Empire Style Furniture Designs Popular in the Early- to Mid-1800s, Antique Furniture with Roman, Greek, and Egyptian Influences. While this style was going strong in France even earlier, and the English had their Regency designs of the same influence, Empire designs didn't really take hold in the United States until about 1815. This was a continuation of earlier neoclassical styles like Hepplewhite and Sheraton, but with a much stronger influences in terms of Roman, Greek, and Egyptian ornamentation. Literally for decades, all the way through the mid-19th century, the Empire look was in fashion in America. One of the interesting aspects of Empire styles is that they were seen at all price points. The wealthy often purchased very elegant pieces while those living more modestly could more readily buy items for “cottage use,” which had plainer veneers or were painted, according to American Furniture: Tables, Chairs, Sofas and Beds by Marvin D. Schwartz (now out of print, but widely available through used booksellers).
Fabrics and upholstery in a Neoclassical design should be in rich, but muted hues, such as moss greens, grayish blues, dusty pinks, subdued maroons and crisp, classic whites. Wide stripes and repeating patterns were popular prints during the period, along with toiles depicting Greco-Roman motifs. Ornate vases and urns were the decorative accessory to have in a Neoclassical design. These vessels were often designed in a solid color and embellished with white designs in repeating patterns, such as garlands or swags. Many Neoclassical accessories featured mythical creatures such as griffins, satyrs and even Sphinxes when Egyptian influences became popular in the latter half of the Neoclassical era. Introduce these design elements in lamps, paintings, pillows, mirrors and other thematic accessories.
The Rococo Chinese taste had conventions of its own: pagodas, exotic birds, Chinese figures, icicles, and dripping water. The graceful bombé commode, often with marble top and two or three drawers, the surface enriched with finely modelled ormolu mounts, was popular. Under Cressent's influence the mounts predominated, though later in the century the marquetry decoration gained first importance. Commodes and other pieces were decorated with marquetry of floral or geometrical patterns, or sometimes with lacquer decoration, again combined with ormolu mounts. The most celebrated makers of mounts during Louis XV's reign were Jacques Caffieri and his son Philippe. Jean-François Oeben was made ébéniste du roi (cabinetmaker to the king) in 1754; a pupil of Boulle, he was the most celebrated cabinetmaker of the period.
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