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Furniture Styles

What is your unique style?  You will want that look in your home to be pulled together either by blending a couple of styles in a few different areas of the house or by staying with just one style. This way, furniture shopping will be easier if you understand a bit about the different styles of furniture:

Art Deco

A streamlined, geometric style of home furnishings popular in the 1920s and ’30s, featuring rounded fronts, mirrored accents, sleek lines and wood furniture with chrome hardware and glass tops. 

Art Nouveau 

The forerunner to art deco, it was developed in France between 1890 and 1910. Furnishings and accessories such as Tiffany lamps contain ornate and flowing lines and free-form shapes taken from nature and the feminine form. 

Arts and Crafts 

The arts-and-crafts movement was a reaction to the Industrial Revolution’s reliance on mass production and the Victorian era’s focus on heavy ornamentation. Popular during the early 1900s, this style glorified craftsmanship in simple shapes with exposed joinery, spare ornamentation and strong lines. Materials used to embellish the look include metals, stained glass, painted tiles and fabrics featuring stylized floral motifs. Notable artisans of this period are William Morris, Gustav Stickley and Charles and Henry Greene. 

Asian 

Typically refers to Japanese and Chinese influences. In traditional Japanese interiors, raw materials such as bamboo and colours taken from nature are used to create a serene, calm environment. Furnishings characteristic of the look are shoji screens and rice-paper lanterns. Chinese interiors are identifiable by highly stylized furnishings featuring hand-painted designs on lacquered finishes, brightly coloured accessories and ornaments or statues of animals or mythical creatures. Red is used abundantly as a symbol of good luck. 

Baroque

A highly ornamental decorative style that originated in Italy in the 1600s and is characterized by twisted columns, large, irregular curves, elaborate scrolls, oversize mouldings, luxurious fabrics and inlaid wood floor designs. Gold is the pre-eminent colour and is supported with strong hues such as purple, dark green, deep red and burnt umber for a rich, regal look. 

Biedermeier

A German furniture style from the first half of the 1800s focusing on strength and comfort. The palette is light, with pastel hues acting as secondary colours. Furniture is made of light-coloured woods constructed in both linear and curved forms derivative of the more formal French Empire style. Parquet floors arranged in geometric designs are prevalent. 

British Colonial

Spurred by the arrival of the British colonists in the West Indies, this style represents a combination of pared-down Victorian elegance with Caribbean tropical and animal motifs. Furniture usually consists of mahogany, dark walnut or teak combined with wicker, cane and leather insets. 

Colonial 

A style that dominated the designs of American furniture from the 1600s through the Revolutionary era. It depended heavily use of wood for floors and walls, which were often left unfinished. Spindle forms were used for chair legs and backs in lieu of fancy ornamentation. Accessories that are part of the look include delicate embroidery such as crewelwork, needlepoint samplers, family portraits and pewter. 

Contemporary

Encompasses a wide range of styles developed in the latter half of the 20th century. Pieces feature softened and rounded lines, as opposed to the stark lines seen in modern design. Interiors contain neutral elements and bold color and focus on the basics of line, shape and form. 

Cottage

A colourful, comfortable look characterized by painted and/or decorated furniture with graceful lines, textural elements like baskets, bead board walls and natural fiber rugs and window shades, weathered finishes and colors taken straight from a lush flower garden. 

Country 

A wide-ranging style depending on geographical location but in general exemplified by primitive furniture, muted colors, milk-paint finishes and vintage fabrics. 

Eclectic

Encompasses a variety of periods and styles and is brought together through the use of colour, texture, shape and finish. 

English 

Interiors feature heavy use of wood, collections and patterned fabrics in traditional colours. Wood is used for floors, wainscoting and intricately carved mouldings. Fabrics consist of plaids, florals and paisleys as well as striped prints in color combinations of hunter green, navy blue, red and gold. Common collections include delicate china and silver pieces. 

