. Their focus was mainly on practicality and the durability of the pieces. In the South, furniture during the Colonial period tended to be a bit more elegant and had a greater resemblance to British and European styles than what was found in the North.
How to Find Colonial Furniture
Today, finding pieces of original Colonial furniture is extremely rare. When pieces are found, they are quite expensive – partly due to their historical significance and partly due to the extremely high quality of the furniture. Also, many pieces from the Colonial era that have survived this long are considered to be pieces of art and are sitting in museums. However, it is occasionally possible to find original pieces of Colonial furniture at auctions or at estate sales.
An easier and less expensive way to find Colonial furniture today is to look for Colonial reproduction furniture. These are pieces that are new but are designed to look like originals. Reproductions can still be costly because they are often not mass-produced and are made using the same techniques used more than 200 years ago by talented Colonial furniture makers.