Traditional furniture encompasses a broad range of styles, typically characterized by carvings, leaf or scroll motifs, and stylized architectural details like ornate moldings. Usually in darker woods with deep finishes, traditional styled beds and dressers have a very formal or stately feel.
Inspired by the fashions, trends and social customs of the past, sub categories include Queen Anne, Louis Philippe, Colonial, Neo Classic, Victorian and French Provincial.
While one sub style of traditional furniture might look very much like any of the others, the differences can be subtle: Queen Anne and Sheraton often used broken pediment detailing while Victorian pieces generally did not; Colonial furniture was constructed of lighter woods whereas Regency furnishings favored mahogany; Queen Anne tables featured cabriole legs while Chippendale furniture is distinguished by claw-and-ball feet.
Traditional bedroom furniture, including traditional beds from the Victorian era continues to be a popular choice today because of its graceful curves and carved detailing, as exemplified by the sleigh bed, which had its origins during this time period.
Contemporary style includes the Art Deco, Modern, Retro, Scandinavian and Urban sub groups. Contemporary and modern are sometimes used interchangeably, and although they are related, they are essentially two separate and distinctive design movements.
While both contemporary and modern emphasize geometric form and minimal detail, contemporary furnishings tend to incorporate color whereas modern furniture will use neutral palettes.
Contemporary, although simple, is not uniform, utilizing a variety of finishes, palettes and materials to create texture and visual interest. Their geometric forms are often softened by curved lines. Furnishings can be constructed of lighter woods, exposed woods or metal. Other popular materials for contemporary furniture are rubber, stone, or concrete.
Modern bedroom furniture, including modern beds, defines interior space by geometric form, neutral palettes and a strong emphasis on function rather than flourish. Furnishings tend to be asymmetrical, with sleek and polished surfaces; metal and glass are common construction materials. Other materials for both modern furniture and decorating accessories include vinyl, melamine, Formica, plywood, fiberglass, steel, aluminum and wrought iron. Modern design emerged in the second half of the 20th century, reflecting the new technologies, materials and philosophies of the Machine Age.
Urban furniture, a sub style of contemporary, is minimalist in feel and smaller in scale, suitable for apartment living. Lines are clean and wood finishes in dark brown or black are typically textured with brushed metal highlights or glass accents.
Country bedroom furniture, including country dressers, reflects the geographic location of its origin. The range of styles is numerous and includes the popular sub groups Cottage, Nostalgic, French Country, Shaker and Mission. The more traditional old country furniture imitated the dark woods used to build barns, and furnishings tended to be heavier and darker.
With the European influence, later trends of country style furniture displayed lighter finishes, smaller scale and simpler detail. Having a comfortable feel, country furniture is usually constructed of wood, with either milk-painted or natural wood finishes. Colors are typically muted. Formal country can be described as busy, with lots of detailing and flourishes.
Cottage style has that country air, but its lines are more simple and graceful. A common finish for this style of furniture would be distressed or weathered; dressers and nightstands can include whimsical details such as stenciling. Colors are bright and textiles are more folksy and warm.
While similar to French Provincial, French Country is considered much less ornate. French Country furnishings are more rustic as demonstrated by the use of cane for chair backs and seats. Natural materials are more commonly used such as terra-cotta and marble. Other materials that would not be used in French Provincial but would be in French Country are wire and wrought iron.
Often mistaken one for the other, Shaker style emerged in the late 1700’s, while Mission appeared in the early 1900’s as part of the Arts and Crafts movement. Reflecting their belief that the beauty of an object was found in its usefulness, Shakers crafted their furniture with clean and spare lines and forms, using lighter colors. Clean and spare like Shaker furniture, Mission style is more rectangular in form with darker finishes. Distinguishing design features of this style are exposed joints and slats.
Rustic furniture, including the two sub categories, Lodge and Southwestern, furniture styles are distinguishable by their simple lines, rough-hewn look and practicality. Furniture pieces, such as a nightstand or headboard, look substantial and over-sized. Finishes are commonly distressed or natural, and can feature textured, natural elements like tree knots, twig ends and bark. Cedar and pine are the most common construction materials for Rustic style furniture.
Still substantial looking and made from natural materials, but more refined in appearance, Lodge style furnishings possess a casual elegance. In addition to wood, Lodge furniture uses leather and wool; fabrics are often imprinted with rural or outdoor themes. Plaid is also a popular choice. As demonstrated by the Adirondack deck chair, with its high arched back, Lodge furnishings have graceful curves and unaffected detailing.
Southwestern furniture shares many of the same characteristics of the Rustic and Lodge styles, but specifically reflects the rich history of the southwestern states. Navajo influences are apparent in the abundant use of turquoise, silver and cultural symbols and themes.
Transitional style borrows the best of the classic elements of Traditional and Contemporary styles, merging them for a more formal look with contemporary simplicity and comfort. Lines and forms of transitional bedroom furniture, including nightstands, tend to be simple but sophisticated. Furniture is of moderate scale, but upholstered pieces like armchairs or bed benches are often overstuffed. The emphasis is on uncluttered detail. Transitional style makes use of texture rather than color, so palettes tend to be muted or earth-toned. As shown by the use of straight lines with tapered legs, transitional furnishings make use of contrast for functionality and comfort. Furniture is restful and graceful; woods are rich with medium to dark finishes. Sub categories of this style include Casual and Eclectic.
Coastal style furnishings are inspired by objects from exotic parts of the world, and how these items were originally used in their environment. Most typically made of wicker, rattan or wood, and based on designs that bring to mind places like the Caribbean, Coastal furniture gives a room a tropical and exotic feel. Palettes for textiles and furniture of the Coastal style range from rich earth tones to the vibrant colors of sun, sky, tropical fish and coral. Woods can have milky finishes, for that light touch reminiscent of summer holidays by the sea.
Japanese style is typified by a minimal, pared-down look with no architectural detailing, to create living spaces that are harmonized and serene. Natural materials, like bamboo and rice paper, are common materials in Japanese design; use of natural light is maximized; furniture is generally low to the ground. Horizontal lines, which represent man’s relation to the earth, are very prominent in Japanese decor. Color schemes tend to also imitate nature, the grays and greens of foliage contrasted with warm wood tones.
Chinese furnishings are distinguished by their stylized or ornately carved features, with hand painted designs on highly polished lacquered finishes. Dark woods are favored over light ones. Furnishings tend to be large scale. Red is a popular color because it is a symbol of good luck; other bright colors are also used as accents.