What to Look for in Federalist Furniture

What to Look for in Federalist Furniture

The federal period: a brief yet vital three decades in American history. This era was marked by the arrival of Neoclassicism from English immigrants, a new style that featured ornate furniture and decor that could generally only be had by the Atlantic coastal elite with continued ties to Europe. Many pieces were preserved as treasured family heirlooms or later donated to museums – making them exceedingly rare.

Because of the historical nature of Federalist-era furniture, handcrafted reproductions of 18th century antique pieces are the best way to recreate the style and refinement of the era in a historically-accurate – yet accessible - way. When selecting a piece of Federalist-style furniture, there are some hallmark style elements that should be respected in order to honor the style of the period and reflect historical accuracy. When searching for a federal style chair, dining table, bed, or lighting fixture, keep an eye on the following to ensure you select a piece that is true to the period.


The Influence of Sheraton Style

A primary influence on the Federalist furniture era, Sheraton style was widely popularized by American designers such as Duncan Phyfe, John Shaw, George Woodruff and many others. When examining Federalist antique reproductions, you'll find traces of the Sheraton style across a variety of pieces from the period.

duncan phyfe bench

Consider our Duncan Phyfe Style Shaped Bench. This piece reflects the Sheraton stylings of a simple, but strong, and proportioned geometric shaping.  The reeded sides are a Sheraton classic, as is the use of leaf acanthus leaf lyre in the design.

As you look for Federalist furniture, expect to see hints of these designers often.


Period-Appropriate Wood Types

Mahogany is prevalent throughout Federalist furniture and the most widely used wood. Whether in chairs, tables, or other furniture expect to find a healthy dose of the reddish-brown straight-grained timber.

However, don’t be shocked to find Federal period furniture pieces with more than one type of wood, as this was also a popular style of the time.

 A fine example of the use of multiple types of wood is this Chippendale Style Chest With Ogee Top Edge.

chippendale style chest

While mahogany is certainly a central theme in some period chests, you'll also find ample amounts of birchwood and, in this case, tiger maple.

It’s also common for Federalist pieces to combine complementary wood types that are period-appropriate, so keep that in mind when you encounter pieces that stand out to you but aren’t strictly mahogany or walnut.


Straight Lines & Curved Edging

The decorative stylings of Federalist furniture veered from the traditional elaborate carvings and rococo curves previously found on furniture and silver. In lieu of these more elaborate stylings, straight lines, smooth surfaces and contrast created with an inlay of contrasting woods or paint were strongly favored.

A beautiful example of this more streamlined stylings is this Hepplewhite Style Dining Table, in which these design features are prominently displayed.

hepplewhite dining table

The smooth surface with rounded off corners and a smooth satinwood band exemplify Federalist furnishing. The straight, simple legs complete the look, granting an ideal perspective of linework elements to consider when shopping for a Federal style table, chair or cabinet piece.


18th Century Period-Appropriate Lighting

The Federalist era was primed for the use of chandelier lighting. In terms of shape, the drum and shade styles were commonly used, as were the traditional Regency and Adams non-covered styles. Brass was ubiquitous as the preferred metal to be used in the fixture.

Our Brass & Fabric Shade Four Light Chandelier displays the continued use of classic shading in chandeliers, with oxid gold brass throughout.

brass chandelier

Chandeliers could also still take a very elegant and regal form, as in our Cast Brass Chippendale Style Twelve Light Chandelier.

This two tier model in an old brass finish exudes refinement and elegantly demonstrates the arc of Federalist variety.

Sconces could also be found throughout period homes, and brass was again a common theme – although other metals such as silver and gold were not uncommon. This Metal Leaf Design Sconce utilizes the classic two-light approach, using an antiqued silver finish.

metal leaf sconce

This piece also makes use of leaves in the design, a period specialty and common design theme during the Federalist period.


Hand Crafted Designs & Quality to Last for Generations

While these design styles will help guide you toward historically accurate reproductions, the other hallmark of this period is handcrafted quality and designs that are built to last for generations.

That is why we sought out the finest craftsmen to handcraft each and every piece that we produce. Since 1995, we have become the world’s premier provider of 18th century reproduction furniture thanks to our dedication to creating the highest-quality Federalist-era reproductions available.

Our unrivaled craftsmanship and period-appropriate construction techniques ensure that any piece will not only bring aesthetic beauty to any space, but also truly stand the test of time.

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