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The article ‘History of Furniture Design’ is written by Praveen Kumar, a student of SJB school of Design pursuing B.Sc. Interior Design and Decoration. The article exhibits a brief description of different furniture styles in different epochs with hand-drawn sketches.

R Praveen Kumar

Introduction to Author:

I am R Praveen Kumar, a 5th Semester student of SJB School of Design pursuing a BSc. in Interior Design and Decorating. The article I have written here communicates the history and development of the design of furniture with hand-drawn sketches. This was done as a part of the design exercise during our 3rd semester.


Furniture design has been a part of the human experience since the beginning of history. Evidence of furniture survives from as far back as the Neolithic Period in the form of paintings, wall Murals discovered at Pompeii, in sculptures, and examples have also been excavated in Egyptian Pyramids and found in tombs in Ghiordes (modern-day Turkey)

These notes will track the main advancements, developments, styles, and materials in furniture design highlighting the identifying features of each period, and the materials used, and show images and sketches of some of the most significant pieces of furniture ever designed.

Fig 1.0: Historic Timeline

The furniture design timeline above outlines just some of the different periods of furniture design and gives you a basic overview of the timeline of furniture design history. 

Let’s discuss some historical periods of furniture design mentioned in specific.


The Egyptian furniture dates back to 3000 B.C.E. Almost all Egyptian furniture was low to the ground, and furniture legs were almost always carved with animal feet. Beds were slanted and covered in cushions or stuffed mattresses. Chairs were built like stools, with backs and armrests being hallmarks of extreme wealth or status.

Fig 2.0: Egyptian furniture


The Greek history of furniture can be traced back to the heritage of Egyptian furniture. The earliest Greek civilizations borrowed styles and ideas from Egypt, but by the Classical era, designs had subtly changed to a uniquely Greek style. Greek furniture styles were simple, elegant, and tasteful. Although carving and inlays were used, furniture was not over-decorated.

Fig 2.0(a): Stone bed
Fig 2.0(b): Greek chairs and tables


The medieval period was a stark and somewhat crude time, and that is reflected in the furniture styles of the era. The furniture of the medieval period is very distinctive in style. Its most notable characteristics are ornate wood carvings on the border of chairs and canopy beds, garish structural layouts, and colors that are basically grey, beige, or black. Forms were mainly square or rectangular with very little in the way of curved lines or circular forms.

Fig 3.0(a): Ancient Roman bed
Fig 3.0(b): Centre table
Fig 3.0(c):  Roman chair


The Gothic period proper lasted from the 12th to the 15th century, while its characteristic ornaments survived side by side with the new influences up to the beginning of the 17th century.

Fig 4.0(a):  Wardrobe
Fig 4.0(b):  Bed and chair


Fig 5.0: Renaissance chair

Along with the other arts, the Italian Renaissance of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries marked a rebirth in furniture design, often inspired by the Greco-Roman tradition. These designs were distinctly different from that of Medieval times and were characterized by opulent, often gilded designs that frequently incorporated a profusion of floral, vegetal, and scrolling ornamentation. The aim of these pieces was often to showcase the skills of the craftsmen who made them.


After the Renaissance, there was a gradual change to a less ornamented, quieter style of furniture. In Britain table legs, for example, became straighter and narrower than were typical of earlier pieces, and instead spiral turned legs became typical of this period.

 Jacobean furniture was often geometric and symmetrical, with a strong influence on rectilinear shapes and lines. It was straightforward in design but decorated with carvings of classical or intricate geometric motifs.

Fig 6.0: Jacobean chair


During the 17th century, the Baroque style had a marked effect on furniture design throughout western Europe. Baroque furniture pieces had very elaborate ornamentation, plenty of details, and the designs featured an exuberant and sometimes exaggerated decoration with the details integrated with harmony and balance in symmetrical compositions. Some common elements included twisted columns, pedestal feet, and heavy moldings.

Fig 7.0: Baroque chair


It became known as Neoclassicism and started in Rome in the mid-18th century. In France, it was first adopted by furniture makers in the 1760s. Neoclassical furniture featured straight lines in rigid symmetrical compositions. The pieces had moderate ornamentation with motifs inspired by the Classical world. Oak and walnut were commonly used, and mahogany veneer became a popular option. Satin was commonly used for upholstery.

Fig 8.0: Neoclassical chair and table


Rococo furniture refers to interior design pieces inspired by the extravagantly decorated Rococo period in 18th century France. Noted for its extensive decoration, Rococo furniture is sumptuous and extreme in design and often employs many different types of material and ornamentation in a single piece.

Fig 9.0(a): Rococo sofa
Fig 9.0(b): Rococo tables and stands


As Interior Designers, we should understand history and geography and have some confidence in our knowledge of the people and relevant area’s culture. This knowledge will clearly help in the development of design concepts, as well as in historic restoration and rehabilitation.

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