American furniture, and its cabinet knobs and drawer pulls, became much more extravagant in design during the later half of the 19th Century. This period of time became known as the Victorian period. Leading up to the Victorian period, an eclectic assortment of Revival furniture styles gained popularity. These styles drew inspiration from old European as well as ancient Greek and Roman designs. Dark wood, curved forms and elaborately carved ornamentation characterized much of the period’s Revival style furniture. Revival styles of the Victorian period included Gothic, Rococo and Renaissance Revival. Although these styles remained popular throughout much of the Victorian period, a distinctively different furniture style known as Eastlake was introduced during later half of the Victorian period. In contrast to earlier Revival style furniture, Eastlake furniture was created with lighter and grainier species of wood. Eastlake furniture also differed in that it took on angular forms and often included comparatively simple geometric ornamentation carved in low relief. As could be expected, furniture hardware of these two Victorian furniture styles also varied greatly.
Revival style furniture hardware shared the same design attributes of the furniture pieces that they were attached to. For example, Rococo Revival, which translates to “French Antique”, drawer bail pulls shared the same fanciful “C” and “S” scroll designs found on Rococo Revival furniture. Similarly, hardware of Gothic Revival style often included the style’s distinctive trefoil and quatrefoil foils designs commonly found on Gothic Revival style furniture.
Eastlake style furniture hardware is as truly unique as the furniture that it complemented. Eastlake cabinet hardware was typically brass or bronze and took on angular shapes. The virtually all flat surfaces of Eastlake cabinet hardware were embellished with low relief designs of flora and fauna, sunbursts, chevrons, or oriental motifs. Where as the bail pull was used by previous furniture styles, the bin pull was favored by makers of Eastlake style furniture. Eastlake bin pulls were typically angular with flat fully decorated surfaces.
The beginning of the 20th century marked an end to the Victorian period, but key characteristics of Eastlake style furniture and furniture hardware were continued in the Arts and Crafts movement that followed the Victorian period. Stay tuned as Arts and Crafts furniture and Arts and Crafts furniture hardware will be the subject of my next antique furniture hardware blog entry.