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Furniture and the Decorative Arts in Western Homes

Decorative Arts in western Homes Header

Furniture and other decorative arts, particularly in western homes, can bring heritage alive and add life to a room. Decorative arts, also called minor arts in art history, is the art and design of ornamental arts, This type of art includes ceramic, furniture, wall paper, sculptures, mosaics, glassware such as stained glass and jewelry or metal works. Decorative art can be displayed most any place including a person’s home, a place of business, and can also be worn.

Distinction Between Decorative Arts and Other Art Forms

Ancient Roman Mosaic

Decorative art can often have the unique function of being utilitarian while other art forms such as fine art or visual art are only useful to view. Quite frequently, decorative arts are adornments with intricate details such as those found on metal works like necklaces and other jewelry. Many art forms can only be observed and appreciated from a visual aspect while decorative art can serve a purpose as well as be enjoyed from a visual perspective. This makes decorative art a unique type of art form.

  • Museum of Contemporary Art – The distinction of a decorative art piece and how it is appreciated and valued according to the quality and material used.
  • Ceramic Decorative Art Lecture Series – Shows the evaluation process that is unique to decorative art and the differenced between this and other types of art.
  • What Makes Decorative Art Unique – Historically, decorative art has been appreciated in a unique way, and it has been exhibited so that people can fully appreciate the utility of the art.

History of Furniture in the Western Culture

Western cultures have a rich history in terms of style. Each period reflects the a unique style across the popular culture in its furniture, music, literature, architecture and fashion. Decorative art lead each periods transition and the connection between the styles and the social and economic position of the west.

  • History of Furniture in Western Culture – Comprehensive history of furniture in western culture with descriptions of each period and furniture that was cultivated during that time.
  • History of American Art Deco – The Art Deco style was known to originate from French art work during 1925. Color choices were just as important as designs during this time.
  • American Art in Delaware – A collection of American decorative furniture from 1640 to 1840, collected by Henry Francis DuPont. The collection features items displayed in 175 period rooms.
  • History of American Furniture – Resource for great photographs of American Western furniture from 1860-1920 from the collection of the Denver, Colorado public library.
  • History of Furniture Making in Evansville, Indiana – Descriptive information on the furniture styles made during the industrial revolution period in Evansville, Indiana.
  • Brief History of Furniture Companies – Western furniture companies have long sold period collections from western civilization. This is a collection of the companies that have been documented and information on each.
  • Historian Western Art for the White House – A display of the White House and its decorative art that features period pieces from George W. Bush's collection.
  • US Senate Decorative Art Website – An exhibit of 200 years of history that includes decorative art from the Senate.

Furniture Styles

Antique Louis XV Armchair

Many designs throughout the history of architecture and interior designs feature time period and political movements. Influences of governmental structures as well as the economy played large roles in the art and design of clothing, furniture and architecture. A listing of the major time periods and their furniture designs and styles are outline below giving an example of period pieces reflective of the each era.

  • Jacobean Furniture – This is a design of furniture used during the Elizabethan time period and has also been called Elizabethan furniture. It has a medieval look although it has straight lines and unbending designs, it is extremely ornate.
  • Early American Furniture – A complete collection of over 100 pieces of Early American furniture along with other ceramic pieces and prints are on a virtual display.
  • Baroque Style Furniture – This is also known as the William and Elizabeth furniture. This was the most intricate and embellished design in western history.
  • Baroque Architecture – European style presently seen in the 17th century possessed grandiose designs and elaborate ornaments. The first of the baroque architecture appears in Italy.  
  • Rococo Style Furniture – Rococo furniture became the opposite of Baroque with its simple and elegant designs and soft palate of colors.
  • Gothic and Neoclassical Architecture – Dark, elaborate designs and intricate craftsmanship created what is known as the Neoclassical and Gothic architecture.
  • Gothic and Neoclassical Furniture – The detailed designs of this furniture reflect that of its time period and the roots of Greco-Roman influence.
  • Empire Period Furniture – The clear cut designs and silhouettes and symmetry in lines are what characterize the Empire period furniture. This period furniture was seen across Europe and America.
  • Victorian Architecture – Incredible design and a return to ornate designs are seen in the Victorian era architecture style. This period is also called American-Gothic.
  • Victorian Furniture of the Middle Class – During this era, the height of a person’s economic stature was measured by how many pieces of furniture one had along with other characteristics.
  • Art Nouveau Interior Design Styles – Marked by the interest in nature, this design usually incorporated long curved lines reflective of flowers, vines and grasses.
  • Art Deco Furniture – Characteristics of Art Deco furniture designs are the geometric shapes and lines which make up patterns on the pieces. During this time industrial material such as metal and glass were seen in Art Deco pieces.
  • Bauhaus Designs – This design originated in Germany shortly after World War I by designers who formed a movement that introduced industrialization to designs in furniture and architecture.
  • Contemporary Furniture – Also known as modern furniture, this type is common in European and American styles of furniture. The functionality of this furniture and sleek design lines make this period a class of its own.


