It is fascinating how furniture design has evolved over the centuries. If we return to the middle ages and the era before, quite a few developments in furniture construction techniques were in progress. Prior to this era, in the centuries before, very little furniture was available. It was considered a luxury to own furniture such as chairs, tables and cabinets. The larger, more finely made furniture of this era was typically destined for the aristocracy of the time as a display of their wealth and status. Most conventional furniture of these early periods was assembled without consideration to wood expansion and contraction or wood movement. This worked for many years, since the interior of buildings in this era was often at the same temperature as the exterior. With the advent of heated interiors, wood movement became much more of a factor to deal with in construction and design of furniture, and the practice of simply assembling wood planks together to form furniture needed to evolve. It was in the middle ages that frame and panel construction was adopted. This technique allowed a solid wood panel to literally float within a wood frame composed of rails and stiles. The solid wood panel could expand and contract on a seasonal basis, and not cause any structural failure within the furniture. All of a sudden many more possibilities were created for furniture design and its widespread appeal began in earnest.
Furniture also began to become more affordable as of the 18th and 19th century, more furniture makers existed and sound construction techniques began to become standardized. There are numerous periods over the past centuries and each of these had a style or styles associated with them. Additionally, each country had a style of its own within these periods. One can see how similar furniture design principles were adopted by successive countries over the different periods. Popular furniture
styles which are widely recognized have familiar names such as English Chippendale, German Biedermeier, American Federal and Arts & Crafts, French Art Nouveau, Italian Rococo, etc.
To be continued...