What Is Old World Furniture?

B. Turner

Old world furniture refers to home furnishings that feature a classical, European-inspired design. This style of design is based on furniture created prior to the development of United States, or new world, which occurred during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Old world furniture draws its inspiration from traditional Spanish, Italian, and Middle Eastern designs, as well as styles associated with Mexico and Latin America. In general, old world furniture can be characterized as well-worn and comfortable, yet also well-made and built to last.

Old World furniture may include rocking chairs.
Old World furniture may include rocking chairs.

The materials used to create old world furniture included any natural materials that were readily available to people during this time period. This includes many species of wood, such as oak and pine, as well as natural grasses or straw. People in the old world also relied on local leather and woven tapestries to serve as rugs, furniture coverings, or design accessories. Natural stone and clay tile from these areas also played an important role in furniture design, as did metals such as iron or copper. To preserve the authenticity of these furnishings, modern manufacturers utilize these same materials to create reproductions of classic pieces.

Old world furniture can also be characterized by its rich coloring, typically inspired by colors found in nature. Muted earth tones, reds, browns, and tan were widely used to create this furniture. Craftsmen also incorporated rich greens, such as the forest greens of the trees or the lighter shades of grasses and plants. This furniture may also include accent colors like the burgundy red of wine or the bright yellow of gold or the sun.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, furniture was made one piece at a time by skilled craftsmen. Builders took pride in their craft, and built sturdy, well-crafted pieces. Old world furniture is often very heavy and large, allowing it to last for many years without damage. It may also feature hand-detailing, such as elaborate carving and woodwork.

Those looking to create a rustic or classical home design can add some key old world furniture pieces to the home. Buyers should look for large wooden tables and buffets, with chairs made from wood, leather, and straw. Tables and chairs built during this period are often distinguished by their claw or ball feet, and iron scrollwork or hardware is a common feature. All pieces are oversized and can serve as a focal point within a room. For an affordable alternative to antique old world furnishings, buyers may also choose affordable reproductions inspired by the old world style.

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