The word furniture comes from the French word fourniture, which means "equipment." The term is derived from the Latin word mobilis, meaning "movable." It is the continental terms that more accurately describe the nature of furniture. It is movable, yet presupposes some degree of residential permanence. While this is an interesting historical fact, it doesn't necessarily mean the furniture is not decorative. Here are some important points to consider when choosing a piece of furniture.
Early furniture was multifunctional
Historically, furniture was made to be mobile, meaning it could be moved from one room to another. Typically, this meant the chair, table, and bed. Trunks were also used as furniture, with trunks being used as large wardrobes or mini closets. Because early furniture was so versatile, the design and construction became a cultural expression of the collection. Certain countries developed their own styles and techniques for making multifunctional furniture.
Today, multifunctional furniture can be seen everywhere, from office furniture to bathrooms to home accessories. Some pieces are multifunctional, with extra space for storage of toiletries to custom-built furniture. Not just found in homes, however. These pieces are finding their way into offices as well. Often, the furniture's function is about transformation, and pieces such as coffee tables can turn into a loveseat or chair. This way, more square footage can be used for other functions.
Early furniture was a work of art
Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Antoni Gaudi, Hector Guimard and Victor Horta designed furniture for specific buildings. Mackintosh's furniture was austere, marked by right angles and elongated dimensions. Continental designs were often more fluid, incorporating curves and natural forms. Jugendstil furniture, the earliest examples of modernism, combines geometric patterns with natural curves and motifs popular in French Art Nouveau.
Early furniture became a work of art in the United States during the seventeenth century. These pieces were the first pieces of furniture in the country that were not simply functional but also a work of art. Early furniture was large and based on English styles, but exhibited key differences in physical features. Carvings included crescent shapes, floral carvings and chip-carved scrolls. In addition, Early American furniture was less detailed than their English counterparts.
Early furniture was decorative
The decoration on early furniture has been varied – sometimes functional, sometimes symbolic, sometimes magical. Examples of this include Sumerian stools, which have legs that resemble an ox, the guardian animal of Ur. Egyptian furniture, meanwhile, shows a widening range of animal models – stools can end with a dog's paw, and folding stools can have legs shaped like a duck's head. Lions' legs can be found on beds and stools, and Assyrian reliefs also depict lions' legs. Greek furniture is also decorated with similar animal symbols.
The Early American style emerged in the second half of the 17th century, and was made by the American colonists. This style of furniture was the first to emphasize aesthetics over functionality. Early American furniture was based on popular English styles, but had key differences. For example, the carvings on American pieces were less finished than their English counterparts. Despite this, they still featured decorative details. Some pieces were carved with flowers, while others had crescent shapes and chip-carved scrolls.