16 Apr 2021
October 2, 2009 - Filed under: History of Antiques — Richard

Sometimes terms used by antiques dealers can be confusing. ‘Revival’ is a term used to describe a style of antique cabinet, table or chair where design has taken a u-turn to embrace a bygone era, for example Gothic, Rococo or Regency Revival. When the same logic is applied to fifties and sixties style furniture made now, it becomes ‘retro’, but doesn’t it still basically mean the same thing? The only difference perhaps being that ‘revival’ is a more 18th and 19th century concept whereas ‘retro’ seems to be very 20th and 21st century.

The term ‘revival’ used now still denotes something old or antique, although it is still the revival of an earlier concept. Certainly if we speak of a Gothic Revival chair and a G-Plan chair in the same sentence, it doesn’t only suggest a difference in styles but that one is most certainly an antique and the other is not. Yet original G-Plan furniture introduced in the early 1950s is also referred to as ‘retro’. So why is the term used to describe something that is original not revived, and if we are using the style again, shouldn’t its modern equivalent be a ‘revival?’

‘Retro’ certainly retains elements of a time many of us can still remember and thus remains current to us, where ‘revival’ is a restaged production of something that we never knew. Therefore although these words may have similar meanings, it is the historical context and connotation that makes them very different.

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