Friday, September 8, 2017

American Furniture: Federal Style

By Gretchen Sawatzki

The Federal Period (1780 - 1820) also known at the Adam period-style, was a truly decorative period for American furniture. During this era artisans used earlier furniture forms, mainly the William and Mary period and Queen Anne periods as the baseline of their designs adding decorative elements to elevate the look and fashion of each piece of furniture they made.

The Federal Period introduced a number of decorative techniques with French and English influences. Most historians attribute the Federal style to English pattern books that made their way to the United States in the early revolutionary period with some of the earliest Federal style forms attributed to Samuel McIntire (1757-1811), a self-taught architect and designer from Salem, Massachusetts and Duncan Phyfe (1768-1854) of New York.  The Èbèniste, a cabinetmaker know for creating and executing delicate inlay, contributed greatly to the overall design aesthetic to furniture of the period with marquetry, inlays, fluting, and decorative borders.

Traditional shield-back side chair attributed to Samuel McIntire.
Image credit.

Brass also took on a new distinction in a decorative manner with pierced brass bail pulls and cast knobs with unique floral and mammalian patterns. Pierced brass hardware became a standard for furniture of this era, and we're included on all types of cabinets, tables, and even chairs.

The Federal Period also saw an influx is specific furniture designers from several east coast cities including Chippendale, Hepplewhite, and Sheraton furniture. Sub-genres of the Federal style also include the Empire Style (1820 -1840).

The Federal Style can be characterized by a few key elements:
- Mahogany wood
- Inlay and marquetry
- Spade or arrow feet
- Slender, masculine design
- Shield or oval-back chairs

Sources:
  Buffalo Architecture and History
  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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