With it’s origins dating to the 1800s, Queen Anne furniture has stood the test of time. It’s classic looks rely on specific design elements to separate it from similar furniture of other styles. Recognizing these elements will help a potential furniture buyer determine what separates Queen Anne from all the rest.
New or Antique, Chairs are a Necessity
Chairs are arguably the most important piece of furniture in any dwelling. Without chairs, humans would have to sit on the floor while eating, watching TV or doing freelance writing. Queen Anne chairs are full of the classic design elements that the style is noted for.
A gently flowing S-curve is the definitive characteristic of all things Queen Anne. On chairs, the cabriole leg is a convenient place to display this graceful element. Regardless of the foot, which can be of turned pad, trifid or ball and claw variety, the cabriole leg grabs the eye and directs it from top to bottom.
Viewed from the side, the back legs of the chair also make use of the compound curve, but almost never include a foot similar to the front legs. A vase shaped back rest, or splat, and the seat’s side rails are also common locations for the compound curve. The top piece of the chair is called the crest rail, and it connects the two rear legs and the back splat. These four4 pieces are seamlessly blended together with flowing curves at all junction points. A shell carving occasionally adorns the crest rail.
Case Furniture Displays Spectacular Woods
The high chest of drawers, or highboy, and the dressing table, or lowboy, are two regal examples of Queen Anne case furniture. These pieces are places to store things, with dovetailed drawers and (shhhh) secret hidden compartments often incorporated into the interior of each piece. However, a well made highboy will never be mistaken for a cardboard box. Cabriole legs adorn all four corners and commonly have carved knees. A fan carving is a common element on one or more drawer fronts. Upscale highboys will have their tops decorated with S-shaped molding. This swan’s neck molding draws the eye from the top corner to the center of the piece, where another fan carving and/or a turned finial are on display.
Much of the surface area of this case furniture is dominated by drawer fronts. This is where cabinet makers, then and now, show off their most heavily figured woods. A maple lowboy might have birds eye or curly maple drawer fronts. Incredible crotch grain walnut is best displayed on drawer fronts of an otherwise straight grained walnut case. This figured wood can be veneered or solid; both are acceptable.
Walnut, cherry and maple are domestic woods that were commonly used in Queen Anne furniture. In earlier times, the use of mahogany was considered a sign of elite status. This wood was imported and therefore more expensive. Today, all four of these woods are acceptable Queen Anne furniture woods.
Furniture Combines Form and Function
By incorporating the element of the curve and adding carved and sculpted adornments, Queen Anne furniture makers transform ordinary rectangular shapes into desks, chests and chairs of timeless beauty. Some pieces may be built from unfigured woods and carry a minimum of decoration and some employ woods of incomparable beauty and all the woodcarvers skill. Either way, Queen Anne has beauty that’s beyond skin deep.
Long live the Queen.