How to Identify Genuine Duncan Phyfe

Written by laura nations
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How to Identify Genuine Duncan Phyfe
Duncan Phyfe furniture sometimes feature claw feet similar to claw foot tubs. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Duncan Phyfe is an American style of furniture popular from 1795-1848. Its namesake was a New York-based cabinetmaker. It is a refined adaptation of the Adam, Sheraton, Hepplewhite and Empire styles of furniture. There are key design elements that distinguish this graceful furniture from other furniture. You must pay attention to the drawer pulls, joints, motifs, fabric, feet and wood used to determine if it is authentic Duncan Phyfe.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


    Identify Duncan Phyfe

  1. 1

    Look closely at the drawer pulls if your furniture has them. Duncan Phyfe furniture pulls and handles are typically made of glass or brass. They are also designed in certain styles. They have oval back plates. Sometimes, they are mushroom-shaped and others are pull rings made of brass in the shape of a lion's head.

  2. 2

    Look for dovetail joints. The easiest way to do this is open up one of the drawers, if your furniture has drawers. Look at the side of the drawer. If the drawer's side connects to the front in a grid pattern instead of flatly, it could be Duncan Phyfe.

  3. 3

    Take note of the motifs of the carvings and detail work on the furniture. Common motifs of Duncan Phyfe carvings are the lyre, arrows, circles, drapery and plumes or feathers.

  4. 4

    Determine the fabric used on your upholstered furniture. Brocade, damask, hair cloth, needlepoint and satin were common fabrics used on Duncan Phyfe furniture. Beware, however, because this furniture is likely more than 150 years old, and could have been recovered over this period of time.

  5. 5

    Check the feet of the furniture. Commonly, Duncan Phyfe furniture features paw- or claw-designed feet, a turned ball or the feet are streamlined as a continuation of the leg of the piece of furniture.

  6. 6

    Check the wood the furniture piece is made from. Duncan Phyfe furniture was made out of black walnut, fruitwood, maple, cherry, rosewood and satinwood. These were all finished off with an oil varnish. Keep in mind though that the piece could have been refinished multiple times over its life so the finish may be different.

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