Items from the Edwardian era can often be quite difficult to spot, and this is especially the case for antique furniture.
The period, which started in 1901 upon the death of Queen Victoria and the ascension of Edward VII and ended around the time of the start of World War One, was one of great social and political upheaval, which is reflected in the new designs of the pieces being developed during that age.
Rather than the heavy Victorian style, Edwardian furniture took on a modern feel, with a combination of tastes from earlier eras to create an eclectic flavour. As the King had a fondness for travel, the style of the period was largely influenced by the fashions and trends of Continental Europe.
Unlike other eras, the Edwardian style was a mix of old and new, preferring lighter designs and colours such as those found on inlaid Edwardian furniture, rather than the dark heavy materials of the previous era. Rather than being recognised for its own unique design, Edwardian furniture often resembles the styles of other periods.
Types of wood used during the Edwardian era
Mahogany was favoured during this period, with furniture adopting a lighter aesthetic. Lighter materials were introduced to make designs during this era, with bamboo and wicker being used to make furniture.
Bird’s-Eye maple was also used, creating a speckled finish that polishes well. This wood is particularly found in antique bedroom furniture from the time due to its light finish.
Satinwood was originally introduced during the early 19th century, but made a revival in the Edwardian period when it was used for veneered and inlaid furniture. As this wood was so pale, it was the ideal medium for painting.
Interior design during the Edwardian period
During the early 20th century, room layouts and furniture was designed to have a light airy feel, which was a complete contrast to the style of the Victorian era. Many of the elements from previous fashions, most commonly the Tudor, Georgian and Medieval, were blended together to create an overall look of variety. Due to this blend of period styles, antique Edwardian furniture can be difficult to recognise.
Decorating techniques during this time changed to reflect the new, softer feel. This included lighter colours being used on walls, with woodwork often painted white. Some of the homes began to have electricity around this time and interior lighting was introduced, possibly accounting for the need for a more luminous tone on the inside of a home. The introduction of reproduction furniture borrowed styles from other eras, mainly Empire, Rococo and Baroque.
The fabrics used for upholstery were much lighter in colour and design, with paler hues and less intricate designs being made use of. Damask and chintz were popular in Edwardian furniture, with wing backed chairs becoming a firm favourite. Rooms became cheerful, with freshly cut flowers used to enhance the floral designs of upholstery. The colours used in a living room were often a little dimmer than in other areas of the home, with dark antique sofas being combined with light coloured walls for contrast.
Overall, Edwardian furniture design adopted many of the features and styles of earlier periods, creating a new, eclectic style.