Textiles were as much a part of the designs as the shape of the furniture pieces that were created during each time period. The textiles used gave a particular statement along with the furniture piece itself. Much could be told about a person’s wealth and social standing by the textiles that he or she designed the interior of their residence and adorned their bodies with.

  • Textile Museum – This museum displays the textiles used in historical period furniture, fashion, accessories and other decorative art pieces.
  • Material Culture Studies – This is the study of the materials and textiles used during historical periods and how this affected people socially and economically.
  • Eighteenth Century Silks – Silks were a defining characteristic of royalty and aristocracy during certain period in history. This gives an analysis of the uses for silk and the manufacturing of this textile.
  • Textile Design Gallery – A showcasing of the designs and textiles used across history including the Victorian era and modern pieces reflective of historical periods.
  • National Museum of American History of Textiles – A historical display of textiles used in American history and how they were manufactured during each period.
  • Teaching History with Textiles – There are many things that can be learned about the past with the study of textiles used throughout history.
  • Textiles and Needlework – A module with information on how the textiles and needlework of certain periods were made and the methods that were used to make them.


Purple wallpaper Swatch

Wallpaper has been used through the historical periods as an accent to the interior furniture displayed in residences and businesses. The art form of the design and textiles used vary according to the period it is used. Modern day wallpaper can sometimes include revivals of historical styles. It is a great addition and accent to illuminate furniture choices.

  • History of Wallpaper – Outlines the designs and uses of wallpaper throughout history and the textiles and colors used in the wall paper.
  • Wallpaper Groups – Classification of wallpaper into groups with different characteristics and design patterns throughout history.
  • Regent Style PDF – Wallpaper used in this style typically included vertically stripped wallpaper to go along with the elegant furniture designed. 
  • Arts and Crafts Movement – The wallpaper designed during this time period reflected beautiful designs and complimented the tapestries designed.
  • Wealth and Wallpaper – Wallpaper was reflective of a person’s wealth like the design of the home of Ebenezer Williams and his choice of French wallpaper.
  • Preservation of Historic Wallpaper – A preservation site of a Federal style home with description of preserving the historical wallpaper used in the house.
  • Wallpaper and Design – The use of wallpaper in the interior design of a house including the selection of the design are used to resemble the tapestry and furniture textiles used.


Mosaics bring history alive with their vivid pictorial reflections of the time period in which they were created. The time consuming craft of creating a mosaic makes this art form appreciated and sought after. The materials used in ancient mosaics were very stable and have stood the test of time. This gives historians and preservationists the opportunity to analyze these pieces to shed light on the period’s culture. Mosaics are still used today as an expression of art and design.

  • Mosaics – An introduction to mosaics and their historical prevalence and purpose.
  • History of the Art of Mosaics – Describes the 4,000 years of mosaic making and the perfection and appreciation of this art form.
  • Conservation of Mosaics in Situ – It is important to conserve the quality of mosaics so they can continue to be enjoyed by historians and people from around the world.
  • Modern Image Mosaics – Mosaics can also be comprised of tiny images pieced together like a puzzle that creates a larger image.
  • Roman Villas Mosaics – Pictures of a historical Roman villa with mosaics that give insight to the historical relevance of the time period.
  • Hunt Mosaics – There are many mosaics throughout history that depict hunting of animals.
  • Religious and Historical Mosaics – Mosaics are found in historically important sites with mosaics depicting the relationship between church and state.
  • Floral Mosaics – This type of mosaic is comprised of floral materials and used as a temporary display because of the limited viability of the material.
  • Newly Discovered Mosaics – There have been newly discovered mosaics that have shown historical significance and insight to Greek and Roman culture.


Stoneware Clay Amphora Jug

Ceramics have been a part of civilizations as far back as ancient times. Some western civilizations have been analyzed by the ceramics that were found in remnants of ancient villages. The advanced utility of some ceramics pieces can show that some of the civilizations turned this art form into a useable form.

  • Ancient Ceramics – Many ceramic pieces are the remaining artifacts that are found in preservation sites from ancient times.
  • Palmer Collection – Much can be learned from a culture by the ceramics that are found.
  • Ceramics and Anthropology – Many anthropologists use ceramics to help decipher characteristics of a civilization.
  • French Art and Ceramics – A historical timeline of French art and the ceramics of each time period.
  • Lowe Art Museum – Many ceramic pieces during different periods can be found here.

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