Canadian Woodworking

Furniture styles – Victorian

Author: Michel Theriault
Published: October November 2004

The Victorian style was named for Queen Victoria, who reined in England from 1837 to 1901. While the Victoria style was influenced by earlier styles, its general characteristics remained the same.

The image of the Victorian style is one of wealth and social position, with an emphasis on elegance, colour, and ornate beauty. More than just furniture, it influenced fashion and home décor, fixtures, collectibles and artwork.

During the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign, the influence was from the middle ages, combined with Romanticism, to create Gothic Revival. At that time, furniture was mostly made from rosewood and oak, with arches, turnings, and trefoils, resembling a three-leaflet plant.

After the early years, the influence of eighteenth century France created the Rococo revival.

This period is the one most associated with the Victorian style. It had more graceful lines, cabriole legs, more carvings of plants, and a shift from rosewood and oak to rosewood and walnut.

Towards the end of the period, the Industrial Revolution and mass production technology affected the designs, which were adapted to mass production techniques, while keeping their general characteristics.


1840 – 1910

Key Design Elements

• Gothic forms with heavy proportions

• Elaborately detailed ornamentation

• Carved motifs of flowers, leaves, and scrolls

• Cabriole legs

• Ball and claw – carved claw grasping a ball

• Upholstered seats and backs

• Dovetailed joints

• Oil finish (usually dark)

Typical Wood Types

Walnut, Oak, and Rosewood

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