English country

A relaxed, comfortable style that’s an interpretation of more traditional looks. Colours are natural and subdued. A rustic, textural quality permeates the interior and exterior through the use of wood, iron and stone. Textiles include embroidered rugs and fabrics in muted floral prints. Furnishings range from dark-stained chests to pine bookcases. 

Federal

An American furniture style of the period from 1780 into the 1830s. Incorporates the neoclassical influences of Sheraton and Hepplewhite, including refined lines, tapered legs and contrasting veneers and inlays. One of the popular Federal-style furniture makers was Duncan Phyfe. Brass feet and brass-ring drawer pulls are common on large storage pieces; game tables are popular accents. 

French Empire

Style of the early 1800s that expressed the imperial ambitions of Napoleon. Based on classic Greek and Roman design, motifs are symbolic of torches, Roman eagles, empire wreaths, mythological figures, lions and the letter “N” (for “Napoleon”). Walls and ceilings feature extensive decoration and ornamentation. 

French provincial | French country

Rustic versions of formal French furnishings of the 1600s and 1700s, such as the Louis XIV and Louis XV styles. Early French-country pieces were considered peasant furniture. Furniture pieces are left in their natural state and exude a handcrafted flair. Chairs feature caning for the backs and seats instead of heavy upholstery. Typical colours used in French country are deep and rich: Mediterranean blue, sunny yellow, terra-cotta red and green. Natural materials such as stone and terra cotta are used abundantly, in addition to wire and wrought iron. 

Garden

Garden style is typified by a fresh, pretty atmosphere and encompasses floral prints (especially in chintz fabrics), needlepoint pillows, framed botanicals, painted wood furniture, lace accents, fresh flowers and china antiques. 

Jacobean

Named for King James I, ruler of England in the early 1600s. Characterized by a medieval appearance, a dark finish and Italianate carvings. 

Lodge 

A look characterized by natural materials such as leather, wool and indigenous woods from the area. Furnishings are substantial and left in a rustic state. 

Mediterranean

This style originated in countries north of the Mediterranean Sea, including Spain, Greece and Italy, and is often referred to today as “Spanish modern.” Mediterranean-style furniture ranges from simply functional to extremely formal. Pieces are short with ornately turned legs and feet; hardware is heavy and often burnished. Walls are predominantly textured. A bull nose edge is a common design detail on countertops and fireplace mantels. 

Mid-Century Modernism 

A style that ran from the period from the 1930s to the 1970s. The look comprises accessories in organic shapes, clean lines, flat-painted walls and bent plywood frames used for furnishings. Materials developed and used during the period include colourful plastics, vinyl, melamine and Formica. Other materials used abundantly during this period include plywood, wood veneer, fibreglass, steel, aluminium and wrought iron. Lighting became an artistic statement, with pieces featuring floating circles, triangles, cones and radiant arms made of steel, brass and aluminium, and brightly coloured shades. 

Mission 

Representing the American arts-and-crafts movement in the early 1900s, this style features heavy, dark-finished oak furniture with straight and simple rectangular lines; associated with Gustav Stickley. The most popular piece of mission furniture in its day was the Morris chair, the first reclining/easy chair. 

Modern

A clean, streamlined furniture style from the 1930s with roots in the German Bauhaus School of Design and modern Scandinavian design. Characterized by polished surfaces, sleek geometric shapes and asymmetry. Expansive windows play into the overall aesthetic. Expansive, unadorned windows marry the interior with the exterior landscape. 

Moroccan

A detailed look consisting of intricately patterned fabrics, colourful mosaics, metal lanterns, textured walls, gauzy fabric, jewel-tone colors, layers of Oriental rugs and pillows in luxurious fabrics and ornately carved wooden accents. 

Neoclassical

An elegant and simple design style with motifs borrowed from ancient Roman, Greek and Egyptian themes. Popular during the late 1700s. 

