Jacobean and Jacobean Revival Furniture ............... Illustrated FURNITURE Glossary

Jacobean Furniture styles
Reprinted from
Colonial Furniture in America, by Luke Vincent Lockwood, 1926

The origin and development of the various styles were dependent upon many conditions, social, commercial, and political. The earliest European furniture was crude and heavy. It consisted of only such articles as were essential to domestic life, such as chests, tables, benches, bed frames, and, occasionally, chairs.

James I

In the reign of James I, when the American colonisation began, England had not advanced far as a manufacturing country. The Dutch were still the great commercial race, carrying on a prosperous trade with Spain, Portugal, and the East Indies. Antwerp also was a great commercial centre and was exporting to England household furniture and choice dry-goods, receiving in exchange only crude raw materials, such as wool, lead, and tin, together with beer and cheese. Holland was at this time receiving from Spain and Italy the cane furniture which later came to England under Charles II [Baroque style].

The furniture in England of this period was rectangular in form, and such articles as stood on legs were heavily underbraced.

Tables were made of oak with bulb-turned legs, often with rails carved in arabesque or lunette patterns.Occasionally a table would have a single leaf with a swinging leg, the forerunner of the gate-legged table. Many of the oak tables were arranged to be extended, one leaf lapping over the other when not extended. The dining-table of the middle class consisted of a deal board mounted on three or four standards.

Chairs were either of the wainscot type, heavy and more or less carved, or of the plain turned variety with three or four legs.

Oak chests and cupboards were in common use.

Charles I

During the reign of Charles I [James I's son whose fate it was to be beheaded] there was very little change in the form of furniture, except that the French form of chair was introduced with turned legs, the back and seat of leather or embroidery making a decidedly lighter effect than the wainscot type.

Chairs were not at all common, but stools and forms were used in their place.

Oak was almost the universal wood, and did not lend itself to any style other than the massive.

Couches or day beds were also in use among the wealthy class at this time.


In the early days of the Commonwealth little, if any, change took place in the prevailing styles of furniture, except possibly that the Puritan spirit asserted itself in a certain stiffness of form, and also in the more general use of chairs.

Late in the Commonwealth walnut was introduced, and with the use of this wood came a lightness not before attained. Legs were spiral or slightly turned, and cane was employed for the seats and backs of chairs. Chests became less popular, and in their place were used cupboards with drawers and chests of drawers.


With the Restoration came greater comfort and luxury, brought by Charles II and his followers from France and Holland.

Cane chairs of beech and walnut, with carved cresting, sides, and underbrace, took the place of the simple stiff chairs.

Turnings on table legs became more refined, and the heavy oak tables were superseded by tables with two leaves.

Chests ofdrawers took the place of chests.

Marquetry was introduced, and expensive textiles and embroideries were more commonly imported to cover upholstered chairs.

The Flemish scroll became the dominant form of ornamentation, and this scroll, when used as legs of chairs and tables, was the forerunner of the cabriole leg.

Page by Chuck LaChiusa
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