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What is American Empire Style Furniture?

Posted by Laurence Lok on

American Empire couch

It’s hard to believe the fourth of July is already upon us. It’s a holiday that seems to just get better with age. Sure, fireworks are great when you’re a kid, but you’re already on summer vacation from school so the 4th just feels kind of like a formality.

When you’re older, the fun increases ten-fold. Independence Day is a vacation from work in the middle of the summer. A time to hit the beach, drink merrily in America’s name, and yes, watch some more fireworks.

You know what also gets better with age? Antique furniture (how’s that for a segue?). American carpenters have a rich tradition of making excellent furniture, so we thought we’d profile one of their most cherished styles.

American Empire Style

American Empire animal paw feet

American furniture maker Duncan Phyfe (1768-1854) is largely credited with popularizing the American Empire style. Common characteristics of this form of furniture include intricate carvings, clawed feet, and twisting columns.

The carvings usually contain animal themes, often featuring bird’s wings, dolphin heads, or other distinctive motifs. This is certainly a display of American ingenuity and a flair for the dramatic that we can all be proud of.

The Red Room

The Red Room of the White House

American Empire style achieved its peak popularity in the early 19th century, but its offerings still remain as a central fixtures in the annals of American furniture. Indeed, even the Red Room of the White House (try wrapping your head around that) prominently features American Empire furnishings. Jackie Kennedy used her exquisite taste and filled the room with lavish pieces that exemplify the trademark style.

Today, many pieces of antique reproduction furniture are influenced by the American Empire style. The next time you see a nice settee with some clawed feet on it, shout out to your companions: “That’s American Empire!” and promptly burst into a stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.

Happy Fourth of July from Laurel Crown!