Old World

The hallmark of Old World design is a comfortable, broken-in look that shows the wear and tear of usage. Textured walls, hand-trawled windows and walls and natural materials like tumbled marble exemplify the style. The finish of the materials is extremely important — distressed furniture and matte, honed finishes are preferable to highly polished, reflective surfaces. Colors are muted and subdued. 

Portuguese 

Furnishings are heavy and substantial, with exaggerated proportions, carved ornamentation and bulbous turnings on bedposts and furniture legs. The color scheme features a striking contrast of dark wood pieces with white or tone-on-tone neutrals. Intricate details such as gold-leaf accents and colourful, elaborate tile designs add to the formality of the design. 

Rococo

A style of European design originating in France during the early 1700s and featuring furniture made of rich woods with elaborate scrollwork and curved forms. It’s considered a more refined version of the coarse and heavy Baroque style. 

Romantic

A comfortable style that appeals to the senses through soft fabrics with floral patterns, laces, painted furniture, a pastel palette, filtered light and aromatic flower arrangements. 

Rustic

A simple style typical of country life, regardless of geography. Interiors are primitive, with exposed walls, wood paneling, rough-hewn beams and stone. Furnishings are simple-yet-sturdy pieces with little ornamentation and natural or worn finishes. 

Scandinavian

Encompasses three different Nordic styles — country, Gustavian and Scandinavian modern. Each holds true to a light and fresh colour palette and an abundance of wood pieces meant to counteract the region's dark, cold winters. Distinguishing characteristics of the country style include bare or painted wide-plank, wood floors, furniture made of birch or pine and fabrics that feature minimal patterns in white-washed hues. The Gustavian look is a combination of the country pieces with a brighter colour palette and elegant accessories, like crystal chandeliers and furnishings with graceful curves. Scandinavian modern evolved with the modern movement in the 1930s. It features the same blond wood furniture. but with an emphasis on line, shape and form. The look is punctuated with bursts of colour in small doses, like area rugs or artwork. 

Shabby Chic

This style has become popular because of its accessibility and affordability. White-painted furniture, painted motifs, muted colours, slipcovers and vintage fabrics are all indicative of the comfortable, eclectic look. 

Shaker

A simplistic furniture design featuring clean, spare lines. The style was originated in the mid-1770s by an American Shaker religious sect that built furniture according to the belief that the beauty of the object was found in its usefulness. 

Southwestern

Generally characterized by earth-tone colours, rough textures, handcrafted objects, an abundance of terra cotta and clay tile roofs. 

Traditional

Traditional furnishings can hail from England in the 18th century, the French countryside or even the exotic lands of the East. Among the most popular traditional styles are 18th century English, 19th century neoclassic, French country and British Colonial revival. 

Transitional

Transitional style is a marriage of traditional and contemporary furniture, finishes, materials and fabrics. Furniture lines are simple yet sophisticated, featuring either straight lines or rounded profiles. Fabric is as diverse as graphic patterns on overstuffed sofas and textured chenilles on sleek wood frames. 

Tropical 

A style featuring ornamental carvings in island motifs, exotic woods and framed botanicals. 

Tudor 

A highly decorated style in effect from 1485 to the late 1500s. Elements reflect an almost-medieval look, with stone or brick floors, contrasting colours and ornate furniture. Pewter accessories are plentiful. The look depends on a recurrent use of textural fabrics on beds, windows and walls. 

Tuscan

Tuscan interiors feature a rustic, sun-baked look characterized by crumbling stone patios, simple and sturdy furnishings with elegant iron accents, terra-cotta tiles, textured wall finishes, elegant, detailed murals and trompe l’oeil designs. 

Victorian 

A furniture and architecture style named for England's Queen Victoria that was very popular through the latter half of the 1800s. Usually constructed of mahogany, walnut and rosewood in dark finishes, which were often highlighted with elaborate carved floral designs. Common elements of this style include oval chair backs and marble tops on tables and dressers. Fabrics and wall coverings feature bold patterns in strong colors. Draperies and upholstered pieces are embellished with extensive trimmings and fringe.