Take a seat: Furniture of the time

1788 - 1840s: Late Georgian and Recency Period
1788 - 1840s: Late Georgian and Recency Period

The First Fleet introduced the concept of furniture to Australia in 1788. Furniture was bought to the new colony to furnish the government and military residency and public furniture_uphostery.jpgbuildings.
Obviously this furniture was in the style of that period, which was a time of elegant, restrained design in British furniture.
The First Fleet and military personnel who came to australia in following fleets bought fairly useful pieces. As the colony grew and free settlers arrived, interiors became more decorated as family homes. The settlers bought their own family heirlooms and contemporary designs. Furniture needed to be of high quality to survive the sea journey. It is doubtful that much mass produced furniture today could survive the 9-month sea journey in the hull of a sailing ship with the salt air and damp.
The Georgian furniture was well made from correctly aged woods like ash, beech, cherry, oak, mahogany and walnut.
A lot of furniture from this period has become the antique furniture of today.
When Governor Phillip arrived the fashionable furniture of the time was designed and crafted by such names as George Hepplewhite, Robert Adam, Thomas Sheraton and Thomas Chippendale.
At this time there was a lot of interest in ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt as archeologists and collectors discovered the remains of those civilizations. The designers of the time took elements of furniture styles and motifs from these periods and included them in the furniture they created. This furniture included winged griffins, lion heads, animal legs and sphinx heads. Designers like Thomas Hope and Henry Holland used these features.

Features of Regency Furniturefurniture_ironmonger.jpg

  • The addition of brass to wood. Brass inlays were longer lasting than marquetry and this lead to the revival of French Boulle decorations.
  • Sofa Tables
  • Sabre Legs
  • Cable Twists
  • Metal Grilles
  • The commode was replaced by the chiffionier – a straight front low cupboard
  • Cheaper pieces were sometimes painted with black lacquer – called japanning
  • The current fashion was for decorating walls with paintings which led to lower pieces. Tallboys disappeared and bookcases and cabinets became smaller.
  • Wide use of metal mounts, lion paw feet, fretted brass grilles cover glass doors, pierced galleries, supports for shelves, and Ormolu or imitation gold.
  • Chest with front pilasters of classic forms, sphinx head on animal legs or caryatid female figures
  • Scrolled end couches with the frame often gilded.
  • Circular tables, some with marble tops, stood on plinth bases with animal feet
    Furniture and carpet emporium
  • Sabre shape legs decorated with reeding or brass inlay.
  • Novelties - Canterbury to carry music or plates, whatnot to display small pieces, Davenport small writing desks.
  • Twin quadruple tables
  • Sofa Tables - long narrow table with a drop leaf at each end and two drawers.
  • Sideboards in the Adam style with solid pedestals and urns grew quite massive.
  • Lyre shape used for table ends
In Australia, one of the earliest believed pieces of furniture was a chest made by convict craftsmen in Tasmania in 1816.
In 1820 two convicts, Webster and Temple made and presented a set of chairs to Governor Macquarie.
By the 1830’s in Sydney convict cabinet and furniture makers were producing Australian pieces in the current Georgian designs.

1840 - 1900 : Victorian Period
1840 - 1900 : Victorian Period

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By the 1840s the Gothic revival style that had its roots in the Regency period began to dominate furniture design.
The Gothic style was used by Sheraton and a few later designers. By the 1830s, interest in the Gothic was more widespread.
1900 to 1920
Christobel Francis Rojo in Melbourne and Beard Watson Ltd in Sydney were highly regarded for the wooden furniture they produced during this period.
Use of Australian timbers
As is still common in Australian furniture, manufacturers of Arts and Craft furniture in Australia used European timbers, such as English Oak and Pine, as well as Australian hardwoods such as Blackwood, Queensland Maple, Mountain Ash, Silky Oak and Queensland Walnut. Sometimes the Australian timbers were stained to imitate European timbers, but often they were used in their natural state. Used naturally, Australian timbers display unique characteristics in grain patterns and colour variations and they provided a distinctive touch to the Arts and Crafts pieces manufactured in Australia.

Furniture cart at a picnic

Early 1900s furniture factory


Australian Cedar Chest of Drawers
Colonial Australian cedar chest of 7 drawers, comprising of 3 full width drawers, 2 hat drawers and 2 small drawers all with original turned knobs. This is a Queensland made piece c.1880 with hoop pine as the secondary timber.

Cedar Bookcase
This Colonial Australian Cedar bookcase dates from the 1880's and is of Queensland origin. The original polish has been revived leaving a lovely mellow patina and good rich colour. Standing on original bun feet, this bookcase is 2380mm tall and features original glass in the doors and the original working locks.

Cedar Dressing Table
This original Colonial Australian cedar dressing table was made in Toowoomba, Queensland around 1890. Toowoomba lies 130km west of Brisbane and has always been an important centre for agriculture, business and transport. This is a quality piece of Colonial furniture made of local cedar with hoop pine back boards. All the drawers are hand dove-tailed front and back. All the original brass handles and locks are present as is the original paper label- " Rosenstengel & Kleimeyer, Cabinetmakers & Upholsterers, Ruthven Street Toowoomba".

Colonial Cedar Chiffonier
This chiffonier was made in Australia in the 1840's and is constructed entirely of Australian red cedar. The back features a finely carved Thomas Hope scroll design above a single shelf supported by turned columns. This chiffonier measures 120cm in width and has a rich colour.

Kitchen Hutch
Queensland pine kitchen hutch from c.1910, this piece measures 1350mm wide.