Antique furniture has to be 100 years old to be considered antique, but there are plenty of interesting antique styles dating back much further for you to look at, both for the style and the stories. Take the story of Tudor and Elizabethan furniture in the 16th and 17th century. Henry VII balked at Italian Renaissance styles as he broke from the Catholic Church so Tudor furniture stayed Gothic. But Henry's daughter Elizabeth was a rebel so she brought on the English Renaissance as seen in Elizabethan furniture.
When buying antique furniture, it's fun to get acquainted with all the styles to see which ones fit for you. Antiques add character to your home, and there may be pieces you just love. Or maybe you want a certain antique style overall or to mix it with modern.
But what's the skinny on buying antique furniture, you ask? Where do you buy cheap antique furniture so you don't spend too much? And which style is right for you?
To help, we've put together basics on buying antique furniture. We're all about antique reproduction. It gives you the look, feel, and quality of real antiques at a good price. No exorbitant auction items that lose value here.
Keep reading to learn the different antique styles, then jump in and decorate your place with your favorite pieces.
The hunt is on but first things first: Get acquainted with antique furniture styles before you head out. There are plenty of styles and you may mix and match, even with modern pieces if that's your thing. We love to mix and match as do many interior decorators.
But it helps if you know your options. Do you like the William and Mary period? Or how about the Queen Anne-era pieces? There is also the Early American design style, the Shaker Style, American Empire Style, and Arts and Crafts Style, which went through 1910 and is within that 100-year-age range.
To learn the specific styles, put on your learning cap and keep reading. To become an expert, hit the books or take a class.
British furniture styles through the 19th century were influenced by ancient Greeks, the Romans, and Japan, to name a few. Here's a quick overview of some English styles.
Elizabethan furniture (1520–1620) added classical influences to Gothic with plenty of ornamentation. Think tables and four-poster beds. The end of this period was the start of the Age of Walnut that continued until the end of the William and Mary time.
William and Mary (1690–1730) incorporated some French influences as William of Orange was a Francophile. This is called Early Baroque. Daybeds and writing desks appeared during this time. The look had more embellishments and was thinner than earlier furniture styles. Maple and walnut were popular.
Queen Anne (1702–1760) furniture keeps getting lighter than previous designs. It's curvy and has pillowed seats and padding on the feet. Maple, cherry, and poplar were used. It's minimal rather than ornate.
Rococo furniture (1730–1770) is characterized by playful shell and rock looks and often features leaves and wild patterns. The goal was to be practical yet still flashy and stylish. The word rococo comes from the French "rocaille," which means rock or shell.
Arts & Crafts (1880–1910) is a style that was seen around the world in addition to Britain. It's characterized by a philosophical and artistic bent. Think handcrafted, artisan, and folk.
American furniture styles were tightly linked to British furniture styles, including Victorian, William and Mary, Queen Anne, and Arts and Crafts. During the late 1700s, America broke from England and so did the furniture styles. During this post-colonial period, the Shaker style, Furniture Style, and Federal Style came to be.
Shaker style comes from the Shakers, the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, who came to America from Britain in 1774. Their style is minimalist and sticks to their principles: honesty, utility, and simplicity. No ornamentation here. But they use asymmetry to keep things interesting.
Federal furniture is also simple. It has smooth lines and clean surfaces.
Empire style is more colorful in the sense of being ornamental. It is influenced by Roman style and Ancient Greek furniture.
We highly recommend reproduction furniture where you can choose style and era because you get the same looks and quality for a much better price. Also, it's significantly easier to find what you want.
Also, a fine antique reproduction spot can custom make what you're looking for and refurbish something you find that needs work to make it immaculate for your place.
Ultimately, what you buy should be what you love. Don't go for the antique value because it can come and go like the rain. Go for the piece you can't live without. Add an American Empire sofa to your industrial-style modern home for a pop of warmth and color. Place a William Kent Style carved settee in your entry to show off some flair, if that's your thing. Or go for a Louis XVI chandelier in your bathroom with a standalone tub.
Peruse advice and articles from different interior designers for fun ideas.
Now that you've had your basic primer on buying antique furniture, you're ready to go antiquing the easy way. Start by viewing the different antique styles from different eras. Then, peruse decor options, unless you know already exactly what look you want. And then dive in by grabbing your first piece.
We recommend this read to start you on your way: 9 Antique Furniture Styles Straight Out of Britain