Antiques | English Furniture of the Georgian Period

This is the first article in a twelve-month series by Butchoff Antiques on discovering English and European eighteenth- and nineteenth-century furniture and decorative objects. We begin with English Georgian furniture: its quintessential charm, major characteristics, and enduring influence.

English Georgian Furniture

Thinking about English furniture brings to mind pieces that are finely crafted, mostly brown in color, and representing an epoch of comfort and the grand country house.

Such pieces are what the Georgian period is best known for. This extensive period witnessed some of the greatest and most influential designers and furniture makers in England’s history, such as William Kent, Robert Adam, Thomas Chippendale, George Hepplewhite, and Thomas Sheraton.

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William Kent mirrors

Named After the Rein of Four Consecutive British Kings Named George

Georgian furniture takes its name not from physical characteristics, but the alignment of the reigns of four consecutive British kings, all named George, spanning from 1714 to 1830. The early years were marked by imperial expansion, with ships in ports all over the world, trading in exotic goods such as spices, textiles, and woods, and discovering new ornamentations for architecture and furniture design. The country became wealthier, and an emerging upper class could afford new luxuries such as building grand country houses, for example Osterley Park, whose design and furnishings were by Robert Adam and Thomas Chippendale – the Andy Warhols of their time.

Exotic Woods are a Predominant Feature

The supreme characteristic of Georgian furniture is the predominance of exotic hardwoods with striking textural grains, such as mahogany from Cuba, San Domingo, South America or the West Indies; rosewood from Brazil, Honduras, and India; and satinwood from the West Indies. One striking example of the romanticization of exotic woods is this unusual inlaid with eight different specimen woods on mahogany ground, creating an eye-catching vortex design. It includes woods so rare that wood expert, Adam Bowett, could not identify them all.

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Specimen Wood Centre Table Up

Tasteful Ornamentation

The ornamentation of Georgian furniture is typically tasteful, inlaid with contrasting woods or gilded in gold leaf, and features carvings with architectural motifs inspired by Classical Greece or China. A privately commissioned Side Cabinet Attributed to Gillows of Lancaster incorporates the finest qualities of Georgian furniture. The cabinet rises upon carved lobed bun feet, with two matching mahogany swing doors dressed in stylized square moldings and wonderful carvings representing a Classically inspired Roman column.

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Georgian Side Cabinet attributed to Gillows

The Golden Age of Household Entertainment

The Georgian Period was the golden age of household entertainment! Chiswick House in London was built with the intention of showcasing fine art and contemporary interior decoration. Such hosts would have stylish and functional furnishings and objects to entertain guests for hours and days. Serving tables were and still are very utilitarian pieces for rooms used for entertainment, providing surfaces to hold silver serving platters dressed with food, porcelain ceramics, candelabra, fresh flowers or decorative objects. Often a wine cooler would sit beneath, filled with ice and beverages, and on either side of the table would sit coordinating cupboards housing plates and silverware.

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Mahogany Serving Table

Such an arrangement would be similar to this mahogany Georgian Serving Table , with its Chinese-inspired ‘hairy paw’ feet and a decorative serpentine back incorporating well-executed Graeco-Roman carvings, alongside this open top mahogany wine cooler  and pair of side cupboards adorned with similar carvings.

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Mahogany Wine Cooler
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Georgian Side Cupboards

Georgian Style Gave Way to Regency Period

Georgian style developed aesthetically over time, and progressed from subtle and fine carved details to more dramatic carvings as it gave way to the period known as Regency. A good example of the progression is this Pair of Late Georgian Period Armorial Armchairs. Their grand size, curving and tapering back legs, and robust carvings represent an awareness for new designs, yet also retain principles characteristic of the Georgian period.

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Armorial Armchairs single

The Georgian period is a hallmark for English design and decoration, and the taste for its furniture has never gone too far out of style. By the mid-twentieth century, Georgian furniture was revived in both England and America through the interior decorating style renowned as the ‘English Country House Style’, which still continues today to influence contemporary designers and decorating trends.

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Butchoff Antiques Team
Butchoff Antiques was established in 1964, and is now a third-generation family-run business. We specialise in exceptional, exhibition-quality English and Continental furniture, objects d’art, clocks, mirrors, and paintings from the 18th and 19th centuries, and we have one of the largest inventories in England, consisting of over a thousand pieces. Our continual quest for the highest quality items on the antique market has led us to a number of rare and important pieces, and many collaborations with world-leading furniture museums and historians. Based in London at our showroom in Kensington Church Street (the city’s ‘Antiques Row’), we are proud of our global reputation. We work directly with clients and interior decorators from across the world, including the provision of sourcing services, and arranging delivery and shipping. Butchoff Antiques regularly exhibits at art and antiques fairs in the United Kingdom and the United States. Fairs at which we have exhibited in the past include Masterpiece London, LAPADA Art and Antiques Fair Berkeley Square, the New York Art, Antique and Jewelry Shows, and the Palm Beach Art, Antique and Jewelry Show. Our gallery at the Palm Beach Design Center, in Palm Beach, Florida, is open from November 2016 through 2017. Articles written by Butchoff Antiques for EAT LOVE SAVOR are shared experiences written by the team at Butchoff Antiques. Butchoff Antiques consists of a team of four professionals with a combined experience of over 80 years in the international antiques and art industries.