Eastlake Architecture ... ..... Illustrated FURNITURE Glossary

Furniture - Eastlake Style in Buffalo, NY

Proportions Medium and delicate.

Essential elements Simple rectilinear shapes. Geometric or floral ornament, often carved in low relief. Inscribed linear decoration. Turned spindles and stiles. Inset panels. Scroll-cut brackets. Middle or Far Eastern motifs. Some ebonizing.

Woods Oak, walnut, cherry, or maple.

Notable forms Chair. Sofa. Stool. Bed. Side and center tables. Pedestal.

- Marvin D. Schwartz, American Furniture: Tables, Chairs, Sofas and Beds. 2000


The Eastlake Style was simply a decorative style of ornamentation found on houses of various other Victorian styles, primarily the Queen Anne and Stick styles.

It is named after Charles L. Eastlake (1833-1906), an English architect who wrote "Hints on Household Taste in Furniture, Upholstery, and Other Details," published in 1868. The book was reprinted in America in 1872 and became so popular that it required six editions within eleven years.

He made no furniture himself, his designs being produced by professional cabinet makers.

In his book, Eastlake promotes a peculiar kind of furniture and interior decoration that was angular, notched and carved, and deliberately opposed to the curved shapes of French Baroque Revival Styles such as the Second Empire.

Traditionally, furniture makers imitated architectural forms, but Eastlake reversed this process. Eastlake houses had architectural ornamentation that had copied the furniture inside the house.

However, it was not only the custom designers who were inspired by Eastlake's ideas. The manufacturers of the machine-made furniture which Eastlake deplored also copied the Eastlake style as it was illustrated in his book.
His doctrine of simplicity was overwhelmed by machined details inexpertly combined with Oriental suggestions in incised carving, applied brackets, turnings, etc. Some of it was suggested by the Gothic, some of Tudor origin.

Eastlake style became a kind of catchall term meaning different things to different people. Eastlake himself commenting on his influence in the United States, said, "I find American tradesmen continually advertising what they are pleased to call Eastlake furniture, the production of which I have had nothing whatever to do, and for the taste of which I should be very sorry to be considered responsible."

Henry Hobson Richardson, an American architect, was one of the foremost proponents of the Eastlake style in the United States. The furniture he designed for the Woburn Public Library and the North Eastern Library in Massachusetts are very similar to pieces which appear in the illustrations to "Hints on Household Taste."


Because classical motifs had become overly familiar, new sources of ornament, particularly Middle Eastern and Far Eastern, were sought by Eastlake. One important influence was the Aesthetic Movement of the 1890s which was heavily influenced by Japanese design.

Eastlake emphasized the beauty of wood grains, favoring oak and cherry, as well as rosewood or walnut if not obscured by dark varnish. In spite of his suggestions, however, many American furniture makers used ebonized wood for Oriental decoration on otherwise essentially Eastlake pieces.

Eastlake forms were strongly rectilinear and had geometric ornament, turnings, brackets, trestles, and incised linear decoration - all easily executed with machines.

Also known under the name Cottage Furniture, the mass-produced pieces were much more affordable than the fanciful revival pieces.

Eastlake designs were displayed at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876 and remained popular until about 1890.

Eastlake Pier Glass

Six feet, six inches to eight feet tall by 30 to 36 inches wide.

Rectangular flat frame surmounted by architectural molded cornice with small raised panels interrupted by central cartouche with raised panel and scroll-carved pendent finial. The top of this usually overlaps the serpentine, arched mirror panel slightly.

Sides of frame have short molded and scrolled pilaster blocks at top and bottom, rest is faced with raised panels of burl veneer which may be ornamented with fine incised lines of gilded scrolling.

Mirror either has a low base molded to match cornice or stands directly on floor.

Black walnut with burl-veneer trim or of maple ebonized and ornamented with gilded incised scrolling and small geometric details. Produced by furniture factories,sometimes to match an Eastlake parlor set. Ca. 1875-1885.

Eastlake Table Mirror

Design is same as Eastlake pier glass but about half as tall.

Mirror panel has either a flat arched or straight top.

Average size is three feet, six inches to four feet, six inches tall by 24 to 26 inches wide.

Made of black walnut with burl-veneer trim and, sometimes, gilt scrolling. Ca. 1870-1885.

Examples from Buffalo:

Other examples:

Photos and their arrangement © 2004 Chuck LaChiusa
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