A Guide to Five Eras of Furniture Design Throughout History

Early american furniture styles

For the important role that furniture plays in our everyday lives, we’re never taught much about its place in history. Furniture has dramatically evolved since prehistoric times, when humans became non-nomadic and first began to use stone as chairs and beds.

Here are five of the many ways furniture material types and design have evolved throughout history:

Ancient Greek furniture (2000 BC – 300 BC): Most of our knowledge of the furniture used by the Ancient Greeks comes from their own depictions found on urns and vases. The Greeks were influenced by the Ancient Egyptians at first, with rigid, rectangular designs — but once they developed their own style, they created more flowing and curved designs with their furniture material types.

Medieval English furniture styles (500 AD – 1450 AD): During the Middle Ages, English furniture makers crafted heavy oak pieces that were ornamented with intricate carved designs. However, members of the nobility and upper classes were usually the only ones who could afford such furniture — the peasantry had access only the most rudimentary furniture and furniture material types.

Early American furniture styles (1640 AD – 1700 AD): The American colonists opted for rustic, simple and rudimentary styles. Their furniture material types came from the natural resources around them like wood, leather and cotton linen. Americans modeled their furniture after popular traditional furniture styles of the time in Europe.

Contemporary furniture (1980 AD – present): Contemporary furniture styles are influenced by the modern styles of the middle of the 20th century, which saw the first incorporation of furniture material types like plastic and fiberglass. Today’s furniture focuses less on ornamentation and more on simple, high-precision design.

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