Antique furniture is furniture made more than 100 years ago, and there are a great many styles and periods to choose from. There are at least four pieces of antique furniture that every collector has. They are:
- Chairs. These include French fauteuils, marquises and bergéres which are types of upholstered, armchairs, 18th and 19th century side chairs, or genuine Shaker chairs with ladder backs and rush seats.
- Armoires: These are large chests where people stored their clothes. Some are ornately carved.
- Bookcases: Antique bookcases can also be beautifully carved. Some are attached to secretaries, which have fold-down desk surfaces and tills for writing implements.
- Desks. To differentiate it from a table, a desk is specifically a writing surface. It has space to tuck a chair beneath it, but it may or may not have cabinets or drawers.
Styles of furniture can range from the Renaissance of the 15th century to Art Nouveau of the years just before World War I. Popular styles of antique furniture include:
- Queen Anne: This graceful style is notable because of the appearance of the cabriole leg. This is a curved leg with a plain claw or hoof or a claw clutching a ball. Bookcases and cabinets could also have versions of cabriole legs and often came with elegant pediments. Later examples of the Queen Anne style are more ornate than earlier pieces. They often have marble tops, shells carved into the legs and gilding.
- Victorian: Though some people think the Victorian style is singular, it borrows heavily from earlier Renaissance, Gothic, Roccoco and English Regency styles. There can be much in Victorian furniture. A lot of this is the product of advancing technology, including the powered jigsaw. Pieces include sofas and chairs overstuffed with horsehair, what-nots to hold bric-a-brac and marble topped tables. Bentwood furniture, made by steam-softening and bending wood, became popular in the Victorian era.
- French provincial. Nearly every nation state has its own “country,” style, but the country style of France is one of the oldest and most popular. Called provincial because it was made by skilled cabinetmakers who moved to the provinces during the Revolution, this furniture is based on the lavish styles of the royal court, but has little of its ornamentation. Since it was made for more humble households and expected to be durable, French provincial furniture was made from wood that was strong and readily available such as fruitwood and walnut. Ordinary chairs were taller than those found in the palaces, and their seats were woven of cane or rush, which were inexpensive to repair , at the time. Even the chandeliers found in French farmhouses had festoons of wooden beads.