When English settlers began making their way to the wild new land of America, furniture was widely utilitarian as the new Americans landing in New York and beyond had limited resources, funds and were more focused on creating shelter and growing food. But as time moved on and the new settlers started building towns and growing in population, furniture began to change.
Early on settlers made their own furniture crafted from wood found in nearby forests. Many weren’t furniture designers, so crudely crafted chairs and stools were designed for American homes. Many look for furniture to use around a fireplace, particularly in the winter. Common woods used at that time include maple, cherry, walnut and oak because the forests were still plentiful as it was early in American history.
Dining tables, and particular beds were made of solid oak and this wood along with others were ripe for carving. One of the early designs that came to America was Jacobean furniture. Though this furniture originated in England and stemmed from the period of King James, there were several different style within the Jacobean. The more rustic of designs are what carried over to America because of limited availability of skilled craftsman such as in England or France.
Large dining tables with enough chairs for the whole family and overbearing beds that were made to last were popular early American furniture pieces, focusing on the utilitarian use of furniture.
The Jacobean time period which influenced American furniture design was lighter, less ornate and typically used drawers or dressers instead of chests. Typically the furniture only had ornamentation on the handles of drawers, the tops of bed posts or in small places such as that. Many of these old pieces of wooden furniture have lasted centuries and still exist today. One well-known furniture designer in early American history was John Townsend.
Early on Townsend put his stamp on the furniture and by the middle of the 18th century was one of the top American furniture designers who set the standard for cabinets, dressers, beds, tables and other furniture. He particularly liked the banquet table which was a new concept in the late 18th century to have a dining room as a separate entity.
Townsend was only one of many American furniture designers who began to flourish in the New World. For many companies and designers, this was only the beginning as an abundance of new materials and woods inspired a century of modern designs.