Spanning the years of Queen Victoria's reign over England, the Victorian era lasted from 1837-1901. It was a time of flourishing prosperity and developing artistic styles. Many newly created furniture styles emerged during this era. Gothic, Rococo, Renaissance, Neoclassic and Jacobean Revival are well-known furniture styles developed during the Victorian era. Sofas, cabinets, chairs and tables were crafted with features distinctive to each style.
Gothic Revival furniture emulated the lines and details of medieval Gothic architecture in the Victorian era. Heavy wood such as rosewood, oak or walnut stained in dark black or brown were used in crafting sofas. Intricately carved pointed arches, gargoyles and decorative patterns called tracery were prominent features of furniture from this period. Heavy fabrics of leather, brocade or leather were typical upholstery materials.
Sofas from the Victorian Rococo Revival era were comfortable and attractive. Upholstered wooden sofa frames were gracefully curved and artistically created in a variety of lengths during this era. Curved legs and a sculptured grape cluster with a leaf or a rose surrounded by leaves was typically carved into the wooden arms or back of the sofa. Mahogany and rosewood were used in the construction of these sofas.
The sofas of the Victorian Renaissance Revival period were characterised by straighter lines and fewer curves compared to the Rococo Revival sofas. Walnut was frequently used in the manufacture of this sofa style. Scrollings, knots or rosettes were often carved into the wood. These sofas were more substantial and solid than the graceful Rococo Revival sofas.
Straight lines and narrow tapering legs embellished with twisted fluting were characteristic of Neoclassic Revival sofas. Rich upholstery and classical design motifs of urns and shields were typical features of furniture during this era. Wood inlay and hand-painted gold leaf or gold painted designs characterised the sofas of this period.
Tapestries, leather, wool, linen, silk and velvet were common upholstery materials for Jacobean Revival sofas. Much furniture of this era was not crafted by hand, but rather manufactured in factories, which led to a loss of elegance in furniture pieces. Oak was the predominant wood used for the sturdy sofas of this era.