Thursday, July 20, 2017

American Furniture Styles: William and Mary 1690 - 1730

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Side Chair, America, c. 1700, walnut and cane - Brooklyn Museum - DSC09086
William and Mary style side chair ca. 1700,
By Daderot (Own work) [CC0],
via Wikimedia Commons
For the next fews weeks, I'll be featuring a series of short articles on American furniture styles. To kick off this new series, this week I'll be featuring the historic style of William and Mary furniture.

William and Mary style:

Named for the king and queen of England, the William and Mary (1690 - 1730) style of furniture is one of the earliest styles of furniture in America. Blending Old World Baroque traditions with New World materials and ingenuity, furniture craftsman of this era consisted of two skilled artisans - the "joiner" using mortise and tenon technology was responsible for joining straight pieces of wood that carried the weight of the furniture. And, the "turner" who shaped wood using tools and gauges and a lathe to create intricate patterns and trumpet shapes. Together the two artisans produced what we now call William and Mary style furniture.

William and Mary characteristics:

This style of furniture often has a Medieval look drawing on Old World design traditions. While it appears uncomfortable, William and Mary style furniture features a slightly tilted back that contoured better to the human body and as time went on, cane seats transitioned to solid wood seats with cushions. This was a huge departure from previous furnishings. The William and Mary style with its new elegance also ushered in some of the first furnishings with marquetry (a fancy type of decorative wood inlay).

William and Mary style furniture can be identified by a few key features:

- Rectilinear shape with joined corners
- Tall and slender physical shape
- Bun or ball style feet
- Turned legs and stretchers
- Arches and back splats
- Walnut or oak wood with pine secondary woods

The practical book of period furniture, treating of furniture of the English, American colonial and post-colonial and principal French periods (1914) (14778880965)
William and Mary style cabinet with inlay as seen in a furniture book from 1914.
 By Eberlein, Harold Donaldson; McClure, Abbot, 1879- [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

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