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Home > Early American Style Furniture

Practical Early American Furniture & Hardware is Purposely Simple

How many times have you overhead someone mentioning that a piece of furniture is Early American? Chances are you have heard it plenty of times because it is a style that continues to contribute many of its features to furniture manufactured today. The functional and durable furniture style is found in 21st century homes, either in rooms with an Early American decor or in individual furniture sets like a trestle dining room table with ladder-back chairs.

Tear Drop Pull (Ebony Wood)
Tear Drop Pull (Red Oak)
Early American Furniture Hardware - Tear Drop Pull
Early American Furniture Hardware - Tear Drop Pull

Early American furniture is the sturdy furniture built by the colonists who came to the new land from Europe, originally bringing with them a love of ornate furniture. Crafted during the approximate years of 1640 to 1720, the practical side of their new lifestyles influenced the furniture style. In the rugged land that was to become America, the elaborate European styles were inappropriate. Instead, the colonists built simpler and sturdier furniture that better matched their simpler homes. Though not all the furniture can be called plain, most pieces have straight lines and very little ornamentation in direct contrast to the furniture left behind in Europe.

Solid Brass Octagon Knob (Antique Copper Finish)
Solid Brass Octagon Knob (Weathered Brass Finish)
Solid Brass Octagon Knob (Antique Nickel Finish)
Early American Style Hardware in Antique Copper
Early American Style Hardware in Weathered Brass
Early American Style Hardware in Antique Nickel

Simple, Straight and Practical

Early American furniture was made with simple designs. The chair arms were straight. The builders choose to forgo the curves often found in the furniture preceding this period. The chairs were usually made of solid wood and upholstery was used sparingly. The elements of decorative creativity are found in the variety of chair back shapes, including the ladder-back, banister, spindle, vertical turnings, solid panel, and stile and panel. Any furniture that was upholstered was usually made with practical fabrics like cretonne or linen. Leather was also popular when affordable and available. Early American furniture is made from the abundance of wood available in the New World. The large variety of wood used included cherry, birch, elm, hickory, oak, maple, pine, ash and several others.

The furniture is often rugged and heavy in appearance. However, it is easy to spot style influences like Chippendale, Jacobean, and others popular in Europe. Early tables and chairs tended to have sturdy stretchers and straight legs that may be square or round shaped. The furniture foot was block style, ball-shaped with a flat bottom, or angular. Many times there was no foot, and the end of the leg served as the foot too.

Hammered Cabinet Knob (Antique Copper)
Hammered Cabinet Knob (Weathered Brass)
Hammered Cabinet Knob (Antique Nickel)
Early American Style Hardware - Hammered Knob
Early American Style Hardware - Hammered Knob
Early American Style Hardware - Hammered Knob

Making Furniture More Interesting with Hardware

Interestingly, Early American hardware was fairly diverse. A lot of Early Americana furniture pieces have plenty of drawers, requiring an array of drawer pulls. The simplest pulls were carved wood handles that are still used on furniture. Other types of wood drawer pulls include the elongated wooden knob and the mushroom shaped knob. The metal tear-drop pull with a back plate is also seen on the colonial furniture. The back plates were made with different shapes like diamond shape or circular shape.

The earliest furniture was made with iron or wood hardware. Leather strips were used also, but today you only see leather hardware on specialty furniture. Metal hinges are now used for repairs to antiques, reproduction furniture, or modern furniture with Early American style components.

Solid Brass Hammered Pull (Polished Brass Finish)
Solid Brass Hammered Pull (Antique Brass Finish)
Solid Brass Hammered Pull (Oil Rubbed Bronze Finish)
Early American Style Solid Brass Pull
Early American Style Solid Brass Pull
Early American Style Solid Brass Pull

The motifs found on Early American furniture are symbolic of the rural lifestyle of many early colonialists. Motifs included the pine tree, sunflower, rose and tulip. In a touch of neoclassic, the scroll was another popular motif. In many cases, a simple circle or diamond shape was carved in the wood. Today you can buy hardware that is reminiscent of the original motifs. For example, flower back plates are popular.

Solid Brass Pull (Polished Brass)
Solid Brass Pull (Antique Brass)
Solid Brass Pull (Oil Rubbed Bronze)
Early American Style Brass Pull
Early American Style Brass Pull
Early American Style Brass Pull

Early American reproduction furniture found in homes today includes the trestle table, ladder-back chair, wood coffee table, wood bedroom set, china hutch, sideboard and hope chest, to name the most popular. If you prefer, you can add federalist style hardware to your Early American furniture. Though it is mixing period styles, the theme is the same. In other words, you can use most traditional styled brass, wood or iron hardware on Early American furniture with the knowledge that you are doing exactly what the colonists did over three hundred years ago.

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Early American Style Furniture
Early American Style Furniture - Inset