American Colonial Furniture and Period Furniture Styles

American colonial furniture is available in two general period furniture styles. When furnishing your home you will usually decide whether you want a modern or period look to your individual rooms. It is simple, but expensive, to purchase antiques, and one option could be to use reproduction furniture that faithfully reproduces known antique pieces.

However, it is not always possible or even economical for a manufacturer to reproduce an entire collection, and many people to choose to furnish at least one room, often the dining room, in a colonial style, using reproductions or standard modern pieces crafted to that style. However, what does that mean, and what does the term 'period furniture' involve? Here are some options that many use:

Reproduction Colonial Period Furniture

A reproduction colonial style, consisting of beautifully handcrafted solid wood furniture and intricately turned table and chair legs. Reproduction furniture from the early colonial period covers the William and Mary, Queen Anne, Jacobean, Georgian and French Imperial eras, and were copies of items brought to America by colonists, traders and seafarers. Although genuine antiques are very expensive, such styles are still manufactured today by reproduction specialists such as Southwood Furniture.

Traditional American Colonial Furniture

In contrast with the colonial styles describe above, traditional early American colonial furniture started off as simple wooden tables and benches made by early pioneers and settlers, and with little or no ornamentation. However, as increasing numbers of settlers moved into the American colonies, craftsmen began building their own furniture to a rough approximation of what they were familiar with back in their home country.

Some were constructed using the solidly build features of Chippendale designs, while others were more akin to the finer slim limes of Thomas Sheraton. Nevertheless, the basic feature of this type of colonial furniture was fundamentally a solid style of construction using genuine wood jointing techniques rather than nails and glue. This furniture was built to last, including substantial gathering tables and Windsor and ladder back chairs handcrafted from oak, cherry and maple, with wood or metal hardware of iron and brass.

The simpler forms of this home-made colonial furniture developed into what is known as the 'mission' style, including Shaker and Amish furniture designs. There are several American furniture firms currently marketing the mission style of furniture, including Stickley and specialists such as Simply Amish.

Through time, geographical areas became known for their own styles of colonial furniture, New England being one, and Southwood Furniture has been licensed by several New England museums to access their records to reproduce the styles exemplified within the houses comprising the museums.

In Virginia, cabinetmakers such as William Hay in Colonial Williamsburg manufactured a style of furniture, generally based upon recreations of the European and English furniture styles of the day. These gradually developed into distinctively different period furniture styles representative of geographic locations and specific manufacturers.

Contemporary Furniture Styles

Many people prefer an open plan or updated look with modern contemporary furniture. Much of the contemporary furniture manufactured in the USA has developed from either of the colonial styles described above. Contemporary does not necessarily mean modern, but tends to offer straighter and cleaner lines than much of the mission type of American furniture, and certainly more simple in style than most reproduction colonial pieces.

In stating that, the closest colonial style would like be the simple Sheraton designs that represented the clean contemporary and modern furniture of its day. That period was during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, during the beginnings of federal America. Today's contemporary styles will be tomorrow's antiques!

Most American furniture manufacturers will offer contemporary furniture, much of which will look good in a modern home along with one or two selected colonial period pieces. Examples include L. & J.G. Stickley, Nicholls & Stone, Southwood and Valley View Oak. These are just a few of the American furniture companies that manufacture furniture in the USA to one American colonial furniture style or another.

It is not generally easy to furnish an entire room with American colonial furniture unless you are also prepared to replace your occasional and accent furniture with pieces from the same period. However, the work is well worth the result if you do, and there is a large selection of period style furniture available online for you to consider. These range from entire furniture sets for your dining room, living room or bedroom, to beautifully hand crafted individual items and occasional pieces that would grace any room, irrespective of its decorative style.

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